Does $9 Billion Get You a Big Bang for Your Bucks?


The world’s largest particle accelerator has been in the news this month as it prepares to make history by circulating a beam of protons the whole way around its 17-mile tunnel.  This expensive experiment conducted by the Large Hadron Collider hosted by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, will attempt to "provide new information about the way the universe works."

The collider will recreate the conditions of less than a millionth of a second after the Big Bang, when there was a hot "soup" of tiny particles called quarks and gluons, to look at how the universe evolved, said John Harris, U.S. coordinator for ALICE, a detector specialized to analyze that question.  Since this is exploratory science, the collider may uncover surprises that contradict prevailing theories, but which are just as interesting, said Joseph Lykken, theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Personally, I just want to continue to make myself available at a much more economical rate if people are truly looking for explanations as to the origin of the universe and its operation.  What a gig for these scientists who have been employed for many years in preparation for these upcoming experiments.  Apparently some people are expressing fears that a black hole could be created that would swallow up the earth.  However, our eminent experts at prestigious Harvard University assure those of us who are prone to panic over such pronouncements:

"The gravitational force is so weak that you’d have to wait many, many, many, many, many lifetimes of the universe before one of these things could [get] big enough to even get close to being a problem," said Huth, professor of physics at Harvard University. 

That’s a relief!  I guess I won’t quit my day job today and run home to make preparations for the end.  How can people interact about these theories without feeling they are adrift in a sea of absurdity?  Anyway, for those of you that do not want to miss this "happening" — you can apparently watch online tonight and track the developments as they unfold:

"You’re talking about such incredible power inside both the accelerator and detectors that you never really know until you turn it all on what’s going to happen," he said.

Scientists around the world are pumped for the first beam. Fermilab, the high energy physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, and major collaborator on the Large Hadron Collider, will be host of a "pajama party" at 1:30 a.m. CT that includes a live connection to CERN to follow the action.

Cousins believes that because the collider pushes the frontiers of science and technology, it would be "amazingly impressive if it works the first try," he said in a phone interview from CERN. Any little disturbance of the magnetic field anywhere in the tunnel could stop the beam from making it all the way around.

Still, after a 25-year wait, he’s not complaining. "I personally will be fine if there’s some problem that has to be overcome in the next few days," he said.

1 Comment

  1. Steve Kirchner


    This has got to be in the running for one of the best titles for a post yet.