09 September 2008
Also known as the LHC for short, this superconducting supercollider is perhaps the world's coolest science experiment since the atomic bomb was tested in the 1940's. It's being done at CERN, a European research center for physicists. The LHC is a 17-mile around circle of supercooled magnets, wiring, plumbing, and assorted other goodies, and will work (starting tomorrow) on the basic premise that if you take two particles (two atoms or neutrons, I suppose), and set them rolling in opposite directions at immense speeds, and then smash them into one another, they will produce new subatomic particles that we haven't seen before. Cool stuff: 1. The search for the Higgs boson particle, also known as the "God Particle." 2. Possible creation of microscopic black holes from the collision of particles inside the collider. 3. Could help to prove the existance of multiple dimensions outside the four we already know of (length, width, depth, and time). 4. Better understanding of the subatomic universe could benefit mankind in many ways, such as in quantum computing (supercomputers), super-secure communications networks, medical research (think suped-up CAT scan devices), new sources of energy (black holes DO have a lot!), and possibly an entirely new industrial revolution for the world based on the technologies developed from the research at CERN. Uncool stuff: 1. Some scientists have theorized that the creation of microscopic black holes, while cool, could be deadly to the earth, as the singularities might not simply "fizzle out" and could begin to eat away at our planet, causing the destruction of Earth and mankind. 2. When the particles collide, they will probably produce quarks, a type of particle smaller than an atom. If multiple quarks combine, some physicists have theorized that they could combine to form a "strangelet" - a negatively charged superparticle which could turn everything it touches into more strangelets. Kind of like nanomachines which could replicate themselves by "eating" the matter around them, except totally not. 3. Magnetic "monopoles" could be created, which are magnets which have only a north or a south magnetic field, but not both (like half a regular magnet). They could potentially "wreak havok" on things in the LHC. So here's the deal: by this time tomorrow, either the world will be destroyed by black holes, strangelets, and monopoles, or it won't and we may or may not have a better understanding of the universe thanks to a $2 billion science project involving some very big, very cold, very powerful magnets in Europe. I wish I could be there to see it!