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In the late 1800s, many scientists thought that the major laws of physics had been discovered—that all that remained to be resolved were a few minor details.

Then in 1896 came the discovery of the first fundamental particle, the electron, followed by the discovery of atomic nuclei and revolutions in quantum physics and relativity. Modern particle physics had just begun, said Natalie Roe, the Director of the Physics Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, at the recent Large Hadron Collider Physics Conference in New York.

Since then, physicists have discovered a slew of new elementary particles and have developed a model that accurately describes the fundamental components of matter. But this time, they know that there is more left to find—if only they can reach it. In a presentation and a panel discussion chaired by New York Times science reporter Dennis Overbye, experts at the LHCP Conference discussed the future of collider-based particle physics research.

The discovery of a Higgs boson bolstered physicists’ confidence in the Standard Model—our best understanding of matter at its most fundamental level. But the Standard Model does not answer important questions such as why the Higgs boson is so light or why neutrinos have mass, nor does it account for dark matter and dark energy, which astronomical observations indicate make up the majority of the known universe.

“We know that the Standard Model is not a complete theory because many outstanding questions remain,” said CERN physicist Fabiola Gianotti, the former head of the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, at the LHCP Conference. “We must ask, at what energy scales do these questions find their answers?”

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