The Large Hadron Collider is currently (or at least, once it gets off winter break) smashing protons together with an energy of 7 trillion electron volts. The original plan was to work at twice that energy, and the engineers think they can upgrade the machine to achieve it — but only after a year-long shutdown. So, a dilemma: if you upgrade, you have to shutdown and not collect any data for a year; but if you don’t, you’re missing out on all the fun at higher energies. There’s no question that they will eventually shut down and upgrade, the question is only about when it will happen. In particular, would they shut down during 2012, or keep running and shut down in 2013?
The verdict is now in: the LHC will be running at its current energy, 7 TeV, through 2012. Some had speculated that the LHC shutdown would come sooner, now that we know the Tevatron will be shutting down for good — without competition, the thinking went, you might as well turn it off to achieve the higher energies as soon as possible. I’m not an expert, but this decision sounds good to me; let’s get the data we can, think about it, and take the time to do a perfect job at the upgrade.
Higher energies should commence in 2014. By then, let’s hope the theorists are tearing their hair out trying to explain all the data from 2011 and 2012.