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End of the world postponed. Phew!

I’ve been fascinated by a Swiss science project called the “Large Hadron Collider” since the first time I heard about what it intends to do. Because it operates at the very cutting edge of our current technological and scientific knowledge. Scientists try to recreate the conditions that were present at the Big Bang, the theoretical “birth” of our universe. And thus find out more about how the universe came to be in the first place.

The science involved in this project is so far out-there, it is bewildering:

from fqxi.org, about a month ago:

[quote]I came across a bizarre paper recently suggesting that the LHC might be shut down. Not because of the funding cuts that have been threatening particle physics projects around the world, nor because of law suits accusing the LHC of threatening life on Earth.

No, the paper suggested that future effects caused by the production of particles, such as the Higgs, could ripple backwards in time and prevent the LHC from ever operating.[/quote]

Right! Are you still with us? So the effects of switching on the LHC might fold back from the future and prevent it from ever being switched on.

How’s that for a paradox?

…but, paradox or not, today we get this news form swissinfo.ch:


Electrical fault halts “Big Bang” machine

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, was temporarily shut down earlier this week.

Scientists at the European Centre for Particle Physics (Cern) in Geneva said a failure in the power transformer had affected the facility’s refrigeration plant, which meant that protons could no longer be beamed round the facility.

The protons have to be cooled to a temperature of minus 271.3 Celsius to enable them to travel round the accelerator faster than 99.99 per cent of the speed of light.

Cern said on Thursday that the electrical fault had been fixed, and the refrigeration chamber was being cooled down again. They were unable to say exactly when beaming would restart.

The purpose of the LHC experiment, the most expensive in history, is to recreate the conditions one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang and thus help scientists understand the formation of the universe.

The 27-kilometre machine spans the border between Switzerland and France. Before it was launched on September 10, rumours abounded that the experiment would cause the world to end.[/quote]

Ok, everyone who isn’t fascinated, raise your hand!

Oh, and uhm, instant update, from Discover magazine:

[quote]DISCOVER asked Brown University physicist Greg Landsberg, who is involved in experiments at the LHC, if we should lose any sleep over the matter.

First off, how might microscopic black holes be produced at the LHC?
When too much matter is put into too small a space, it collapses under its own gravity and forms a black hole. That’s what is happening when astronomical black holes are formed. Now, the LHC doesn’t really create much matter, but it does put a lot of energy in a very small volume, and Einstein showed that for a moving particle, the energy, not the mass, governs gravitational attraction. You might create black holes at the LHC when two particles pass very close to each other, if the gravitational interaction between them is strong enough. But this is possible only in certain models that predict the existence of extra dimensions.[/quote]