It’s been running for a while now and we’re all still here.
The Large hadron Collider has finally been switched on in history’s biggest experiment, an attempt to recreate the conditions of the big bang and unlock the mysteries of the universe.
14 years work and £4.5 Billion invested (500 million from the Uk alone, or about £10 per Uk citizen if you like), the LHC is an extraordinary, gigantic machine, manned by over 6000 scientists from all over the world. It is basically a 27km circular tunnel, frozen to deep space temporatures, 100m underground below the France/Swiss border in which they are attempting to spin two protons (steered by superpowered magnets) round in opposite directions at 99.9% the speed of light and then smash them together to recreate the conditions of the big bang! It’s a little ambitious to say the least.
Over breakfast we watched as news teams tried desperately to make a bunch of camerashy scientists in front of a few monitors look newsworthy, a bemused BBC presenter spoke over the even said “well its not exactly the space shuttle is it?” (rrriight.)
I must admit having read a fair amount on the subject, and for comfort, the myriad spin press releases by CERN to counter the doomsday writers (a lot of which have been dismissed as Cassandras or even strangely disappeared from the web of late.. erm who was it that invented the internet again? hmmm), I was a tiny bit nervous this morning I admit (if only that my last meal would be cornflakes).
As one YouTuber put it 6 mins after Switch On – “Dammit I’ve already slit my wrists!”
Disaster is of course very very unlikely, the LHC is not likely to produce a black hole anywhere near big or powerful enough to swallow up the entire planet, or that wormholes into new dimensions will be opened at these energy levels, killer stranglets will not be released which will turn our universe to mush, etc etc.. though of course these stories, though unfounded, can’t be totally written off as totally impossible – we’re dealing with a whole frontier of the unknown here.
The LHC is perhaps however best explained via the medium of rap –
In fact once today’s press formalities are over and (most of the world) has lost interest, the two more likely dates for a manmade apocalypse would be Oct 21st, ie when the first collisions are made, or in the new year when after the holidays they reboot the LHC at the full power of 14Tev. The end of humanity (the Earth itself is pretty tough) is far more likely to be in the hands of nature (eg a meteor), disease, poverty, overpopulation, genocide or terrorism/war in the hands of religious/political nutters. In short, the LHC is the least of our worries.
It’s not really a worry at all in fact – it’s Hope – and welcome evidence that humankind can come together in the pursuit of knowledge and intelligence in the reptilian face of materialism, greed, power, dogma, superstition and ritual. And the rest.
It is far more possible that the work achieved at CERN over the next few years will advance science and our understanding of the universe considerably, and in a way which could eventually help SAVE us all, give us a good future. The risk (if any) is negligable.
“The world will not come to an end”, says Professor Stephen Hawking (who I’m honoured to hear has my latest Cd “Telescopes”!). When the true genius was asked if he absolutely had to choose between the space program and the LHC, he said – “That is like asking which of my children I would choose to sacrifice. Both the LHC and the Space program are vital if the human race is not to stultify and eventually die out.”
A safety study by CERN itself said the following on safety – “Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth – and the planet still exists.”
It’s of course the elusive Higgs Boson (the ‘god particle’) which they are hoping to find (or not – either would be a result), and there is of course dark matter, anti matter and more to uncover.. all sorts of wild possibilties over the next few years – excitingly the possible discovery of proof of extra dimensions!One of the wildest possiblities is that the machine, once fully operational, could be effectively the very first time machine – this would effectively make this ‘Year Zero’ for temporal travel.. ie vistors from the future could only visit back as far as today.
Time travel is of course only a theory, but proven by Einstein’s colleague Kurt Gödel in 1949 (based on Einstein’s theory of relatively), but not yet fundamentally disproven. So if you see a car with flaming tyre tracks, or strange people in tin hats appear from nowhere in the next few months, ask them for some lottery numbers..
As for the practical implications, of course we have CERN to thank for this thing we’re sat looking at now, the Internet, which they invented 20 years ago of course. And of course there’s the PET scan, etc, if you really want to know where your £10 went.
It is however knowledge, exploration and inspiration here that is the most valuable asset to humanity. Exciting times. This is real history.
Find out more about KK’s “Telescopes” project at http://www.KKTELESCOPES.com !