Friday, September 12, 2008

More about the Large Hadron Collider

First, the website offers 30 incredible photos of the inside of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. [Thanks to Mike, who provided the link.]

The Montreal Gazette has a pretty good FAQ-type summary of LHC activities. And we learn that there are approximately 20 Montrealers working on the project. We also learn that the accelerator tunnel is about the size of a Montreal Metro (subway) tunnel.

UPDATE INSERTED Sep 14 - Michio Kaku of CUNY in an article in the Wall Street Journal expresses a certain amount of bitterness about the canceled Superconducting Super Collider (SCSC) project from the 1990s: "...As a consequence, Congress guaranteed that leadership in advanced physics would pass from the U.S. to Europe." However, a few sentences later he goes on to say "...While the LHC is outside U.S. jurisdiction, many of its key components come from America...", highlighting the current international nature of high energy physics research. [Note - the SCSC would have reached 40 TeV; the LHC can only reach 14 TeV].

How could I not blog about this next item? Katherine McAlpine aka "AlpineKat" is a news coordinator with the ATLAS Project at the LHC. She created the LHC Rap, the most current internet sensation (at least among geeks) which explains what the Large Hadron Collider is all about:

In the interview transcript which is linked above, McAlpine talks about LHC end-of-the-world scenarios.

I feel compelled to point out, for those who were disappointed that the end of the world did not come on September 10, that on that date only one circulating beam in the LHC got turned on. Sometime later, possibly this weekend or next week, they will turn on the second beam that circulates in the opposite direction. Once they are certain that everything works, and more importantly, that they understand the detectors, then the LHC experiment will move to the next step. That is actually the point at which the doomsayers need to be worried, because then the LHC will bring both beams together, and allow the particles in the two counter-rotating beams to collide. It is those high energy collisions that are the reason for the LHC's existence. It is in observing these collisions that physicists will gain insight into the first instants of the Big Bang. It is also these collisions that should be feared by those who believe in the end of the world.

An article by Ronald Bailey in ReasonOnLine provides an excellent summary of the so-called safety issues around the high energy collisions in the LHC:

While the LHC safety report goes through a number of scenarios, its chief point is that the energies produced in the LHC are "far below those of the highest-energy cosmic-ray collisions that are observed regularly on Earth." In fact, cosmic rays produced by phenomena in the universe "conduct" more than 10 million LHC-like experiments per second. If such energies actually produced vacuum bubbles, microscopic black holes, magnetic monopoles, or strangelets that could destroy planets and stars, physicists wouldn't be here to perform experiments in the LHC now.

With all that said, click here for a live webcam view from the LHC facility itself.

Thank you and good night.

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