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Large Hadron Collider and Other Earth Shattering Discoveries

By DOM Team| 5 Min Read | September 9, 2008

I don’t know the exact percentages, but there’s a chance life, the universe, and everything may cease to be at some point tomorrow. I’m not too sure of the time, but I think anybody on the Pacific coast will be fast asleep.

So, no complaints there then.

Large Hadron Collider

You see, tomorrow sees those pesky Europeans turn on their Large Hadron Collider (LHC for short). Reuters spells out five facts you probably didn’t know about the thing:

Though built to study the smallest known building blocks of all things — known as particles — the LHC is the largest and most complex machine ever made. It has a circumference of 27 km (17 miles) and lies 100 metres (330 feet) under the ground, straddling French and Swiss territory.

At full power, trillions of protons will race around the LHC accelerator ring 11,245 times a second, travelling at 99.99 percent the speed of light. It is capable of engineering 600 million collisions every second.

When two beams of protons collide, they will generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the sun, concentrated within a miniscule space. Meanwhile, the cooling system that circulates superfluid helium around the LHC’s accelerator ring keeps the machine at minus 271.3 degrees Celsius (minus 456.34 degrees Fahrenheit).

To collect data of up to 600 million proton collisions per second, physicists and scientists have built devices to measure the passage time of a particle to a few billionths of a second. The trigger system also registers the location of particles to millionths of a metre.

The data recorded by the LHC’s big experiments will fill around 100,000 dual-layer DVDs each year. Tens of thousands of computers around the world have been harnessed in a computing network called “The Grid” that will hold the information.

And The Guardian has quite a nice interactive slideshow thingy detailing CERN’s Big Bang Machine. Or there’s the first part of a rather dandy PHD Comic series here.

Now before you switch to Y2K survivalist mode and start stockpiling water, beans and shotgun shells, and risking suffocation by duct-taping your doors and windows, there’s a couple of things I feel I need to point out:

#1. The reason this could be the end of the end will be due, if at all, to the creation of black holes; and the creation of black holes shouldn’t have a dramatic build up in the same sense of a Hollywood disaster flick (they should also only be really teeny tiny black holes that disappear almost as quickly as they’re created). It should just appear for us to disappear – mankind should be switched off like a light. There’ll be no smouldering cityscapes or bewildered individuals looking at the remains of a rubble-induced New York considering man’s fate while looking out forlornly quizzing his new destiny. Or not in my mind, and that’s quite a reliable source in the cutting edge world of particle physics.

#2. I’m being a bit disingenuous in saying the world may end tomorrow. I mean they’re only setting a beam off at close to the speed of light in one direction with the faint possibility of setting another off in the opposite direction to calibrate all the instruments. There’s very little chance of these two fellas smacking into each other. That should happen in a couple of months or so when they start whizzing millions of the things at each other in opposite directions. But a chance is a chance nonetheless.

Ostensibly, I’m really rather zen about mankind being reduced to a point of singularity. It’s also up to you whether you’d like to give your fortune to a tramp, or take the people you love to a slap-up meal then do a collective runner, or just watch the sunset turn into a starry night before being sucked into that self-same void. That’s your call.

I’ll just be sure to laugh at anybody liveblogging it.

But something nearly as earth shattering as the earth literally shattering is the number of non-geeks who’ve simply started a conversation with the words:

“Have you tried Google Chrome?”

Never have I had conversations with people about trying a browser out. Especially not with people who don’t have a vested interest in tech geekdom. Or aren’t pretending to be tech geekdom adopters/conduits/experts.

Now I think this is brilliant. I love it when the hoi polloi start adopting this kind of thing at the same rate as the enlightened self-appointed technological elite. As much as I proclaim to not get excited about much, I do feel a twinge of said excitement when my Mother excitedly forwards me an email telling me how she’s worked out to forward an email. I love it when people get excited by their own earth shattering technological advances and adoption.

As for you trying out Google Chrome if you haven’t already – I’d probably suggest you have better things to do if the world is about to end tomorrow.

I’d hate for your last moments on Earth to be filled with anxiety and regret over having used Internet Explorer for the past ten years. 😉

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