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July 30, 2008 4:52 PM   Subscribe

The Large Hadron Collider. The Large Hadron Countdown. The Large Hadron Rap.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (76 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
At CERN, the protons will eventually be running at 99.9999991% of the speed of light. At this speed, each individual proton will have the energy of seven mosquitoes.

Which doesn't sound like much. Seven mosquitoes? Pshaw! Then you think about the relative size of a mosquito to a proton, and realize how enormously energized these little buggers get.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:00 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: "The Large Hadron Rap."

Holy crap we're dorks.

Intelligent, proud, absolutely dedicated, beautifully multitalented, wonderfully shameless, entirely unrelenting dorks.

We are dorks.
posted by Science! at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Would you like a piƱa collider?"
"No thanks. I've already hadron."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:10 PM on July 30, 2008 [24 favorites]


I suppose a black hole is at the top of the food chain, isn't it? Then I guess it's not so bad, simply the natural order of things, right? (Just trying to rationalize and come to terms with becoming lunch for an astrophysical phenomenom after this things fires up.)
posted by Falling_Saint at 5:11 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Falling_Saint: Impossible to tell in text but I am guessing that's just an offhand joke.

If not (eg: you really think there is a chance of this thing destroying the world) please try and educate yourself a bit before posting more on the subject.
posted by Riemann at 5:12 PM on July 30, 2008


Large Hardon Collider
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:13 PM on July 30, 2008


Large Hardon Collider NSFW
posted by Science! at 5:16 PM on July 30, 2008


The curious case of Joanna the Cat and the Large Hadron Collider. (Right arrow mean "more"! Keep hitting it!)
posted by cortex at 5:16 PM on July 30, 2008


Well, if it creates a more stable vacuum or some strangelets or whatever, we won't have anything to worry about in about a week.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:17 PM on July 30, 2008


Riemann

Offhand? There was nothing "offhand" about that joke.

According to Merriam-Webster, offhand means "without premeditation or preparation." That joke was entirely and premeditatively thought out beforehand. :)

(Sarcasm is so hard to get across on the web.)
posted by Falling_Saint at 5:24 PM on July 30, 2008


If you're not sciency and want a non-rhyming explanation of what the LHC does, check out Brian Cox at TED
posted by Adam_S at 5:24 PM on July 30, 2008


Holy crap we're dorks.

OK dorks, which one of you would like to explain this, and its real-world ramifications, in 50 words or less? I'm all ears.
posted by jbickers at 5:33 PM on July 30, 2008


"Collider? I just met her!"

Yeah, I got nothin'.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:38 PM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


has the black hole / end of the earth thing been posted here?

i find it quite worrying, to be honest - as far as i can tell, if hawking radiation is wrong, we are pretty much done for. i mean, he's a smart chap and all that, but the stakes are so high that "playing safe" is the rational (for some value of rational, and i am in a tiny minority, apparently) choice.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


if hawking radiation is wrong, we are pretty much done for.

So, the world ends in 8 days? Is that it?
posted by jbickers at 5:52 PM on July 30, 2008


It will both end and not end, simulataneously. So long as nobody looks, we'll be fine.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


well yes, could be.

[googles]. this argues against it and gives some links to the other side of the argument.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2008


...So long as nobody looks, we'll be fine.

Whoops!
posted by AmberV at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2008


actually the argument there is a bit better than others i've seen (the moon still being here), but it's not clear it's right, since the velocity in the moon's rest frame of whatever is produced would be high 9so the horrible stuff flies right out of the moon before it can do any damage) while there is a much higher probability of near-stationary (in the earth frame) products at the lhc (because they will be smashing too beams into each other head on).
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 6:01 PM on July 30, 2008


maybe i haven't made the argument clear - i assume it won't happen, but i am not convinced the probability of something going wrong is zero. and when the existence of the world is at stake it seems like you want zero probability of something bad happening, rather than "it probably won't".
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 6:02 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't believe this is going to end the world, but just in case, I'm going to get on the good side of God by not masturbating for the next week or so.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:05 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, the world ends in 8 days? Is that it?

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind

It's the strangelet dance... it's the strangelet da--ance!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:12 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, there goes that promise. . .
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:18 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Collider? I just met her!"

Yeah, I got nothin'.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:38 PM

I favorited this out of pity. Snark is harder than it looks.
posted by Hollow at 6:27 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Would it really matter if things went terribly wrong and obliviated us and our entire world? I mean, it's not we'll be around to angst over it or anything.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 6:28 PM on July 30, 2008


i find it quite worrying, to be honest

To give a bit of perspective, the collisions here are in the 14 TeV range. (It takes about 1 MeV to create an electron-positron pair; the energy from a head-on collision at LHC is 14 million times bigger than that.)

Quite a few cosmic rays are observed in the hundreds of EeV range -- ten million times higher still.

Anything we can do on Earth has been done over and over again (at much higher energies) in space, on the moon, and in the atmosphere.

when existence of the world is at stake it seems like you want zero probability of something bad happening, rather than "it probably won't"

There really isn't a zero probability in science. Even the second law of thermodynamics is statistical. This is part of the reason why all these scares get so much press attention. A good scientist will never say that it's impossible for the LHC to destroy the world, just that the probability is astronomically small. Of course, what most people hear is "There is a chance."
posted by cgs06 at 6:29 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


i find it quite worrying, to be honest - as far as i can tell, if hawking radiation is wrong, we are pretty much done for.

If that was the case, we wouldn't be here. The earth is hit, fairly frequently*, by cosmic rays with vastly more energy than the LHC protons. Indeed, the "Oh My God" particle question -- what accelerates these particles to such velocities -- is one of the big unknowns in current physics.

Why "Oh My God"? The first one detected and measured -- a single proton -- had the kinetic energy of a baseball thrown at 55mph. Total energy in this *one* particle was 55 joules.

This is about seven orders of magnitude more energy than the 7 TeV that the LHC will have. If micro-black holes were a problem, the universe would have been saturated by them long ago.

*the currently estimate rate is 1 per km2 per century, for particles above 1020eV. Doesn't sound like much? Surface area of the earth is 510,065,600 km2. Do the math.
posted by eriko at 6:30 PM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


According to the rap, confirmation of the Higgs Boson's existence or lack of existence will be seen "right away".

What does that actually mean? Eight days from now, they'll announce whether or not the Higgs Boson exists?

Or does "right away" mean something more like "we'll know in a year or so"?
posted by Flunkie at 6:34 PM on July 30, 2008


I favorited this out of pity. Snark is harder than it looks.

If only there was a 'Put This Comment Out Of Its Misery' flag.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:35 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


As for real-world ramifications?

Briefly, scientists have good indications that their understanding of the subatomic world is incomplete. The high energies at the LHC give scientists the best chance yet of creating as-yet-undetected particles that will allow them to complete their model -- and perhaps to solve a number of puzzles, like the nature of exotic dark matter.

For a more detailed explanation, there are a number of popular books out there, including mine, Alpha & Omega.
posted by cgs06 at 6:40 PM on July 30, 2008


Welcome to you're "Doom!"
posted by Mrs. Buck Turgidson at 6:43 PM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


And I'm surprised that this thread seems to not yet have a reference to M.C. Hawking.
posted by Flunkie at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2008


the answers above ignore the argument about the velocity of the products relative to the earth.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 6:45 PM on July 30, 2008


As for real-world ramifications?

there are unlikely to be any. as physics gets to higher and higher energies we are only changing our models at the most extreme conditions. this has already been seen with general relativity, which has been quite amazingly unproductive in practical terms (is there anything, apart from gps clocks, that is in use daily, that needs to take acount of gr?). so if by "real world" you mean practical, then nothing.

of course, there's all the "knowledge for its own sake" and "beauty" arguments. no doubt the next huge multi-national project will be for the arts...? nope, seems beauty isn't worth as much there.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 6:50 PM on July 30, 2008


I hardly think it's fair to ask "Is there anything, aside from this immensely popular and immensely useful thing, that needs to take account of general relativity?", and then to conclude from that unanswered question that it's unlikely there will be a real-life use for the information we'll gain from the LHC.

We'll find a use for it. Assuming we don't blow ourselves up trying.
posted by Flunkie at 7:07 PM on July 30, 2008


Black Holes? Are you kidding? We should worry about Old Ones being conjured on earth by the damn thing. It has "evil cultists did it" stamped on it all over the place. I mean, literaly.
posted by darkripper at 7:15 PM on July 30, 2008


Thanks! The countdown clock makes a great desktop widget!
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:20 PM on July 30, 2008


has the black hole / end of the earth thing been posted here?

i find it quite worrying, to be honest - as far as i can tell, if hawking radiation is wrong, we are pretty much done for. i mean, he's a smart chap and all that, but the stakes are so high that "playing safe" is the rational (for some value of rational, and i am in a tiny minority, apparently) choice.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 5:50 PM on July 30


Not sure this is a good idea - funny name, are you a thematic troll? well if not, allow me to say that it is good that you are in a tiny minority. Since you're plain ignorant. Cosmic rays generate equivalent and greater energies than artificial accelerators all the time. (see Not Even Wrong for energies.) If our accelerators could cause doom, then a cosmic ray would have done so long ago. No pitchfork and torch for you.  :o(
posted by thoughtslut at 7:28 PM on July 30, 2008


Black Holes? Are you kidding? We should worry about Old Ones being conjured on earth by the damn thing. It has "evil cultists did it" stamped on it all over the place.

Mmm. That's a sweet little Call of Cthulhu setting, in an alternate present.

HAPLESS VISITOR: So what's this?

PROFESSOR EXPOSITION: Superconducting quadrupole electromagnets used to direct the beams.

HAP VIS: And this?

PROF EXP: Liquid helium, to keep the magnets at operating temperature.

HAP VIS: Well what's that?

PROF EXP: That's a pentagram.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:31 PM on July 30, 2008 [17 favorites]


"While accuracy in both science and reporting is serious business, the science itself should be fun. That's why I think physics rap is the next big thing."

From the same "rapper", the N3UROCH!P Rap.
posted by intermod at 7:40 PM on July 30, 2008


I misread one of the words in this post.

Physicists, take Leonard Cohen's advice and don't go home with your hadron.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:52 PM on July 30, 2008


Is there a risk of the beam going out of control? There's no risk to people on the surface. But all that energy in such a narrow tube could go out of control. There's an emergency beam dump that can absorb the energy if there's a problem with a beam.

What's an emergency beam dump? A pit? Some water? A mattress they found in the alley? Sounds neat, like a Resonance Cascade Scenario. (Well, sort of neat, anyways. Bad for the planet, good for the plot.)
posted by Zack_Replica at 7:59 PM on July 30, 2008


"the science itself should be fun. "

Has never done serial dilutions.
posted by Science! at 8:13 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's reading about stuff like this that makes me wish I'd done something with my physics degree. There's a lot of just really awesome stuff going on; the LHC is sort of the pinnacle of awesomeness (I mean, look at the photos of the thing), and it's getting a lot of press coverage, but it's certainly not the only project pushing the envelope of understanding.

It's projects like the LHC that restore my faith in humanity as a species and Western society as a civilization. We're still probably doomed, but damned if we can't do some really beautiful stuff once in a while.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:18 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Giddings, et al., Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes
In short, this study finds no basis for concerns that TeV-scale black holes from the LHC could pose a risk to Earth on time scales shorter than the Earth's natural lifetime. Indeed, conservative arguments based on detailed calculations and the best-available scientific knowledge, including solid astronomical data, conclude, from multiple perspectives, that there is no risk of any significance whatsoever from such black holes.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:41 PM on July 30, 2008


You can rest assured that the future on mankind depends on the existence of Hawking radiation. Which Hawking? You know, that guy that lost a bet about Hawking radiation...
posted by qvantamon at 8:43 PM on July 30, 2008


Dear accredited scientists,

Some guy on the Internet said you're going to destroy the world. You should probably stop.

Thanks!
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:15 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's projects like the LHC that restore my faith in humanity as a species and Western society as a civilization. We're still probably doomed, but damned if we can't do some really beautiful stuff once in a while.

You know it's funny, but I have sort of the opposite reaction to the LHC sometimes.

According to this site, the war in Iraq has cost somewhere around $541 000 000 000 USD. Wikipedia says the LHC is expected to cost, at most, about $9 950 000 000 USD.

The LHC will help us examine the fundamental truths of the universe. It is, arguably, the most intricate, complicated and beautiful machine ever built by mankind. It is a monument to humanity's united engineering and scientific prowess. On the other hand the war in Iraq is a conflict that has been going on for 5 years, both started and continued for reasons that are dubious at best and pure evil at worst. I think about this dichotomy all the time. We spend so many resources on hurting each other, and so few on doing anything else.

So it's like, every time I read about the LHC it makes me feel really happy and optimistic like you, but after a while, it always ends up making me feel a little sad, too. I suppose I'm just a glass half empty type of guy.
posted by tracert at 9:19 PM on July 30, 2008


HAP VIS: And this?

PROF EXP: Liquid helium, to keep the magnets at operating temperature.

HAP VIS: Well what's that?

PROF EXP: That's a pentagram.


You need to read Charlie Stross!
posted by bystander at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2008


Yay! It's the Apocalypse!

finally.
posted by Bonzai at 9:37 PM on July 30, 2008


If anything tears open a universe-destroying black hole, it won't be the collider. It will be that rap.
posted by bicyclefish at 10:02 PM on July 30, 2008


The Large Hadron Collider FAQ:
Why does the LHC have to be so big?

That's what she said.
posted by XMLicious at 10:09 PM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


You need to read Charlie Stross!

I think he should do a novel-length version of A Colder War.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:15 PM on July 30, 2008


I just came for Joanna, Winston, and the Machine Elf. Thank you cortex...
posted by pupdog at 10:31 PM on July 30, 2008


Why is there so much weird grammar, random punctuation and capitalization, and just plain incoherence in a thread about SCIENCE? What is happening? HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:00 AM on July 31, 2008


turgid dahlia: That would be one dark novel.
posted by pharm at 3:13 AM on July 31, 2008


Why is there so much weird grammar, random punctuation and capitalization, and just plain incoherence in a thread about SCIENCE? What is happening? HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?

Have you never read an academic paper?
posted by public at 3:53 AM on July 31, 2008


PROF EXP: That's a pentagram.

You need to read Charlie Stross!


I just picked up Atrocity Archives. Am I on the right track?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:12 AM on July 31, 2008


That countdown is wrong, though. A more reliable description.

As it stands, we expect to get 'first beam' (someone will throw a few protons down the beampipe in one direction)sometime in the next couple of months, and 'first collisions' (we'll actually pull a spengler and cross the beams) in october/november.
posted by ymgve at 5:57 AM on July 31, 2008


OK dorks, which one of you would like to explain this, and its real-world ramifications, in 50 words or less?

A big project that puts food on the table for a horde of experimental physicists and many more graduate students will provide evidence that either supports or falsifies current theories. It has become the focus of the same kinds of apocalyptic wako theories that have plagued the edges of scientific data collection since Apollo.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:30 AM on July 31, 2008


How do we know that the world hasn't already ended, and that we're not just living in a ripple in space-time propagating laterally in n-dimensional space?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:31 AM on July 31, 2008


pharm: Yes, and totally frickin' awesome to boot.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:37 AM on July 31, 2008


How do we know that the world hasn't already ended, and that we're not just living in a ripple in space-time propagating laterally in n-dimensional space?

Nobody's whingeing about it in MetaTalk.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:38 AM on July 31, 2008


"we'll actually pull a spengler and cross the beams" <-Insert Ghostbusters joke here.

And spengler is a great word.
posted by diogenes at 8:01 AM on July 31, 2008


One might not think that an ex-keyboardist of a synthpop band and a major TV & radio satirist would have much to add to this thread, but a recent CERN podcast (related article) covered the basics of what they're looking for and whether they're going to destroy the solar system while they're at it.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:40 AM on July 31, 2008


You can watch the tubes cool down too.
posted by Skorgu at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2008


As far as real world implications go, the answer is "who knows"? This is pure physics research, it might just result in a few changes in quark theory that won't really affect anyone's life significantly, or it might open entirely new avenues of cool things. The smart money is on no significant new cool things, but that's the nifty thing about stuff like this: you really don't know what discoveries will be made.

Look back when Faraday was first playing around with electricity, electromagnetism, etc. Could you have predicted that his discoveries would eventually result in the internet? This is the same sort of thing. We're trying to learn more about the fundamental structure of the universe, and find holes in our current understanding. Maybe we'll find out that antigravity really can work, or something similarly astonishing. I doubt it, but at this point we don't know.

As for the whole "ZOMG the LHC will end the world" bit, it should be dismissed. OTOH, there has been a history, in the US anyway, of playing with stuff when the math said it might very well end the world. When the first hydrogen bombs were tested the physicists were actually betting with each other about whether or not it would fuse all the hydrogen in the atmosphere. In that case I'd have rather waited for a bit more certainty. In this case though the opponents really do seem to be nothing more than cranks. Unlike the hydrogen bomb experiments, which were kept top secret and thus the scientists involved couldn't actually consult with outsiders, this is being done in the open, with full scientific overview by any interested scientist, and no one credible has expressed any worries.
posted by sotonohito at 10:01 AM on July 31, 2008


What's an emergency beam dump? Z_R, beam dumps are usually designed thusly: In a large circulating collider like the LHC, when beam conditions get "out of hand" (that is, that there's some worry of damage to the detector electronics), typically there will be a quickly pulsed magnet to divert the beam trajectory off it's orbit. These "kicker" magnets send the beam into an exit window, usually passing through some sort of spoiler. The spoiler is there to diffuse the beam to increase it's emittance such that when it strikes the actual dump, it won't create thermal stress on the material. The actual dump will usually be a mass of some sort of metal--Aluminum, beryilium, etc.

OK, I found a page describing the LHC beam-dump. Looks like they're using a 7m long, water cooled graphite slug. The graphite absorbs the power (turning it into heat) and the 750 tonnes of concrete surrounding said slug acts as a radiation shield.
posted by essband at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2008


Ehh, the whole argument that cosmic ray collisions with the moon are a fundamentally different beastie due to velocity WRT the reference frame strikes me as alternately silly and baffling. It proposes that said black holes are so weakly interacting that they'd zip right through 1,000-odd miles of lunar mass without a pip. And if they were THAT weakly interacting then we should have a constant radiation of the darn things coming from very energetic celestial bodies such as black hole accretion disks and supernovae.

The fact that in over a century of studying what we now know to be the products of the most energetic cataclysms of the universe, that we've never seen a particle with a rest mass out of line with the Standard Model, even with detectors that can pick up the faint flickers of nutrinos, and the fact that we've never seen evidence of a medium-scale black hole gobbling mass after a century of looking at energetic objects, are strong evidence-based arguments that quark-scale black holes are short-lived.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2008


I think the firing of this thing should be synchronized with "I'm a little teapot." If the world is going to end, I think that it should be set to this. Preferably on "TIP me over and pour me out!"
posted by Debaser626 at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2008


essband - Thanks for the explanation. I'd figured that it would have to be some "thing" to stop the beam from doing what ever it was going to do and disperse the energy as quickly as possible into something neutral. Emergency beam dump has a nice euphonic sound (at least I think so) and as long as it doesn't work, we still have a plot-starter for the next Half Life installment.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:49 AM on July 31, 2008


The Black Mesa Incident
As part of the Anomalous Materials team in Sector C of the facility, research associate Gordon Freeman introduced a crystalline specimen into the projected beam of an over-charged anti-mass spectrometer in test-chamber C-33/a. This caused a catastrophic resonance cascade, leading to widespread and severe structural damage to the room and eventually the entire facility.

posted by banshee at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2008


I don't understand why everyone's getting so upset about the Large Hadron Colander. I use my regular sized colander all the time to drain spaghetti and I haven't yet produced a black hole of any size. Although the other day, the spaghetti did clump a bit, but it wasn't the end of the world.

It's just mean and unpatriotic for us to be upset because people in the nation of Geneva want to have hadron, which I assume means "spaghetti" in their heathen language, for their dinner. Spaghetti is a good American food and we should be happy to export it along with our other exports, like Democracy and The Bible. I should also think it has to be so large because there are probably many Genevesies running around. After all, it's a well known fact that godless savages like the Genevalians sit around all day doing nothing but making babies and kitchenware, which they try to sell to tourists. In fact, I'm sure I'll be able to buy a Large Hadron Colander myself at my next Pampered Chef party because after this prototype is finished, millions of Genevesian children will be toiling in sweatshops to make them cheaply. And rightly so, as otherwise they'd probably all grow up to be terrorists and terrorists don't deserve spaghetti. They don't even deserve macaroni.

Although they might deserve Velveeta.

Liberals need to stop being so worried about what people want to put in their mouths and strainers and more concerned with what they want to put in their butts and vajayjays. At least, that's what I think.
posted by quakerjono at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


The sooner we test this out the sooner we can stop worrying about destroying our own world with quantum singularities and start working on destroying other worlds with quantum singularities.

/madscience!
posted by lekvar at 8:16 PM on July 31, 2008


Physics: Known and unknown unknowns
http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/08/the_large_hadron_collider.html

posted by kliuless at 3:27 PM on August 1, 2008


okay, the large hadron collider rap is totally nerdaliciously awesome.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:06 PM on August 1, 2008


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