October 12, 2018
Deep underground, within the concrete walls of CERN, Switzerland’s world-famous particle accelerator, lies a 200-kilogram machine encased in a shield of oxygen gas. After years of careful design and assembly, the device is nearly ready to make its debut. While the detector looks futuristic, it’s actually quite similar in function to previous generations of detectors—with one exception: this one was crafted to measure the effects of gravity on antimatter.
Blueprints for this detector, dubbed ALPHA-g, were first drawn in 2013. In recent months, its creators have worked around the clock in Vancouver, Canada, to finish building it. Finally, in July, ALPHA-g was shipped via cargo plane to CERN, the only location in the world that can provide the amount of antimatter needed for these experiments.
Now, time is running short. Scientists are currently testing the device and must solve any technical issues before CERN shuts down for two years of maintenance. The ALPHA-g team is rushing to conduct its gravity experiments before the 12 November cutoff—but just a single misplaced wire could cause them to miss the deadline.