Friday, 12 September 2008

The Atom Smasher

Physics was my least favourite subject at school. I found it difficult and boring. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was. Had the teacher told us that amazing things such as Tesla coils are physics -- and had we built one in the lab -- I would have been an enthusiastic student. Instead, all I remember is double-dutch equations on the board. I was lost, and dropped all sciences except biology at the age of 14.

I hope physics classes now include not only the wonders of Tesla, but also the Large Hadron Collider ... in depth. The atom smasher was fired up for the first time on Wednesday, shooting beams of subatomic particles, called hadrons, through a 17-mile circular tunnel beneath fields and villages on the Swiss-French border. And the world has not ended. Yet.

By accelerating two separate beams to the speed of light, then colliding them head on, the moment right after the Big Bang will be recreated. From this, scientists hope to discover the nature of dark matter.

But the naysayers are concerned that a black hole could be spawned by these collisions. Not just any old black hole, but a black hole that would devour the Earth.

The worst-case scenario is this: A tiny black hole starts eating the Earth. A bit like a comet (gone mad), it keeps orbiting through the planet. After absorbing the entire Earth, the black hole is almost the size of a golf ball, but with the same mass the Earth had before it was eaten. The black hole now takes Earth’s place in the solar system, and the moon orbits around the golf ball. (Which is cute, but means we're all dead.)

Hackers have already infiltrated the LHC’s computer network, posting a warning about weaknesses in its infrastructure. (Yikes!)

Did I really think, once-upon-a-time, that physics was boring?



Caryn Caldwell said...

I've been riveted by stories of the collider, although I hadn't heard about the hacker. Yikes! As for teaching about it, I know the physics teacher at our local high school, and she's talked about it with her class.

Mary said...

Caryn: Glad the teacher talked to her class about the LHC.

Perhaps nothing exciting happened in the physics world while I was at school. Or perhaps I wasn’t listening. ;)

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I wasn't a physics lover either in school (though I did love chemistry) but you're right...all the latest news is exciting.

Thanks for dropping by the blog!

Carrie Harris said...

Um... interesting but scary. Especially since I'm really terrible at golf. ;)

Mary said...

Becky: Chemistry was much more exciting! I do love Bunsen burners.

Carrie: LOL! Perhaps it’s time to improve your putting. ;)