Sunday, 7 February 2010

Speed Bump

For those of you who have been reading this blog the past two years, you know I am a geek. A geek who loves particle physics and all the mathematical possibilities and potential for insanity that includes.

I have been waiting 15 years with baited breathe (really, like Posh at Paris fashion week) for the new Large Hadron Collider at CERN to go online and start kicking some quark ass. But alas the project has been plagued with stops and starts, rumors and breakdowns. First there were the scaredy cats who said, “Oh no! You will create black holes that will encompass the earth.” In other words, ‘eat us alive!’ Ooooh – so not likely. Then the sci-fi buffs (yes, like me) who said, ‘Oooooh it will create wormholes to be a gateway for time travelers’. Also unlikely.

It took 15 years to build and cost $9 – 10 billion, but worthwhile endeavors surely as we are looking for a more succinct understanding of our universe and thereby more clearly understand our own existence. The problems began as early as 2007 when the housing around one magnet exploded during a pressure test, this cause the removal and redesign of nine 80-foot magnet assemblies.

When they first cranked it up 10 September 2008 it was more a whimper than a bang. Sigh.

A faulty connection between two magnets triggered a meltdown, which delayed the world’s biggest science experiment by two months – or so we thought at the time. However… the collider was forced to shut down for another year in order to carry out repairs. It has been in a winter shutdown since December for more problems with the magnets.

The plans now are to crank the Collider up to half power later this month and run experiments for the next two years, and then shut it down (again) for repairs in 2012, with plans to crank her up again in 2013. Ooof. “Testing revealed that the collider is riddled with thousands of defective electrical joints and dozens of underperforming magnets that will keep it from reaching its full potential until an overhaul scheduled for 2011.” (New York Times)

What it will hopefully do is show us, even at half power, some nice quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed just after the Big Bang.

“That future [of the experiments], physicists say, includes not only the sheen of announcing exotic particles and strange dimensions, but also the ancillary rewards of increased technological competence and innovation that spring from the pursuit of esoteric knowledge.” (New York Times) One of the collider’s main targets is the Higgs boson, a particle that is thought to imbue other particles with mass and has even been theorized to be “the God particle” – in other words a Rosetta Stone of particle physics.

Meanwhile I will, like the scientists at CERN, take what I can get at half power the next two years and hope for more revelations after the overhaul in 2012.

And two shameless pleas for support: please go over to Power Room Graffiti and read my latest article, and click on the widget to the right to vote for Best Moroccan Blog. Thank you.



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lady macleod said...

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for coming by and I shall look forward to hearing from you again.

Swatantra said...


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Ellee Seymour said...

I bow to your superior knowledge. It's wonderful to have you back blogging.

Jen said...

You lost me at Particle Physics. Ha ha...I do watch The Big Bang Theory on TV, does that count for something?

Sparx said...

I know, I am so excited about this thing going live... it was SO close the last time!!!

Gary said...

I think that we'll all be going to CERN in a couple of years. By that I mean that when the collider is 100% and they're after the H-b, that a micro-black hole will inadvertantly be created that will begin accreting everything around it. As the blackhole grows it will suck all of us toward Switzerland which will be a real treat for those who have never vacationed in Europe. More good news is that if string theory is correct we may be sucked into the next closest brane universe which could be nearly identical to our own and where we already exist. (I sure hope that in this neighboring brane universe the nearly identical me has a larger...oh, never mind.)

Brian Miller said...

facinating...i am such a geek as thanks for dropping by today and saying hi!

lady macleod said...

Thank you for coming by, and I certainly will.

Thank you friend. I always keep up with your doings even when I'm not keeping up with daily postings. I'm always fascinated by what you are up to now. Thank you for coming by.

I have the TV IQ of a turnip according to my husband and step children but I DO KNOW that show, or at least I've heard of it... I find the entire field of Particle Physics fun and fascinating. I'm a geek, so the interest comes naturally.
Thank you for coming by.

I know! Someday perhaps the Spud will come up with some brilliant theory to push the field forward, he's on his way with all his antics to be an A-1 scientist-guy. And he will let us have ring side seats - how cool will that be eh?
Thank you for coming by.

LOL Wow, what a plot line. I love it. And if M Theory holds true then every road not taken here, was taken somewhere... That will be interesting eh? Sign me up for a ticket.
Thank you for coming by.

We have to love our fellow geeks eh? I enjoyed my visit to your blog and shall certainly return.
Thank you for coming by.

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