Archive for the ‘LHC’ Tag

Problems at the LHC

A super magnet thingy like this is having liquid helium type problems.  Or something.

A super magnet thingy like this is having liquid helium type problems. Or something.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experienced it’s first technical problem less than a day after becoming operational when a transformer failed. “This is arguably the largest machine built by humankind, is incredibly complex, and involves components of varying ages and origins, so I’m not at all surprised to hear of some glitches,” said Steve Giddings, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

And there are glitches–plural. Scientists have now detected a helium leak in the Collider’s cooling system. The liquid helium is used to keep the machine’s 1600+ superconducting magnets at just 1.9 degrees kelvin. To effect repairs, the components in question will first need to warm up again and, once the fix is made, they’ll need to be cooled down again before the LHC can be brought back online. This will take approximately two months.

So, maybe that’s why we’re all still here. But if you want to find out if the Large Hadron Collider has destroyed the world yet, a helpful webisite has been set up that will tell you: Check it out to see if you’re still here.

Hopefully the collider is fixed soon so we can find out why matter has mass, if there are more than three spacial dimensions, and all sorts of other cool stuff.


The Earth has been destroyed

Those of you who have been monitoring the International Earth Destruction Advisory Board’s Earth Destruction Alert level, mentioned in my previous blog entry, know that the Earth has been destroyed. The IEDAB has incremented their Geocide count to 1 and we are in condition red:

Current Earth-Destruction Status

The IEDAB indicates the following:

It is our duty to inform you that as of 7:35:05am UTC on September 10, 2008, the Earth has been destroyed.

The destruction of Earth was first reported by Mr Jonathan Barber of Wisconsin, United States, who spotted that his home-made seismic Earth Detector had ceased to give readings at around 8:00am (2am local time). Several other amateur geocide spotters noticed this at the same time but Mr. Barber was the first to place a telephone call to the IEDAB’s Geocide Hotline (+44 115 09Ω 4127, ask for Other Dave) at which point IEDAB officials performed an emergency check of their own instrumentation and verified Mr. Barber’s report, as well as fixing the exact time of geocide.

Evidence is still being collated, but preliminary results suggest that the Earth was destroyed pre-emptively by scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, before the commencement of their experiments to locate the Higgs Boson, as a precautionary measure to ensure that the experiment itself could not result in the destruction of the Earth.

Whatever you do, don’t panic! The IEDAB has a helpful FAQ that I’d suggest you consult. Also, no doubt more news will be forthcoming shortly. I would also anticipate that there will be a memorial service for the Earth. I’ll forward information as it becomes available.


Here are a number of quick new items that I have found interesting; hopefully readers will think likewise about at least some of the following.

Time‘s Michael Kinsley has a good article on “Sarah Palin’s Alaskanomics” that challenges how much experience she has with fiscal conservatism, even besides her early support for the “bridge to nowhere.”  The economy of the state has more to do with Alaska’s natural resources than with Governor Palin, but the details are nonetheless interesting. 

Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 2.5 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska‘s government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

Alaska is, in essence, an adjunct member of OPEC. It has four different taxes on oil, which produce more than 89% of the state’s unrestricted revenue.

Former New York City mayor Ed Koch predicts that the “Election Will Hinge on Abortion Issue.”  He says that “the outcome of the presidential election will depend not on the economy, not on the Iraq war, not on the price of gasoline or the issue of national health insurance, but on the issue of the right to abortion.”  He credits McCain’s selection of Palin for making the abortion issue prominent in the race and says she’ll drive evangelicals to the polls just as Obama will drive more minorities, possibly leading to a high turnout election.  Koch will announce his presidential endorsement next week.

To our north, Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has dissolved his country’s Parliament.  To those not familiar with the terminology of parliamentary government, this simply means that he has called for new elections, which will be held October 14th.  Harper’s Conservative party has 127 seats, a plurality, in the House of Commons.  He hopes to gain an outright majority to form a more stable government without having to rely on any opposition parties to pass legislation. Some recent polls say Conservatives may win as many as 168 seats in the 308-member House of Commons, but Harper been downplaying the chances of this, publicly predicting another plurality government.

In other prime ministerial news, Japan’s PM, Yasuo Fukuda, has resigned.  This article has some interesting observations on how two decades of mostly weak and ineffective Prime Ministers have affected Japan’s position and relationship and role with their region and with the United States.  Not really touched on in the article is Japan’s need for some fundamental and painful economic reforms, which probably won’t happen without an executive with some clout. The upcoming leadership election likely won’t produce such an executive.

One of my favorite columnists, Gregg Easterbrook,  has a lengthy item (1356 words) on vehicle fuel efficiency and horsepower in the latest entryto his only partly football-related column, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.  Easterbrook writes that “Less horsepower would mean better fuel efficiency, diminished petroleum imports and lower carbon emissions … [and] would reduce highway deaths” by diminishing speeding and road rage.  He argues for government regulation, writing that:

Courts consistently rule that vehicles using public roads may be regulated for public purposes, such as safety and energy efficiency. NASCAR races occur on private property — there, horsepower is nobody’s business. On public roads, horsepower is very much everybody’s business. You’d be laughed at if you asserted a “right” to drive a locomotive down the freeway. Where is it written we have the “right” to operate an overpowered car that wastes oil and pollutes the sky?

In less important news, KFC is moving Colonel Sanders’s secret recipe.  Apparently, KFC literally has a piece of yellow notebook paper on which Sanders himself hand wrote the secret recipe; the paper is kept in a vault and will be moved while it’s security arrangements are enhanced.  Only two company executives have access to the whole recipe at any one time; people in their supply chain have access only to a small portion thereof.

In other fast food news, 54-year old Dan Gorske has eaten 23,000 Big Macs since 1972.  That works out to about 640 Big Macs per year, or about 1.75 Big Macs per day.  That can’t be good for you.  Gorske credits this feat to his obsessive-compulsive disorder, which also leads him to save every McDonald’s receipt.  The only day he hasn’t eaten a Big Mac was the day his mother died and he says that eating a Big Mac is the highlight of his day. No word on whether he’s considered the possibility that he likes Big Macs perhaps a bit too much.

In slightly more important news, Physicist Stephen Hawking predicts that the Large Hadron Collider, which will come online Wednesday, will not destroy the world.  He puts the chance of it creating microscopic black holes (which would not be dangerous) at less than 1%, but says “I don’t think there is any doubt I would get a Nobel Prize, if they showed the properties I predict.”  Hawking’s main prediction is that microscopic black holes would quickly “evaporate” due to so-called Hawking Radiation produced by quantum effects.  The physicist also doubts that the LHC will produce evidence of the Higgs bosun, which he doubts exists; he has put his money where his voice synthesizer is by making one of his well-known bets: he’ll lose $100 to Michigan University’s Gordy Kane if the Higgs exists.

LHC about to come online

MSNBC’s science editor, Alan Boyle has a good story on the soon-to-be activated Large Hadron Collider, “Super-smasher targets massive mystery.”  It explains what scientists hope to find with the LHC in a bit more detail, albeit less musical aplomb, than the LHC rap.

Within a few years we might know why matter has mass, why there isn’t more antimatter in the universe, and whether or not there are more than three spacial dimensions!  Multiple spacial dimensions have long been predicted by string theorists, with nine or 10 being the most commonly hypothesized number of dimensions, but some think the number could be over 20. 

To date, there has been no experimental confirmation of string theory, which actually makes it a hypothesis and not a theory, as the terms are used by scientists.  It has proven to be very elegant mathematically and on paper, but has not made any empirically verified predictions that weren’t also predicted by other theories.  The discovery of other spatial dimensions would lend significant support to string theory.

Boyle mentions concerns that some people have that the LHC might destroy the Earth.  Scientists have determined that this is not possible, for a variety of reasons.  But if you still have concerns, the International Earth Destruction Advisory Board (IEDAB), an independent scientific institution which monitors the current status of the Earth and the number of times it has been destroyed, will be monitoring the situation.  On their site you can sign up to be alerted via e-mail if the Earth is destroyed, or you can check the current Earth Destruction Alert level.   Current status:

Current Earth-Destruction Status

As of this writing, we are in code green, indicating the Earth has not been destroyed.  In the event that it is destroyed, the EDA will change to code red.

Boyle will have more to say about the LHC in the coming days; if interested, be sure to check it out.   This is an exciting time for science and our understanding of the universe!

Large hadron collider rap

The world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, is scheduled to begin operations next week. The device will search for fundamental subatomic particles and hopefully will be able to tell us more about the every early universe.

It is also a good subject for a rap. Kate McAlpine, a 23-year old graduate of the University of Michigan and a science writer who works at CERN, which operates the collider, wrote a rap about the $4.6 billion machine; the video has been viewed over 750,000 times on YouTube in the past few weeks. Here it is:

Physicists report that the rap is scientifically accurate and I think it actually can help people understand the purpose of the LHC and what particle physicists are up to these days. It is very likely that we’ll see some significant breakthroughs in physics in the coming decade, as described in the song. How exciting!