Sunday, November 15, 2009

Half-Assed Lesson: Large Hadron Collider

(hat tip to my friend Becki; the video's star is Kate McAlpine, you can read more here)

This video should explain, in full, what the purpose of Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is and what it does. If it doesn't, I present CERN's explanation followed by a short, tidy list (it's my birthday) regarding the Collider:

From CERN:
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.

Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.

There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, but what's for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.
  • The LHC was built to observe smashing protons.

  • So scientists (CERN) can properly observe Higgs boson. Higgs boson is related to the Standard Model. Scientists expect, if the Standard Model is correct, a single Higgs boson every few hours.

  • It's cost billions. And it's huge.

  • Prior to the first proton firing in September 2008, and official "opening" the following month, morons across the globe were convinced the device would open wormholes and we would all die. The machine was turned on, we did not die, and then it sputtered.

  • It was turned on last month after a year of repairs. We have not yet died.

  • The project has been plagued with problems. There have been vacuum leaks, helium leaks, and problems getting the whole thing running. So it hasn't actually been on long enough yet to anything to be properly observed.

  • And, from Wikipedia:
    The novel Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown, involves antimatter created at the LHC to be used in a weapon against the Vatican. In response CERN published a "Fact or Fiction?" page discussing the accuracy of the book's portrayal of the LHC, CERN, and particle physics in general.[60] The movie version of the book has footage filmed on-site at one of the experiments at the LHC; the director, Ron Howard, met with CERN experts in an effort to make the science in the story more accurate.[61]
    OK, if you're reading Dan Brown, I'm not sure I can help you learn anything.
Additional Information:
Official Web site
Wikipedia article
Large Hadron Collider Rap Video Is a Hit, National Geographic
The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate, The New York Times
Is The Large Hadron Collider Being Sabotaged from the Future?, io9
Large Hadron Collider switched on after year of repairs, The Times Online

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