Monday, September 8, 2008

Seeing the unexpected..

Picture credit: CERN

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a scientific experiment, conducted on a very large scale! The world's largest particle accelerator will speed protons along a 17-mile circular loop built underground (by Geneva on the Franco-Swiss border) cooled to 1.7 degrees Kelvin at up to 99.999991 percent of the speed of light before smashing them into each other. By reproducing conditions similar to those present at the "Big Bang" (the theoretical beginnings of the universe) scientists hope to: shed light on subatomic particles; perhaps see the elusive 'Higgs boson'; perhaps create micro "black holes"; perhaps get proof of string theory; perhaps get data that will help understand the make-up of dark matter; etc., etc.

The article linked below points out an aspect of the LHC that is perhaps not the first thing one would think about - "... Almost just as interesting, though, is the massive computer network CERN has set up to evaluate the prodigious quantities of data the LHC will produce. Called the LHC Grid, the network will encompass some 60,000 computers around the world in order to leverage enough computer power to go through the 15 petabytes of information LHC experiments will produce each year. "You can think of each experiment as a giant digital camera with around 150 million pixels taking snapshots 600 million times a second," Ian Bird, who heads up the LHC Grid project, told the Associated Press. Within those billions of pixels -- collected by a multitude of ultra-sensitive sensors within the tunnel -- might be a few that show minimal evidence of a new sub-atomic particle...."

Bottom line: a giant crap shoot that may result in a quantum leap in man's understanding of the universe, or a $9.2 billion boondoggle... "What I would like to see is the unexpected," Gerardus t'Hooft, a physicist at the University of Michigan, told Reuters. "Perhaps the LHC will show us things we didn't know existed."

The Controversial Search for the God Particle

Alarmist YouTube video:

Another (with great production values!)

Updated 09/09:
Hawking bets CERN mega-machine won't find 'God's Particle'