Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Wed Sep 17 2008 - 04:44:23 EDT

As I recall, Larry Johnston also told us that the klystrons in the Stanford Linear Accelerator are made to operate as if the speed of electrons at injection is exactly the speed of light. If it were not, the particles would not be accelerated. "Accelerated" in this case does not mean increase in speed but in mass. In other words, the electron speed differs from the speed of light all along the 2-mile traverse by a negligible amount.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Iain Strachan<>
  To: Randy Isaac<>
  Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:32 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

  If I may add to what Randy has so eloquently put, it seems to me the fundamental difference is this. In moving from ENIAC to today's computers we have found ways of doing the same calculations for less and less energy, and using different physics, moving from thermionic valves to semiconductors; but in order to build faster and faster particle accelerators, in order to peel back the further layers of the onion as I put it in the original post, we have to put in more and more energy in order to accelerate the colliding particles closer and closer to the speed of light. And there is no way round the confounding factor of (1-v^2/c^2) - the closer to the speed of light, the harder it gets. No amount of ingenuity and invention gets around the fundamental problem of pouring that much energy in.


  On Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 12:57 AM, Randy Isaac <<>> wrote:

    No, Bernie, I think you're missing something fundamental here. While none of us wants to say "never" and won't, nevertheless your analogy doesn't apply. Of course, no one imagined a tabletop ENIAC. But not for fundamental principles, only engineering and technology ones which always will be ripe for innovation.

    In other words, Bernie, we're trying to get you to a point of balance. While it is true that we can never rule out and should always hope for and cultivate the possibility of radical new inventions that will totally revolutionize a field, on the other hand we cannot hold out hope for every field of possible, hoped-for innovation and claim it might happen based on analogy with a field like microelectronics. There simply isn't any basis for a general possibility of such advances.

    The migration of the ENIAC to today's laptop is phenomenal. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have a part in making it happen are even more awed than the users. But it doesn't serve as a model for every field. In particular, it doesn't map very well to the field of particle accelerators. (Maybe this would be a great place to apply the explanatory filter with the appropriate specified complexity. The probability might just be less than 10^-150. Or perhaps 10^-10. Who knows.)

    Besides, where does this discussion lead us? What is the difference whether we are optimistic or pessimistic about having a tabletop accelerator in the future? Nothing. Except for the basic process of thinking about what is possible and what isn't and where to place our energies.

    ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <<>>
    To: <<>>
    Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 5:01 PM
    Subject: RE: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

      " Getting a tabletop TEV
      accelerator is not one where I would recommend putting all your life's

      I can imagine somebody saying the same thing about a table-top ENIAC when the first ENIAC was made. A table-top ENIAC? No way. However, today's laptop is much more powerful. Not only was the transistor not yet invented, the Eniac didn't even use the binary numeral system, which all computers use now. Yes, no way at all to foresee the future. The internet is a recent invention that is having an incredible impact on society and technology, and could never have been foreseen. That's evolution- creating new and wonderful things that can't be imagined in the present state.

      Eniac info:<>

      The ENIAC held immediate importance. When it was announced in 1946 it was heralded in the press as a "Giant Brain." It boasted speeds one thousand times faster than electro-mechanical machines, a leap in computing power that has never been repeated. This mathematical power, coupled with general-purpose programmability, excited scientists and industrialists. The inventors promoted the spread of these new ideas by teaching a series of lectures on computer architecture.


      Besides its speed, the most remarkable thing about ENIAC was its size. ENIAC contained 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints. It weighed 30 short tons (27 t), was roughly 8.5 feet by 3 feet by 80 feet (2.6 m by 0.9 m by 26 m), took up 680 square feet (63 mē), and consumed 150 kW of power.[5]


      -----Original Message-----
      From:<> [<>] On Behalf Of Randy Isaac
      Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:02 AM
      Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

      Those of us who have grown up with the electronics industry have practically
      come to believe that the scaling law is a universal entitlement; we merely
      wait for the right invention. In fact, the transistor and the magnetic
      storage cell are two rather unique examples with surprisingly few additional
      examples. Does anyone know of another? Will there be unforeseen inventions
      which will trigger new ways of doing things. Absolutely. Can we predict what
      they will be? No. But we can have some guesses. Getting a tabletop TEV
      accelerator is not one where I would recommend putting all your life's
      savings. Maybe not even a dime of it. At least until Burgy has his rocket
      that will take us to Betelgeuse and back in one lifetime.

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "j burg" <<>>
      To: "Dehler, Bernie" <<>>
      Cc: "asa" <<>>
      Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:52 AM
      Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge


          Just like computers were made of vacuum tubes and people thought that was
          the future- more and more of them, in bigger and bigger rooms. Then the
          transistor was invented and re-shaped everything. The first computer
          had a few transistors, but now there's billions in there (up to 2 billion

        Just like the physics of 1954 (or so) in which it could be shown w/o
        any doubt that a chemical rocket could never get to the moon.

        Then Arthur Clarke suggested a multistage design ... .


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Received on Wed Sep 17 03:46:08 2008

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