With the Large Hadron Collider getting back into action, Kurt Andersen travels to the French-Swiss border to examine the potentially "paradigm-shifting" consequences. Or at least, physicists hope it will shift some paradigms. "If this new collider doesn’t produce groundbreaking discoveries, particle physics will have reached a dead end for a generation or more," Andersen writes in Vanity Fair. As one physicist puts it, "I hope there will be many eureka moments."
The collider is supposed to help scientists examine minute particles, isolate fleeting bits of energy, and understand the conditions at the beginning of the universe. Andersen sees in the collider a "bold defiance of our era" of "ever tinier gadgets, ever shorter attention spans, and the privileging of marketplace values." The "unimaginably long-term" collider is "the most elaborate scientific enterprise of all time, but it’s also, to my postmodern eyes, the largest art project ever built, as well as a quasi-religious undertaking."