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

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Wed Sep 17 2008 - 04:53:08 EDT

I think Bernie has not given sufficient thought to the nature of the problem. Otherwise, he would not so faciley expect human ingenuity to solve it.

The problem is, how do you get a particle with energy of perhaps a few MeV to be a particle with energy in the TeV range? What are possible sources for that energy? The only sources with TeV energy that we have access to are cosmic rays. If you could get such a cosmic ray to transfer all its energy to your particle, you could solve the problem in a thimble.

First, you'd probably have to wait much longer than 10^6 years with your apparatus in outer space for such a cosmic ray to hit your particle. Second, once it hit, it would not transfer all its energy to your particle but would instead generate a zoo of energetic new particles. Besides, long before your particle would be hit by a TeV cosmic ray, it would have been hit by many cosmic rays of lower energy. So that approach won't work. If you knew when and where energetic cosmic rays would hit, you'd just use the cosmic ray itself in your experiment instead of your particle.

Since there's no usable source of TeV energy in the world, you can't boost your particle into the TeV range with a one-shot process. You can do it only with a multi-shot process. However, the most powerful sources of energy on Earth generate only small fractions of a TeV. This means that each of those "shots" can give your particle only a small boost, so it takes a great many such shots in succession to attain your goal.

How can you fit those many "shots" into a small space? As Kirk pointed out, you could make your particle travel in a circle and boost it more with every traverse. But there are fundamental physical constraints on the size of the circle; it's gotta be big. Or you could boost it along a linear path, but then the total traverse would have to be miles.

We can't give big energy boosts to particles because there are no sources of big energy on Earth for us to draw on. It's not that humans aren't smart enough; it's that Earth has no suitable resources.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Randy Isaac<>
  Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 3:57 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] LHC, TOE, and the limits of knowledge

  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
> savings."
> 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]
> ...Bernie
> -----Original Message-----
> From:<> [] On
> Behalf Of Randy Isaac
> Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:02 AM
> To:<>
> 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.
> Randy
> ----- 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
>>> chip
>>> had a few transistors, but now there's billions in there (up to 2
>>> billion
>>> now).
>> 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 ... .
>> Burgy
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Received on Wed Sep 17 03:54:39 2008

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