The Future of Everything

September 8, 2008

Big Bang II

Filed under: Physics — David @ 9:57 am

So the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will finally fire up this week, a beam of high-energy protons looping for the first time around its 27 km tunnel deep under the Swiss/French countryside. Once the beam has been tuned, an opposing stream of protons will be sent in the opposite direction, and the two brought together to collide at various experimental sites around the ring. The energy of the collision will recreate, in a somewhat reduced form, the conditions prevalent immediately after the Big Bang. It will be the largest experiment in human history. So what will it find?

The hope among physicists is that they will discover things like the Higgs particle, responsible for giving matter its mass, and maybe more exotic phenomena such as super-symmetric particles, extra dimensions of space, or even mini-black holes. However, as Science reported last week, many people are worried that the LHC will turn out to be a doomsday machine. In part this is a result of the scientists’ own spin. CERN theorist Jonathan Ellis notes that “we talk about recreating the big bang, and people think, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to recreate the big bang!'” Such worries were also fueled by Nostradamus, who wrote:

Leave, leave Geneva every last one of you,

Saturn will be converted from gold to iron,

RAYPOZ will exterminate all who oppose him,

Before the coming the sky will show signs.

which if you interpret RAYPOZ as being a beam of protons is enough to get you looking nervously at the sky above Geneva for signs of an emerging black hole.

Personally I’m not too worried about that – as I told Coast to Coast AM back in March, we’re constantly being exposed to cosmic rays that have a much higher energy than the LHC beams, and so far no one I know has been sucked into a mini-black hole. A bigger risk, at least for the accelerator community, is that the LHC doesn’t turn up anything too novel or surprising – in which case it will be very hard to raise money for the next big experiment.

1 Comment »

  1. […] the discovery is very exciting if it turns out to be true – though as I mentioned back in 2008, it would be even more exciting if the particle turns out to be at least slightly different from […]

    Pingback by Higgs boson « The Future of Everything — June 25, 2012 @ 9:02 am

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