Tuesday, September 9, 2008

LHC

Officially the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) goes on line tomorrow. Actually, the gigantic machine, which spans the Franco-Swiss border, has been undergoing tests for some time. But tomorrow the quest for the elusive Higgs boson is officially on. Physics was one of the passions of my youth, so the "God particle" may be more an object of veneration for me than for most of you, but it's probably worth noting in this political blog that this remarkable project is the fruit of European cooperation. For a layman's introduction to what it all means, and to what it might mean if we don't find what we think we're looking for, there's no better place to begin than Frank Wilczek's new (and cleverly titled) book, The Lightness of Being. Oh, and in case you're worried, the LHC won't spawn a black hole that will eat the world, as some fear. At least not if the calculations are right. If they're wrong, well, at least we won't have to worry about global warming.

5 comments:

kirkmc said...

Call me a Millerite, but I'm going to be prepared. At 9 am, I'm cranking up a vintage version of the Grateful Dead's Dark Star and looking to the north-east (the direction of the LHC, just a couple hundred miles from where I live) and watching to see if the world ends. :-)

Kirk

Unknown said...

A world in the process of being eaten by a black hole might emit various interesting forms of radiation, and the hole itself would of course have its Hawking radiation, but only, as the Germans say, for ein Augenblick, and in fact probably a good deal less time than it would take for any sensation to travel via your terribly slow synapses to your brain. So, watch away, but don't expect to "see" the end before it happens. It will come with blissful swiftness.

Anonymous said...

With the time difference between Switzerland/France and Finland, I did not even realize it was 9am there and the world could have ended. Well, so much the better, I still have lots to read and do before the end of the world. ;-)

On the subject, I visited the LHC a few months ago. The place is impressive, and what's even more impressive is the discussions you can have with the researchers there. You discover with astonishment that they have the same problems of funding, part-time work, low job security and such as for instance me and my colleagues in contemporary history. It makes my stomach hurt to think that even the LHC, a world-class apparatus at the cutting-edge of its speciality, working on things that will help us understanding the world we live in, is funded "au lance-pierre".

Anonymous said...

In addition to what Art added on the probablity of world destruction, tomorrow is the official strat of the process; not the first full-speed collision. The first collision in optimal conditions isn't supposed to happen before 2009-2010. I guess it's easier for the media to have catchy titles predicting the end of the world at a given time. And they'll be able to sell again some extra copies when the real experiment starts!

So if calculations are wrong (which is much less probable than journalists being wrong), at least I'll have the time to move into my
house (1km-2km away from the LHC) before they blow it away. Good thing that nothing would be left 'cause I wouldn't be too happy about this one... :)

kirkmc said...

Yea, I saw today that it's not the first collision, just the first start-up. Anyway, I can assure you that the world didn't end at 9 am CET today. ;-)

Kirk