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Large Hadron Collider–World Safe for Now

Most people have probably heard about the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC) by now.  If not, here’s the scoop: scientists have built a roughly 70-mile in circumference airless metal tube in Europe that borders three countries.  It’s buried underground, and has cost the countries and various member organizations billions of dollars to build.  Why?  Scientists hope that, by smashing atoms together and recording what happens during the resulting explosions, they can get an idea of what the universe looked like immediately after the “Big Bang.”  They know a number of different types of matter (the building blocks that make up everything) exist, but there are a number of things they’ve only guessed about.  Things like quarks, black holes, and so forth have all been theoretical up until now.  With this gigantic metal donut they hope to prove the existence of the things they’ve guessed about.    (Note that I’m not a particle physicist, nor have I played one on TV.  This is what I’ve been able to figure out by reading different sources of information.  If there are any scientists reading this who want to correct me, please go ahead.  Kindly.)  CERN has a lovely web site about it, with lots of impressive pictures, here.

Why does this matter (unintenional pun)?  By proving or disproving the theories that science has been operating on for decades, and learning new things along the way, then mankind may finally be able to crack the limitations of physics as we’ve known them.  Things like warp engines, intergalactic space travel, and many more mundane things may be invented as a result of these studies.  When the topic of black holes came up, some people became very nervous that the LHC might lead to the creation of a black hole capable of swallowing the Earth.  CERN was even targeted with a lawsuit that sought to keep them from turning it on. Scientists have pooh-poohed the idea, saying that any black holes that MIGHT be created would be on the molecular level and would cause no damage.

The initial turn-on test was today, and was considered a success.  According to the media, the test was quick and not under full power.  However, the LHC will be taken off-line during the winter for a comprehensive tune-up that will allow testing under considerably more power, involving larger explosions, next year.  News commentators made fun of the naysayers afterward.  Brian Williams of NBC’s Nightly News reported the test under the story title “We’re Still Here.”

As I mentioned, I’m not a particle physicist, but it seems to me that the creation of a catastrophic black hole event wouldn’t have occurred during these initial tests.  If such a thing were to happen, it would most likely occur after the device is fully tuned and making larger explosions.  So yes, we’re still here.  For now.  Next year, who knows?  Maybe we won’t destroy ourselves, but the energy generated during the LHC’s operation may result in more UFO activity and sightings…and wouldn’t that be more interesting than our sudden cessation of existence?

Oh, and by the way–to the two younger men overheard conversing in a restaurant lately about the LHC and the end of the world, it’s pronounced had-ron.  H-a-d-r-o-n.  The d comes before the r.  Although scientists involved in the testing might have been rejuvenated when the power was flipped on it was an unintended side effect.

Now back to life as we’ve known it…

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