Sep 8, 2008

When Particles Collide

Right now, the boffins at CERN are getting ready to fire up their Large Hadron Collider for the first time. This Wednesday, dudes in white coats and lab goggles will flick some switches and fire a particle beam through the entire 27 kilometres of underground pipelines, forming a giant circle under the Franco-Swiss borders.

How awesome is that?

Over coming months and years, physicists from eighty countries will use and observe the LHC in action, and hope to discover things like the Higgs bosun, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m going to pretend I understand. I actually found this excellent geek rap video posted on YouTube, which goes some way to explaining what goes on at CERN (including bad dancing).

Now I probably shouldn’t reveal this embarrassing fact, but the first time I became truly aware of CERN and the LHC was when I read Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. I’m sure the Wah had mentioned it to me before then, but like much of what that keen New Scientist reader regales me with, it had failed to find a firm footing in my cotton fluffball of a brain.

(And by the way – did you know the film version of Angels and Demons is set for release next May? That’s right, Tom Hanks and his appalling mullet are coming back. Still, it’s got Ewan Macgregor in it – let’s hope Ron Howard doesn’t screw him over the way he did Paul Bettany in The Da Vinci Code.)

Still, I’m interested now. Interested enough to discover the web-based hoopla surrounding the launch of the LHC. People have even taken out lawsuits trying to stop it going ahead. They fear that when the high-energy particles smash together, they’ll create micro black holes, and something called “strangelets”, which will quickly expand and consume the entire Planet Earth into their empty void.

But hey, maybe micro black holes aren’t such a bad thing. Maybe the world could do with a bit of a quantum clean-up. I therefore present my wishlist of “Things I Would Like to See Disappear Into A Naked Singularity”:

*My sore throat.
*The phrase “thanking you”.
*Bad baby names.
*My thighs.
*Religious evangelists and fundamentalists.
*The Actinoids.
*The TV show “Primeval” (which is appropriate, if you know the show).
*Joss Whedon’s obsession with super-powered skinny chicks.
*Stupid effeminate haircuts currently being sported by males aged 15-19.
*That godawful “I Kissed A Girl” song. No, you’re not edgy. You’re lame.
*The irritating smugness of Apple Mac users.

Is there anything in your life that could do with some black hole absorption?


  1. Any, and all, fudamentalists
    Be they Chriatian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist
    Or Communists come to that

  2. Hey nice list.

    Though why are we debating the merits of Angles and Daemons vs The Da Vinci Code ITS DAN BROWN FOR HEAVEN SAKE....sorry its my problem I'll deal with it.

    The LHC has had a few protesters taking the piss as well. Like a group calling itself People for the Ethical Treatment of Hadrons (PETH)

    So what’s their purpose? PETH founder Tia Aumiller explains:

    “You’ve got these subatomic particles accelerated at great speeds for the sole purpose of being destroyed. No one thinks of the ethical implications of this. There’s a limited supply of hadrons in the universe. Do we just want to go around destroying them? What if we run out? What if the hadrons can feel pain?

    I have a feeling Ms Aumiller has her tongue firmly in her cheek with this one as another group she founded 'Mothers against Undead drivers' aims to stop Zombies getting behind the wheel, something which I overwhelmingly support.

    I am so onboard with the idea of a LHC party.

  3. Very funny!

    Although it's 'Higgs boson'. A 'bosun' is the guy who feeds a pirate's parrot. I think.

  4. Hey Ash,

    You're right. The Wah pointed out my "boson" error as well.

    But I like to think that in the deep reaches of sub-atomic space, there's some crusty beardos wearing striped shirts and neckerchiefs, going "Ooh-argh, captain, there be photons!"

  5. Oh this could be a long list!

    Celine Dion
    Chocolate coated fake Turkish Delight
    ALL biros that don't work
    Hot, humid weather
    Spiders. All of 'em.
    Peas again.
    Emos that eat peas.
    Queensland Rail

  6. I nominate my collection of lone socks - a black hole obviously took all their mates, it would be fitting to throw the ones left behind into a black hole to join them. What else am I supposed to do with an odd sock?

  7. * The NSW State Government

    * Whoever designed my rosters

    * Whoever designed the new Crackbook

    * People who go on modeling TV shows then chuck a sooky lala about wearing f**k all or being naked

    That will do for now, Nat. I don't want to take up your entire page! :P

  8. I veto that suggestion to eliminate Joss Whedon obsession with super powered skinny white girls.

    Oisin (who started watching Buffy because of that chick from True Lies)

  9. *The phrase “thanking you”

    Hear, hear!!