Ring Of Fire

This is a giddy week for particle physicists: very soon now the Large Hadron Collider, the most potent instrument ever built for the investigation of nature’s most private parts, will be brought on line. (How soon? Have a look here.) [Note: the LHC countdown site now (August 18th 2008) seems to be down. -MP]

There are those who fear that the collider, which occupies a 17-mile-long tunnel straddling the border of Switzerland and France, may kill us all by creating a world-devouring black hole or strangelet. While we can all enjoy a little frisson at the thought of such a gaudy exit, it is not going to happen. Here’s why.

There is an inverse relation between the scale we can examine and the size of the instruments required; we have come a very long way indeed from the first cyclotron, which Ernest Lawrence built for a cost of about $25, and which could be held in one hand. The LHC is an enormous, and enormously complex, triumph of human ingenuity and engineering skill.

I’ve just run across a beautiful collection of photographs of the project; you can have a look at them here.

Finally, our friend Eugene Jen has sent along a YouTube clip of a rap song about the LHC, written by Kate McAlpine, a science writer covering the project. If you think you might enjoy such a thing, it’s here.

Related content from Sphere

4 Comments

  1. Charles says

    I like particle physics just as much as the next guy…

    but under no circumstances should particle physicists be allowed to rap. It’s frightening, it’s dangerous, and I’m pretty sure it will hasten the rise of the Anti-Christ.

    Posted August 5, 2008 at 1:46 am | Permalink
  2. “There are those who fear that the collider, which occupies a 17-mile-long tunnel straddling the border of Switzerland and France, may kill us all by creating a world-devouring black hole or strangelet. While we can all enjoy a little frisson at the thought of such a gaudy exit, it is not going to happen.”

    But . . . but . . . I’ve already cashed in my mortgage, vacationed a week in some place I can’t even spell, and left my wife and kids — only to have you tell me “it is not going to happen”? Damn, now I have nothing to live for. If the world’s not going to end, I might as well kill myself. Thanks a lot.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted August 5, 2008 at 3:04 am | Permalink
  3. JK says

    Professor Hodges? Is that you?

    Not to worry. Now I don’t want to go through the hassle of repeating my previous typing because as you might look for yourself, JK participated in an exciting discussion pertaining to the dangerous properties of strangelets on Twisted Physics about a month ago.

    Go back to enjoying the memories you memorized on your recent vacation. After you’ve waded through the archives.

    Posted August 5, 2008 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  4. JK says

    And here I thought Union Carbide had that Bhopal mess all cleaned up.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26641652/

    Posted September 10, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink