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Science: Large Hadron Collider

Written by Daniel Morrison on July 17, 2008

The Scientific Method is pretty much my favourite thing in the world.  We have questions, we conduct experiments, we form hypothesis, we find results, we refine theories, we figure shit out. That’s the way it goes.  That’s how we’ve learned basically everything we know.  It seems obvious, and it is, but it’s power lies in its simplicity and adaptability.  It forms the basis of the bulk of our existence.

But when you go to the dentists, what magazines do they leave there for you to read?  Any updates on how the Voyager Probe is going?  Weather the Phoenix Landing went according to plan?  How the researchers are getting on in their quest for medical break throughs?  No.  They tell you how fucking drunk some celebrity got last weekend.  Or how unhappy Katie Holmes is in her marriage.  Or how many kids Angelina wants to adopt.  This is what is presented as being worth knowing.  This is the important stuff for you to read.  For fucks sake, no wonder the world seems to be going to shit.  People get told “Don’t worry about all that science stuff, here, this is what you should be concerning yourself with.”  As you might have noticed, I’m sick of it.

So the least we could do is to offer a Music Feeds Science Column.  It’s not going to cover everything, obviously, but we’ll take a story each issue and fill you in on what’s happening.

For our debut I figured we may as well go with not just the biggest experiment ever conducted, but the biggest thing ever built:  The Large Hadron Collider.  As you can see in the photo, it’s massive.  It’s a circle, 60 kilometres in circumference, 100 meters underground, that runs through Switzerland and France, run by CERN.  Yes, it’s the one mentioned at the start of Angels and Demons.  They fling bunches of particles (Protons specifically – a type of Hadron, with an energy of 7 TeV) around them in opposite directions, accelerate them till they’re going round it thousands of times a second, smash them into each other, and see what happens.

It’s the most epic experiment ever conducted.  It’ll help us figure out the nature of the fabric of reality.  Quantum Physics is something that even Quantum Physicists don’t really understand, cos once you get down to the sub atomic scale, things start behaving really weird.  Like, we’re talking about particles being in two places at once.  You might have heard of ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ –  a hypothetical scenario which does a good job of illustrating ‘quantum uncertainty’ – the cat can be both dead and alive.  Of course that doesn’t make sense, and that’s the point.    It’s awfully confusing, and tough to figure out.

So that’s why they’ve built this big bloody particle accelerator.  The holy grail of physics is the Grand Unified Theory – scientists want one theory that brings together the different theories for the different ways matter interacts – the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, and gravity.  The hope is that once it gets turned on and starts working (in AUGUST baby), they’ll be much closer to figuring it out.

The particle they’re looking for is called the Higgs Boson, but they’re also looking for such exciting things as  StrangeletsMicro black holesMagnetic monopole and  Supersymmetric Particles.

It’s costing about 7 billion dollars.  HOLY SHIT THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY.  Yeah, that’s about what it costs to run the Iraq war for 3 weeks.  I think that speaks for itself.

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