Thursday, September 11, 2008

Planet's Largest Machine Seeks Universe's Smallest Particle

And a few more things, while they're at it.

Yes, the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) has been switched on, and the first test was a success. For those few who don't even know what a "Hadron" is, such as Everywoman Sarah Palin, your definition is here:
In particle physics, a hadron is a bound state of quarks. Hadrons are held together by The Strong Force, similar to how atoms are held together by the electromagnetic force. The best-known hadrons are protons and neutrons.

So the LHC is the largest place where hadrons collide.
Its main purpose is to explore the validity and limitations of the Standard Model, the current theoretical picture for particle physics. It is theorized that the collider will confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and missing links in the Standard Model, and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass.

Cost: $10 Billion
Builder: CERN aka European Organization for Nuclear Research, who also brought us the World Wide Web, MRI scanning
Funded, Designed, Worked on, etc. by: 8,000 physicists from over 85 countries plus hundreds of universities and laboratories
Claims to Fame: world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, world's largest cryogenic facility, possibly "universe's coldest ring", planet's most humongous machine, aka "Large Helluva Collider"
Possible Side Effects: Black holes, destruction of the world as we know it, destruction of the Standard Model as we know it, or the Revenge of the Higgs Boson, gastric disturbance

The Higgs boson, aka the "God particle", is only predicted to exist, and some believe, such as Higgs, pictured here awaiting his boson, that it gives mass to otherwise massless particles. The LHC also is supposed to make protons travel at nearly the speed of light in a 17-mile tunnel, as well as bring things back to that wonderful time of the Big Bang, so we can know what happened then by making our own little Big Bang. But don't worry, it's actually not a Real big bang, just a little bang, a 10-billion-dollar bang, and any black holes that it might produce will not live long enough to swallow anything other than a couple of protons & quarks, or if it does, we are fully insured.

But many feared it could create micro black holes which would somehow swallow up the world as we know it. In fact, the LHC's first victim has been claimed, in India.

A girl in India has committed suicide after watching TV reports that a physics experiment could bring about the end of the world, her father says.

Sixteen-year-old Chaya poisoned herself at her home in the northern city of Indore, Bihari Lal said.

He said Chaya had asked whether the "world would end" when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was switched on.

Apparently, his answer was less than convincing. He should have informed her that the "God particle" will save her village.

Chaya's father, Bihari Lal, said his daughter - the eldest of his six children - had been frightened after watching local TV reports that the experiment would cause the "Earth to crack up and everybody in the village would die".

Eight thousand physicists couldn't present their case any better than that? And apparently another LHC side effect is a return to religion.

Many people rushed to temples in various parts of India on Tuesday fearing the "world's end" after watching the reports, reports said.

Meanwhile, Steve Hawking says the boson isn't even all that important. Atheists.

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