Re: [asa] Swiss proton frenzy (or, are you ready to meet God?)

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Mon Sep 15 2008 - 04:25:54 EDT

Loved it!
Best comment I've seen on it is at the following web-site:

Enjoy! (I promise to go back to serious posting after this!)


On Mon, Sep 15, 2008 at 6:14 AM, Murray Hogg <>wrote:

> Hi all,
> I thought the following, from the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission),
> to be one of the wittier press comments on the LHC.
> Whether the author is well informed or not is moot - it's just a delightful
> read (IMHO).
> Blessings,
> Murray Hogg
> Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
> Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology
> -----------------------------------------------
> Swiss proton frenzy
> 11th September 2008
> Many of you would have heard that yesterday was the day they flipped the
> switch at The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Some of you may be
> curious to know just what exactly The Large Hadron Collider is, and what it
> does and why it costs 12 billion dollars and why would anyone be insane
> enough to build a 30 kilometre long circular tube, bury it 200 metres
> underground, fill it with 1232 of the world's strongest electro magnets, to
> accelerate things you can't even see, to speeds you can't even imagine, to
> generate information you can't even count, in a country where coffee costs
> eight dollars a cup. The answers are bewildering.
> First up, the Large Hadron Collider, herein known as the LHC, is the
> world's largest particle accelerator, it may also be the world's last, but
> more on that later. A particle accelerator is just what it says it is.
> It accelerates particles, specifically protons, by running them through a
> vacuum with quickly alternating charges of electromagnet current. This makes
> the protons go very fast. In the case of the LHC, they're go at 99.9999
> percent of the speed of light or one billion kilometres an hour, which means
> they take one ten thousandth of a second to complete the 30 kilometre trip
> round the accelerator.
> Indeed, they are going so fast, that according to the physicists, the tiny,
> sub atomic particles, are possessed of the same amount of energy as the
> United States largest aircraft carrier cruising at 5.6 knots, that is to
> say, 362 megajoules.
> Now that's pretty clever in itself, but the really clever part is when they
> get these protons to smash into a stream of other protons going in the
> opposite direction at about the same speed. This is a little like two
> commodores crashing at an intersection, times a billion.
> The results are spectacular, though sadly we can't see them as they're
> occurring at a sub atomic level, but the physicists are keen to pick up
> every metaphorical shard of glass, broken bumper, shattered hub cap and
> twisted steering wheel and measure all of it.
> Indeed, the LHC produces data at an astonishing rate. About six million
> DVD's worth for every experiment or slightly more than is needed to apply
> for a home loan after the credit crunch.
> Okay, so there we have it, very fast particles slamming into each other to
> make lots and lots of data for people in white coats to apply for research
> grants with. But, aside from the importance of feeding our scientists, how
> significant is this information?
> Significant enough, to risk the life of you, me, six billion people and
> every dog, cat and budgie on the planet. Ask a physicist and they'll just
> laugh, and wave away your concerns as they carefully adjust the pens in
> their top pocket, "there is hardly any chance of that" they say in their
> funny euro accents, light glinting from their pebble- thick glasses.
> Dudes, you don't go around taking any chance with six billion lives. Its
> like putting six billion people in the boot of your car and telling them
> you'll drive home safe from the party. Though if you are going to kill six
> billion people its good to kill them all at once, so you don't have to worry
> about revenge attacks. Talk about a murder suicide.
> So how will LHC destroy the earth? You have a choice -
> The creation of a black hole that will crush the earth into a space a
> little larger than a tennis ball (users of NSW public transport may not
> notice this one).
> The creation of a "strangelet" that will turn our planet into a neutron
> star (the Dr Death option).
> The creation of magnetic monopoles that could catalyse proton decay
> (Proton decay has always been my greatest fear).
> Penetration of the energy barrier separating our Universe from a
> lower-energy Einstein-DeSitter space. (huh?)
> So what could be so important to the physicists that they are willing to
> kill you and all your family in four different ways to get the information?
> Easy - the Higgs Boson particle.
> Interestingly, they don't even know if the Higgs Boson particle exists. In
> fact the world's leading physicist, Stephen Hawking, wagered one hundred
> pounds that they wouldn't find it. I think you'll agree with me, that
> spending 12 billion dollars and risking the life of everyone on the planet,
> as well as the lives of their pets and the countless bears in the forests,
> fish in the seas, birds in the trees and digging up a large part of
> Switzerland etc to find a largely theoretical particle is perhaps a little
> out of order.
> But it gets worse, they need to find the Higgs Boson particle so they can
> understand where the seventy five percent of the universe they can't account
> for is hiding. That's right, somewhere between, now and the big bang, they
> lost three quarters of the universe.
> They call it "dark matter" and act like it must be hard to find something
> dark out in the immensity of space, but come on! Three quarters! And these
> are the guys making the Dr No death machines?
> Even one of their own admitted that using a particle accelerator to
> understand the universe is like trying to understand how a television works
> by examining the pieces that were left after you dropped it from a jet
> plane.
> Still, its the 11th of September and we're all still alive so everything
> worked out fine. Or that's what people are saying. But hey, the machines not
> even at complete speed yet.
> Yesterday's tests were just a quarter circuit. The full experiments won't
> be till later in the year. We may still all die. Yet, if it does happen
> there will be five survivors. The guys in the international space station.
> Just think how they'll feel as they watch the earth consumed by a black
> hole. Now that's lonely. I hope they have a DVD player.
> First comment by someone: 'Gonna get pretty smelly in that tennis ball!'
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Received on Mon Sep 15 04:26:21 2008

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