Thursday, May 08, 2008


I'm not usually a worrier, I'm pretty laid back. I've been accused of having the motto "Why stand if you can sit, why sit if you can lay down." but I accidentally stumbled across an internet mention of the Large Hadron Collider and checked it out on Wikipedia. Holy Smoke! Now I'm worried!

Do you realize what these scientists are up to? We could zip into another dimension, or fall into a micro black hole or turn all matter on Earth into something called strangelets the instant we fire this thing up and collide the first particle.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a large ring-shaped particle accelerator located underground at the border of France and Switzerland near Geneva. It will be used to investigate whether there is something called a Higgs Boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and "missing links" in the Standard Model of physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass. The verification of the existence of the Higgs Boson would be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory.

OK, sounds good so far, but there are some people who oppose doing this because we are messing with unexplored energies, no one has ever kicked things up at this high an energy level and we are venturing into uncharted areas. This is where the micro black holes come into play. The scientists who are making the collider agree that there is a chance we DO make a black hole in the collider, but expect it to dissipate instantly or shoot off into the universe at a great speed, they’re not sure which.

We’re talking BLACK HOLE here, the kind of thing which sucks all matter into it, never to be seen or heard from again. This is just the most normal problem they might encounter. There is also the theoretical possibility that strangelets will be formed. These are made of quarks, not nuclei as we know it, but up down and strange matter. If strangelets can actually exist, and if they were produced at LHC, they could conceivably initiate a runaway fusion process in which all the nuclei in the planet were converted to strange matter. This is what the scientists at the LHC are saying, not some wildeyed kook running rampant. I’m getting a bit worried.

All this is expected to happen this summer, sometime in August. Now since this project is in Switzerland, it likely will run like a Swiss watch and we will all be watching the Summer Olympics, no fuss, no muss. Fear not!

But then again, the geniuses who made this thing tried firing up a portion of it and it broke catastrophically. It seems that they designed the magnet supports a bit too thin and it couldn’t take the stress of operating and cracked. Here is a less than reassuring quote from the Director of Fermilab, the people who made the magnets,” In this case we are dumbfounded that we missed some very simple balance of forces.”

How does that make you feel? The scientists are dumbfounded. I don’t know about you, but I plan to take my fishing vacation to the lake before August. That way at least I’m rested and happy when I turn into a strangelet person made up of quarks.

Have a nice summer!

Labels: , ,