Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The stuff of stars and galaxies

I'm not sure what to make of this. Sometime today, the Large Hadron Collider will be turned on and particles will be sent hurtling at astonishing speeds to smash into each other, and this will either tell us something about the very stuff of stars and galaxies – and perhaps about the big bang – or blow a 27 km long hole in the Swiss-French border and suck half the Swiss Alps into a black hole and trigger the end of the world as we know it.

Either way, a whole bunch of scientists are getting very excited about it. According to the ABC's European correspondent, Raphael Epstein:
"By injecting concentrated beams of protons into the machine and watching them collide, scientists are striving to reveal more about the greatest event in history - the birth of the universe, the moment when everything we can see and measure, all the matter and electricity that makes up the stars and planets, was the size of a basketball, the scientists say."
Aldo Saavedr, a theoretical physicist from Sydney University who is one of thousands of scientists who helped develop this project, told the ABC:
"In terms of discovery it is [just as significant as a landing on the moon], because it's something we don't see [often,] you only discover one thing in a life time, in the lifetime of the universe."
Others, including a group who tried to use the courts to stop the collider being turned on today, think that it will spell the end of the world, or create black holes that will suck Europe into it, or create a portal allowing beings from another universe to invade ours.

Oh schmozzle. The old 'rip in the time-space continuum' thing.

Then again, you'd think the scientists would have learned their lesson when they let Tom Cruise land on Earth.

What I still can't get over is that it cost $9 billion to build the thing.

The image at the top was taken using the Hubble telescope, and is beautifully called 'Young Stars Sculpt Gas with Powerful Outflows in the Small Magellanic Cloud'. It is free off the Hubble website. The image below that is of the Large Hedron Collider.

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At September 10, 2008 8:14 pm, Blogger Kirsty said...

'Then again, you'd think the scientists would have learned their lesson when they let Tom Cruise land on Earth'.

As they say on teh Internets: ROFLMAO

At September 10, 2008 9:15 pm, Blogger parlance said...

First, thanks Kirsty for a new word. I thought I was so modern knowing LOL, but it turns out I was a whole universe behind in terms of laughter.

Mark, I love the photo at the top. I once did a long course in Cosmology - mostly I just sat in wonder as the astronomer explained what big concepts and numbers are Out There.
Then he showed us pictures like this one and I said, oh, at last I know what it would look like if I were on a spaceship with a window. He broke my heart by replying that, no, the human eye wouldn't perceive it like that.
I still don't get it -I guess it has something to do with visible wavelengths and radiations - or something equally esoteric. I'll just enjoy magnificent computer projections of things in space.

At September 10, 2008 9:31 pm, Blogger phil said...

We already have beings from another galaxy amongst us, they still rule the United States.

I believe I now say "lol".

At September 10, 2008 10:14 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Kirsty, phil, parlance, as they say, 'heh'.

parlance, you will truly enjoy trawling through the photo collection that NASA has, and the Hubble telescope website photo collection, which is where i found that photo of stars sculpting gas.

Hmm. And I thought I was the only one who played with gas.


At September 10, 2008 10:28 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

BTW I checked the BBC online news and it appears the big bang has started well. And I believe the Swiss Alps are still there.

I think it was 7.30 pm AEST when the first round of the experiment was completed – approximately when I was finishing cooking dinner and the kids were in the bath. And I didn't hear any ripping of the fabric of the universe...

At September 11, 2008 11:59 am, Blogger unique_stephen said...

$9 billion - well, they could have spent it on missiles or bombers.

The money didn't disappear, it has kept thousands of physicists in jobs, fed their kids and expanded our knowledge. It is what money is for. It has made being human all the more humbling but at the same time bigger.
I am glad we live in an era where we commit to learning rather than a time where religion closes our minds and socities and all knowledge comes from prophets and we live by the dicattate of priests.
If you go to iTunes and look for iTunesU then find the Saturday science lectures from U. Michigan. There are some lectures there on supper strings etc that will blow you mind. Look for the one on we areall amplified noise.

At September 12, 2008 2:36 pm, Blogger djfoobarmatt said...

I am working on starting a new cult based around the collider. The concept is that the collider created all of space-time with a kind of time paradox that also causes the creation of the collider. Scientists are the new prophets and priests who close our minds to everything that isn't in the cult of the empirical. Not getting very far with it though.


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