Sunday, March 21, 2010

Large Hadron Supercollider "Atom Smasher" Restarts

Last year, various religious organizations and gullible alarmists forecasted the end of everything. The world would soon come to an end, it was asserted, and it was all due to the collective scientific stubbornness and meddling stupidity of scientists at the CERN that were adamant about conducting experiments to prove that the Higgs Boson Particle, the so-called, "God particle," actually exists. No one knew what would happen when the supercollider actual reached its full working capacity. Some believed that a miniature black hole would be created, one that would, due to its very extreme nature of attraction, gobble the world up in short order. Some religious organizations had even attempted to stop the experiments by going to court, but they failed.

But what reason and religion and courts could not or simply did not stop, outright mechanical failure did. Large Hadron Collider (LHC) went off-line for repairs just nine days after it first powered up in September 2008. It was found that an electrical failure had released liquid helium into the supercollider's tunnel, a massive conduit 27 kilometers or 17 miles long). The repairs bled into more repairs and regularly scheduled shutdowns until November, when it was successfully tested and ran millions of particle accelerator collisions through December, when it was shut down again for technical maintenance.

In August 8, 2009, CERN restarted the Large Hadron Collider. They hope the higher energy will enable them to see particles so far undetected, such as the elusive Higgs Boson Particle, which in theory gives mass to other particles and objects and creatures in the universe.

Physicists have used smaller, room-temperature colliders for decades to study the atom. They once thought protons and neutrons were the smallest components of the atom's nucleus, but the colliders showed that they are made of quarks and gluons and that there are other forces and particles. And they still have other questions about antimatter, dark matter and particle mass they want to answer with CERN's new collider.

They hope the fragments that come off the collisions will show on a tiny scale what happened one-trillionth of a second after the so-called Big Bang, which many scientists theorize was the massive explosion that formed the universe. The theory holds that the universe was rapidly cooling at that stage and matter was changing quickly.

On February 28, 2010, the Large Hadron Collider was restarted, and it seems that all systems are go again. This time the scientists will be looking for the Higgs Boson also referred to as the "God" particle and attempt to resolve whether or not "dark matter" and "dark energy" actually exist and / or have defined properties. Finding the God particle would help scientists understand how atoms acquire mass.

Will it be the end of the world? Doubtful. Just like the Linear Particle Beam Accelerator at Stanford (which I have seen personally) that smashed atoms and discovered the sub-atomic particles, like quarks, did not end the world, the LHC will not either. Now there will always be the group of people like those who say the planetary alignments could cause a disruption in the gravitational equilibrium of our little part of the universe. Of course if it does not, the perennial doomsayers and those always looking for an apocalypse will have to, and undoubtedly will, find another “END OF THE WORLD” scenario event, cascading series of incidents, or whatever is necessary to continue their “Godly Apoplectic” predictions grasping for a sudden end to it all.


  1. Well put.
    I also would like to say, as a physicist with religious beliefs, that science and religion should stay separated. Physics in general and the LHC in particular will not prove or disprove any religious pillar - only scientific ones. In fact, it is insulting to say that the LHC is some sort of modern Tower of Babel, because that presumes that God can be affected by the actions of mere humans. When you read about string theory and multi-dimensions and the weakness of the gravitational force in our own 4 dimensions and what that means, I am convinced that, even with the LHC, we will know less than a millionth of what this universe, and all the other possible universes and dimensions, is about.
    Trust me - we are only beginning to know.

  2. Hello Worldxv,
    I loved your comment and the mental picture of, "it is insulting to say that the LHC is some sort of modern Tower of Babel." I had a good laugh when I first read this.

    I graduated high school with two people who became husband and wife and both are deeply religious people who are even afraid that Dark Matter, when spoken about, is the Devil's influence within our world. I was speaking with a friend at one of our class reunions, he works for NASA at the Goddard Space facility located on the outer loop of the Washington D.C. beltway, and he and I were talking about the Hubble Telescope capturing Dark Mater being formed. The husband of the married couple got up and stomped off as he was highly offended that the NASA friend and I were talking “Devil Talk” in front of them.

    You are one of the first who I could have a good conversation on string theory and the muli-dimensions, etc.

    As we learn more and more, we reveal that the universe is so much stranger than ever thought before. It is truly a Brave New World.

    I want to thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment. I look forward to interacting with you more in the future.

  3. Hello Engineer. Thank you for your reply and your humourous story. I think some people take the phrase "dark matter" a little too literally. Much like their biblical interpretations.

    Anyway, for the day that's in it, I thought you might enjoy this...

  4. Hello worldxv,
    Thank you for passing on the web link. I found it interesting but not surprising. I personally don’t have a problem with a person who has religion, I myself am a Freemason, but I don’t want nihilist theories or viewpoints forced on science, research, or facts.

    So being a physicist, what do you do and where if you are able to pass it on.

    I work in both mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines and as you can well imagine, I have had many Physics and Quantum Physics classes. Because it interested me so, I have kept up reading and following this aspect of science for my own pleasure. I have also written papers for classes on Nano Technologies, and marketing studies on Fuel Cells.

    Maryland Public Broadcasting had a program on String Theory that I taped and then burned on a DVD that I just like to play when I get tired of the crap on TV. They really explained it very well and was easy to follow. Another program I like was called “Einstein’s Big Idea” that went back to start with Newton, Voltaire, Faraday, etc. Another one I have is the biography of Nikola Tesla. Most know of Thomas Edison for his inventions but in my opinion, Tesla had it all over Edison. Our whole electric power grid is based on Tesla’s vision. Marconi ripped off several of Tesla’s patents when he was given credit for inventing radio. Since then credit has been given to Tesla for making radio happen. The man, although strange, was brilliant.

    I did another posting, which you should have seen by now, on the results of today’s LHC start up. Very Exciting stuff and I will be very interested their findings.

  5. Worldxv,
    I thought you would enjoy this story.

    In the late 1990s, I was taking a class in Quantum Physics and the professor was taking about the super collider located in Texas that was working on research for fusion energy at this time. They had just taken hydrogen atoms and through the speeds reached with that ring track, they fused two hydrogen atoms to make helium generating energy. (Of course it took more energy to do this than was obtained in generated energy) The professor was saying that if this could be perfected, it could replace fission nuclear electric generating plants. He was of the mind set that this would be safer and take care of the radioactive waste problems from the fission reactors. (No Three Mile Island or Chernobyl meltdown) “The by product would just be helium!!”

    Now I have been a non-traditional student as I was in my mid-40’s at this time, and the professor and I had much respect for each other. I posed the question to the professor, “Wouldn’t the helium be radioactive? The sun itself is just a large fusion reactor changing hydrogen into helium and releases radioactive solar winds that is a concern for astronauts in space?” He took a moment pause for thought, and came back with the statement, “You ask the best questions.” We both had a light laugh and continued on with the lesson.