Being the daughter of a brilliant physicist, I am extremely interested in the experiments going on at CERN in Geneva starting today. Recreating the Big Bang that formed our Universe and the planet we are living on sounds risky, scary and world-ending but I think it’s FREAKIN’ AWESOME! Watching ABC World News Tonight with my buddy Charles (Charlie for those of us who watched him on GMA) Gibson today was cool. The final story of the broadcast was about the work being conducted at the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
From The New York Times Science Section, September 8th 2008:
“The collider, 14 years and $8 billion in the making, is the most expensive scientific experiment to date. Thousands of physicists from dozens of countries have been involved in building the collider and its huge particle detectors. It is designed to accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts — seven times the energy of the next largest machine in the world, Fermilab’s Tevatron — and smash them together.
In recent weeks, there has been a blitzkrieg of papers and predictions on what might or might not be discovered, by theorists eager to get their bets down before the figurative roulette ball drops or the dice begin to tumble.
At stake is a suite of theories called the Standard Model, which explains all of particle physics to date, but which breaks down at the conditions that existed in the earliest moments of the universe. The new collider will eventually reach temperatures and energies equivalent to those at a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. There are many theories about what will happen, including the emergence of a particle known as the Higgsboson, which is hypothesized to endow other particles with mass, or the identity of the mysterious dark matter that provides the invisible scaffolding of galaxies and the cosmos.
But nobody really knows for sure, which is part of the fun, but which has led to a few alarming claims that the collider could spit out a black hole or some other accidental phenomenon that could end the Earth or the universe. Those claims have been vigorously rebutted by a series of safety reports and studies, the most recent of which was published last week in The Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, a peer-reviewed journal.
The director general of CERN, Robert Aymar, said in a news release, “The LHC is safe, and any suggestion that it might present a risk is pure fiction.”
At the end of the ABC news story on the experiment, both Stephen Hawking and Dr. John Ellis both say that any concern of the world coming to an end due to this experiment are “rubbish.” Well, I had to ask the #1 brain in my life, my dad, Dr. Howard E. Brandt about this and he said that “No, we have nothing to worry about.” WHEW! I’ll still be keeping my eye on the story though.
Yesterday, my dad e-mailed me a link to this HILARIOUS video made by some of the brains at CERN. This is what happens when nerds who listen to rap and hip-hop try it out themselves. Also, if you are interested in reading a great novel that centers around this exact experiment at CERN check out Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons. It’s one of my favorite books and is soooooo much better than The DaVinci Code.