Saturday, 6 September 2008

Our understanding of the structure of matter is about to change

We've all heard the hype, the world is about to end! OMFG!!

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, at CERN is about to be fired up. First beam as they euphemistically call it...

On Wednesday, after about 15 years of work, a science team numbering many thousands (to say nothing of the engineers, technicians, electricians, plumbers, cleaners, tea-ladies and PhD students) will throw a switch and turn on the biggest scientific experiment ever undertaken.

This project is huge with a capital HU!

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer was lucky enough to visit the LHC earlier this year. He wrote:

"It’s difficult to convey just how astonishing this all is. The scale of it is simply awesome. Standing off to the side, taking in the size and complexity of CMS and ATLAS, I was filled with a sense of pride. People built this! Every single cable (and there were miles of cable!), every rivet, every bolt, every iron block and metal plate, everything, was dreamed up, designed, redesigned, built, and assembled."
More from Phil later, but what exactly will this thing do?
I'll let the charismatic Prof. Brian Cox explain:

This is impressive science, a massive construction to try to observe the smallest and most fleeting glimpses of an underlying structure to what we see and feel in the world around us.

Here's Phil Plait again with his own video from LHC:

And listen to Phil and Brian in conversation on a CERN podcast
Oh, and the stories of microscopic black holes eating the Earth - BULLSHIT - see Hawking Radiation. The folks at LHC will know if they have created a black hole by its pattern of decay!

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