Posts Tagged ‘Large Hadron Collider’

LHC: Doomsday or Discovery?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 by Evan Finnes

Where can you find the world’s largest refrigerator, the world’s fastest racetrack, the hottest spot on Earth, and the emptiest space for thousands of light years? CERN’s Large Hadron Particle Accelerator lays claim to each of these records. Propelled by 9300 super-cooled magnets (-271.3°C), a particle will travel 26,658m at speeds of 99.99% the speed of light through a vacuum whose pressure is 10-13 atm’s. Two colliding beams of particles will collide with energies of 14 Tev which will generate temperatures 100,000 times the temperature of the center of the sun.

The LHC will be conducing six experiments: ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, TOTEM, and LHCf. The ALICE experiment (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) will attempt to recreate the earliest conditions predicted by the big bang. This will be achieved by colliding lead ions at speeds of 99.99% the speed of light. The collision will separate the ions into protons and neutrons, and under temperatures 100,000 times the heat of the sun, should further break down into a quark-gluon plasma, scientists hope to observe this plasma as it cools and recreates known particles.

On September 10th at precisely 10:28 am, the first step towards experimentation and hopefully discovery was taken, as a test beam successfully traveled the nearly 27,000 m tunnel. For CERN this was a moment of triumph as they observed their marvel of engineering come to flawless life. But their 20 year journey was not without pain, as CERN even had to battle a doomsday scenario lawsuit.

On March 21, 2008 Walter Wagner, founder of Citizens Against The Large Hadron Collider, filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Energy, Fermi lab, the National Science foundation, and CERN. The goal of the lawsuit was to put a time restraint on the activation of the LHC while safety issues were evaluated. The safety issues Wagner is concerned about include miniature black holes, and strangelets. Wagner fears that if the LHC creates miniature black holes, they would fill their tremendous appetites by feasting on the Earth. Defendants of the LHC say that this is of no concern because any black hole that does form would have a lifespan of about 10-23 seconds. Wagner also fears that if strangelets are formed they will transform the entire planet into a lump of exotic matter.

Once the experimentation has begun, and Wagner can once again sleep through the night, the LHC hopes to prove or disprove a major theory, discover new subatomic particles, search for extra dimensions, discover what causes the formation of mass, and explore the mysteries of dark matter. Whether or not all or even one the goals are achieved, one thing is for certain; the LHC will expand our knowledge and provide us with a clearer image of the universe in which we live.

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Large Hadron Collider – Curious Logic

Thursday, September 11th, 2008 by William Reynolds

I couldn’t help but pay attention to all the hullaballoo surrounding the inaugural firing up of the Overlord of Disaster, the Proton Punisher, the Gaping Black Maw of the Apocolypse….the one…the only… LAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGEEEEEEE HADRON COLLIDER!  The time signature of this humble entry may be adduced as proof the world most certainly has not been swallowed up Jonah-style by black holes unleashed by LHC.  Having sufficiently quelled my nerves with mint herbal tea and a hearty helpin’ of “One Day At A Time” episodes from season 1, I feel confident in my ability to maintain my composure long enough to ignore my Schopehauer series for one more week.  That is unless Julie runs away again with that van-driving, Meatloaf-looking lout of a boyfriend.  She’s got to start living smarter not harder!

Scientists typically don’t like philosophers.  Anyone who thinks otherwise need only visit a few science forums to get a sense of the disdain to which philosophy is subjected.  Personally, I think the bad blood first spilled when Hume suggested that what we know to be causes and effects are merely perceptive habits and rituals. Regardless, I’ll speak my peace.  As I continue to follow the events unfolding in Switzerland, a couple of practical and timely concerns have come to the fore:

1)  The Big Bang has fundamental problems stemming from a litany of ad hoc hypotheses and departures from observational data.  Should an experimental environment as important and costly as the LHC be hinged on the assumption the Big Bang correctly describes our universe?  Is referring to the Big Bang as “the best model we have so far” sufficient reason to devise an experiment to explore the validity and limitations of the Standard Model?  If the Big Bang is the best model we have at the moment, then we probably should change statements like “WHEN the Big Bang occurred” to “IF the Big Bang occurred”.

2)  In light of concern 1, is moving forward and assuming the validity of the Big Bang despite its evidentiary flaws indicative of a greater problem plaguing science, namely too great a reliance on inductive methods of research.  The LHC seems to be more a product of “If a theory is broke, we can build an experiment to fix it.” which the philosopher in me recognizes as an inductive process and a product of curious logic.

When the Bush administration started handing out non-compete contracts to the likes of Halliburton and KBR, my first thought was “Really?  Aren’t we going to get ripped off?”  Now I see an impressive, multi-billion dollar experiment moving forward on an assumption that doesn’t possess the criteria necessary for generating a consensus.  Aren’t we going to get ripped off, cosmologically speaking?

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