Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tomorrow’s Forecast: Doomsday

Because I am a self-proclaimed nerd it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I read a lot of science blogs. Well, maybe not a lot, but probably an above-average amount. I also spend a lot of time reading blogs for people that most would refer to as “fanboys.” That is to say, I love all those dorky blogs that pander to the sci-fi and cult film/tv/book/entertainment lovers. About a month ago I started getting really into reading about the LARGE HADRON COLLIDER (which I am capitalizing for emphasis as it is something YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT) and in fact I presented a little bit on the LHC in a staff meeting last week (don’t ask). Anyway, I feel it is my duty to bring some more information of the LHC to the masses (and by masses, of course, I mean the 30 to 50 readers of the blog today—I am hoping for 50).

What is the LHC?
The LARGE HADRON COLLIDER is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It has been built in a 17-mile circular tunnel at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland and I think the started back in the mid-90s, which means I TOTALLY could have visited this badass thing when I was studying in Geneva (so worldly, I am) but nope. Bygones.

Okay so this $3.8 billion machine (wrap your head around THAT number) will collide two beams of protons moving at close to the speed of light so that scientists can see what particles appear in the resulting debris. It may help physicists explore new properties of nature, and specifically gain insights into mysteries of the universe ranging from dark matter to super symmetric particles. I didn’t know there was a level past symmetric (I mean can it get better?) and I am happy to see the adjective to describe said level is SUPER.

The most significant sought-after insight is the Higgs boson (no clue how to pronounce that word) which is an as-yet-undetected subatomic particle also called the “God Particle” and is the only fundamental particle predicted by current theory that has not yet been found—if it does not exit that would add weight to alternative theories that depend on extra dimensions of space-time. I don’t really understand a lot of this science mumbo jumbo (THE SAINT QUOTE ALERT) but I think it sounds fascinating.

In sum, the LHC is intended to solve unknown mysteries about the Universe, the space-time continuum, the fourth (and possible other) dimension, dark matter and anti matter.

Like I said, AWESOME.

What do I mean? Try to keep up...

The first attempt to circulate a beam in the LHC will be made on Wednesday September 10, 2008 (TOMORROW) however there is a lot of controversy surrounding the launch of the project. A LOT.

Critics say the world’s largest atom-smasher could destroy the world and have brought these claims to court in the US and in Europe, however neither court plans to hold up next week’s launch. Essentially, there is concern that the LHC could create globe-gobbling microscopic black holes or other catastrophes such as matter-wrecking strangelets or magnetic monopoles. Now, I have no idea what strangelets are and my spell-check is telling me that this IS NOT A WORD, however this shit is FO REAL. As in, DOOMSDAY. That’s right—tomorrow could be DOOMSDAY because the Earth might get sucked into a BIG BLACK HOLE. RUMINATE ON THAT ONE SARAH PALIN. (And McCain, ruminate on your VP selection, because honestly? HONESTLY? I HAVE MORE EXPERIENCE THAN SARAH PALIN. But I digress).

“Big Bang Machines” of the past have also faced similar skepticism, however this time around it seems a little more REAL MY FRIENDS because the LHC will smash protons together at energies seven times higher than the current world record. SO WE ARE TOTALLY F’ED!

Okay so not really because it’s gone to court and stuff in both the US and the EU (and let's face it, those Europeans are a shitload smarter than we are) and everyone is like COOL IT to the crazy wormhole-expecting critics, IT IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE AND WE ARE GOING TO LEARN SO MANY GREAT AND IMPORTANT THINGS ABOUT SCIENCE. So maybe tomorrow isn’t Doomsday.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For more kick-ass photos.

And how about all that science explained in a convenient musical form? Sure, why not. I look like much less of a nerd compared to this chick. I mean, she actually does science and stuff. Wow.

No comments: