Taking the scenic route…
If you can see this, you’re probably a proton: Large Hadron Collider

Whether you believe that, today, the world ends, or, in a scientific sense, it begins, you’ll agree that it was because, on this day, the start button for the biggest machine ever made got pushed.

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, began operation today.

At 3:32 am ET, scientists began running protons in a clockwise direction, through the 17-mile-long device, along a beam the thickness of a human hair, according to Paola Catapano, a spokesperson for CERN, which runs the $8 billion experiment, the most expensive in human history.

The goals of the project are diverse, but are primarily concerned with the structure of matter and energy at the smallest levels. When the LHC, which resides 300 feet underground, beneath the Franco-Swiss border, is fully up and running about a year from now, beams of protons, moving within slivers of light-speed, will be smashed into each other from opposite directions.

As the Los Angeles Times puts so well, in a way, the LHC merely ramps up the logic of small children to the tera-scale.

Decades ago, scientists figured out that atomic nuclei were made up of smaller things than protons and neutrons.

To find those pieces, 20th century physicists came up with an idea that would appeal to most 9-year-old boys with a new toy: “Let’s smash it and see what happens.” …

In our macro-world, crashing things together, like cars, makes big things into smaller things, like broken headlights and fenders. But it’s different in the subatomic world, where crashing two Priuses together can produce a 10-wheeler.

Go, Google!Needless to say, the device and its objectives have caught worldwide and popular attention. Kate “Alpinekat” McAlpine‘s “Large Hadron Rap” has received over a million views on YouTube, despite the vocalist’s almost non-existent flow. Google search engine users today will notice the company’s LHC-commemorative art, right, on the its home page.

Those who’ve closely followed news of the device, though, will know that the warped Google logo alludes to the most pervasive myth concerning the LHC: That, once running optimally, the collider’s energies could produce black holes that would, ultimately, consume the planet, a charge physicists overwhelmingly reject as absurd.

But even if you’re not interested in the science the LHC seeks to generate, marvel at the ingeneuity it took to conceive and produce the project, and at the awesome, unfathomable realities of God’s great creation this technology seeks to microscope.

Oh: And look at these amazing pictures of the world’s biggest machine, now assembled, paradoxically, so that it might probe the smallest wisps of reality.



#1 sdg1844 on 09.10.08 at 2:03 pm

This is my first visit to your site. I peeped your name over at MML’s site. I never ceased to be amazed by the Universe. It is truly humbling to recognize that we are all merely grains of sand on the beach.


#2 sirensongs on 09.11.08 at 12:00 am

This thing looks like a giant Tibetan mandala. Coincidence?

BTW, the Upanishads described atoms some 2000 yrs ago. :-)

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