The Blue Raccoon

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Super Collide, Baby, Super Collide!
Hadron Turns On, World Still Here

"Is that a super conducting super collider, or are you just glad to see me?"
Here, from 2004, is Maria Spiropulu at Collider Point 5/CMS within CERN's Large Hadron Collider, and this part of it is somewhere under France. She wrote in postcard fashion then, "I just moved recently from the now highest energy machine in the world — the Tevatron at Fermilab — and there is a change in the scale of things. If what I knew I called grand this is brobdingnagian."

World To End, Monday, Nov. 13

The world shall end on Monday, Nov. 13, according to the University of Vienna's renowned astronomer Professor Rudolph Falb. This assured pronouncement appears in the Richmond Times, on Sunday, Nov. 12, 1899, next to the "Confederate Column" of war reminisces.
The piece is complemented by a weird graphic, of the earth's face getting split as if struck by the fist of heavyweight boxing champion Jim Jeffries. The matter-of-fact caption reads, "The Comet of 1866 Will Strike The Earth Monday And This Is What Will Happen."
Richmonders thus apprised of the world's imminent destruction read other nervous reports. Wars crackle and sputter in the Philippine Islands and in South Africa, as the United States and Great Britain battle for imperial supremacy. The Philippine-American conflict, borne out of the lop-sided 1898 victory of the U.S. over the Spanish, is in late 1899, a strange savage hell of ambushes, massacres and vengeance killings.
Same as it ever was.

It's All Done With Magnets

"There it is," said Lyn Evans, the director of the Hadron project, as the first beam raced around the subterranean circular track in hyper NASCAR fashion, and, the scientists involved with the super collider effort, like spectators at the racing event, are anticipating with some excitement the crashes. But there, way beneath Switzerland and France, the smash-ups will between particles, not drivers Kyle Krisiloff or Michael McDowell.

And with the under statement by Evans, the greatest physics experiment in the history of the science was off and running. Despite cost overruns and a cascading series of problems, including yahoos thinking that the world would blow up when the thing began operating and even death threats against the scientists, the massive undertaking that few understand and that may or may not generate actual usable real-world results -- except that the LHC could alter the way we understand the universe -- is humming.

You can read all about it on the BBC.

Below, a reprise of a post from earlier this summer.

And you just got to love Spiropoulu who a) Handles heavy machinery capable of smashing atoms together at a high velocity to blast the fat off matter to reveal the lattice underneath, b) can use brobdingnagian correctly in a sentence, c) once played drums in a band called Drug Sniffing Dogs and d) can kickbox.

Spiropulu is one of the immense brains behind the experiments that are gonna tear. your. playhouse. down. And that's gooood thing. Oh, yessss.

Billion-eyed audience, I say politics, schmolitiks, the fix is in, the game is rigged, we're all screwed, including the obstreperous fixers and devious riggers. Politics, important as they are at a local level, are otherwise transient structures. What matters in the long haul is art and science.

Subatomic Submarine Races

What it is is, is one of the most remarkable achievements of humanity on Earth to date.

Quoting from the May 15, 2007 New York Times:

"Starting sometime next summer if all goes to plan, subatomic particles will begin shooting around a 17-mile underground ring stretching from the European Center for Nuclear Research, or Cern, near Geneva, into France and back again — luckily without having to submit to customs inspections.

Crashing together in the bowels of Atlas and similar contraptions spaced around the ring, the particles will produce tiny fireballs of primordial energy, recreating conditions that last prevailed when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old.

Whatever forms of matter and whatever laws and forces held sway Back Then — relics not seen in this part of space since the universe cooled 14 billion years ago — will spring fleetingly to life, over and over again in all their possible variations, as if the universe were enacting its own version of the “Groundhog Day” movie. If all goes well, they will leave their footprints in mountains of hardware and computer memory."

A question the Times article does not answer is whether the CERN commissary is called the Hadron Supper Collider. A gross journalistic oversight.

For about the next month they are cooling the collider down to minus 271 degrees in preparation for switching on the power to make those atoms spin around and slam dance their way to discovery.

One shouldn't get one's hopes up, though. The results of this experiment, 13 years in the making, won't be known for quite some time. I think it's a bit like looking for extraterrestrial life. Whatever's going to happen will take a while. With energies this high, and subatomic particles being...well, subatomic, creating these fundamental conditions won't be easy. And whatever is found will bring with it some surprises, to be sure.

A reasoned assessment of the LHC is worth repeating here, via poster at The Register.
The sky is falling!
By Flocke Kroes
Posted Tuesday 24th June 2008 13:02 GMT

If financial experts say "there has never been a significant collapse in the financial sector and we don't expect one now" then it is because the expect to make a profit from saying that.

Nuclear PR flacks might have said "there has never been a significant loss of life nuclear incident worth worrying about," but they if they did, they would clearly have been lying (Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Chernobyl).

Reports of leaks at Windscale used to be a regular event, but after they changed the name to Sellafield, the reports slowed down and stopped. The fire in the core of Windscale Pile Number 1 was caused by design flaws. Nuclear engineers will not make those mistakes again.

The Three Mile Island incident released more radiation into the environment, but no deaths were attributed to it. Sickness was attributed to stress caused by reports on the accident (The reports were more frightening than the ones for Windscale.)

Chernobyl caused about 35 times more fallout than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It caused about 50 direct deaths and around 9000 deaths from cancer. These numbers are very political. You could get different numbers from other sources.

Chernobyl and Three Mile Island incidents both involved running reactors that were not ready for operation. Perhaps we should delay building nuclear power plants until electricity is rationed, then build a dozen plants in a rush.

The Earth has not been eaten by vacuum bubbles, black holes or strangelets yet, even though it has been around for a few billion years. The Earth is made out of material ejected form super nova explosions. These explosions are far more powerful than LHC. If you are trying to say LHC is not safe, you first have to explain why LHC could cause a problem that supernovas have not.

If LHC could make vacuum bubbles with different rules of physics that grow without limit, then supernovas would have done this and we would not exist.
If miniature black holes did not evaporate promptly, then the Earth would be a black hole, not a planet.

If strangelets could convert normal matter into strange matter, the Earth would be made of strange matter caused by strangelets from supernovas.

If a theory is not consistent with the results of previous experiments, then the theory is wrong.

If the LHC is spending tax dollars on saying "LHC is safe" it is because they have to counter the silly law suit started by the modern day Chicken Lickens Walter L Wagner and Luis Sancho. I hope these two will meet the modern equivalent of Foxy Loxy and have to pay some extra taxes to make up for the waste they have caused."
You can find out more about the Large Hadron Collider at its very own home site, here. A National Geographic piece with the provocative and reductive headline (which headlines are supposed to be, to get you to read) "The God Particle," referring to the theorized Higg's Boson, is here.

Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, (shown here touring the Hadron) is an atheist, by the way, and his original name for his speculative particle when he conjectured the thing during a 1964 walk in the Scottish mountains was the "Goddamn Particle" because of its being so difficult to imagine, much less find.

A Time/CNN article about him is here, and a Daily Telegraph (U.K) video here.

Image credits: Top, via, second, with guy in over alls -- I grabbed this so long ago, don't know; Maria in billed cap, via the New York Times, photographer Lloyd DeGrane; emerging from the transporter chamber? -- don't know; peering into the distant past -- and you,, Dr. Higgs from the compelling Science, Culture and Integral Yoga site.


And if that miniature, gobbling black hole forms to grow into a world-eating doomsday, oh well. Maybe we'll go down in a Big Gulp, and come out again in yet another Big Bang, and something else better will emerge.

Edgar Allan Poe in a 19th century essayist’s voice sought in his strange and little read 1848 "prose poem" Eureka! to explain life, the Universe and everything. What’s weird is, he got things right that weren’t accepted in mainstream physics for more than a half century after his death. His view of cycling, unlimited universes, created in what we call a Big Bang and ultimately winding down into a Big Gulp that is, actually, a Big Bang, too, is on the edge of contemporary cosmological theory. Lucky guesses? Poe couldn’t get enough money together for a literary magazine, but he understood—for his own satisfaction—cosmic mechanics.

"Let me declare only that... there does exist a limitless succession of Universes, more or less similar to that of which we have cognizance...If such clusters of clusters exist, however—and they do—it is abundantly clear that, having had no part in our origin, they have no portion in our laws. They neither attract to us, nor we them. Their material—their spirit is not ours—is not that which obtains in any part of our Universe. They can not impress our senses or our souls...Each exists, apart and independently, in the bosom of its proper and particular God."

Essayist David Grantz says further of Poe's analysis:

"Just after the "great End".... Poe continues: "Of this End the new Genesis described can be but a very partial postponement." Near to the conclusion of Eureka, Poe asks: "...are we not, indeed, more than justified in entertaining a belief–let us say, rather, in indulging a hope—that the processes we have here ventured to contemplate, will be renewed forever, and forever, and forever; a novel Universe swelling into existence, and then subsiding into nothingness, at every throb of the Heart Divine?" (Poe 75).

The hypothesis of simultaneous and successive Universes had been suggested by Anaximander in the 6th Century B.C. However, the possibility of the existence of cyclical Universes appears as a physical theory only after the aforementioned solutions obtained by Friedman, specifically the one corresponding to a positive curvature of the spacial part of the space-time, which generates a closed and cyclical Universe (Sartori 316). This alternative has a higher probability to occur if the abundance of the dark matter, foreseen by Laplace and Poe, is high enough."

He may have been on to something. Or, given the exigencies of his own experience, he was hoping and wishing that somewhere, another Poe was having a much easier and successful time. He wanted a different set of problems. And I can sympathize.

See Grantz's discussion of Eureka here.

Soon to be a major motion picture:

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