Science

Top Secret Pics from Inside CERN

Skepchick reader “NotReallyAlice” has come through with top secret photos from inside the CERN research center, where about four hours ago scientists successfully fired up the Large Hadron Collider.

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Of course, it’s a joke — there just isn’t any danger of a black hole destroying the earth. More pics after the jump!

CMS Cooling ON/OFF

CMS stands for Compact Muon Solenoid, which as you know was Punky Brewster’s real name. It’s one of the four big experiments happening with the LHC, and is located in an underground cavern near Geneva. (The machine, not Punky Brewster. I’m not sure where she is at the moment.)

It’s called the CMS because it’s compact (which should not be mistaken for small, because the thing is honking), it’s optimized for studying muons (one of the sixteen elementary particles), and it has a magnet (known as a solenoid, because it’s a wire wrapped around a hunk of metal).

Unused Particle Disposal

FYI, billions of particles will be unused. Right now, only one beam of particles is going, but once they fire up the other one and start smashing those babies into each other, they hope to see about 20 collisions among 200 billion particles. Thank goodness they’re recycling.

Find out more about the experiment and see cool pictures of the actual machinery on CERN’s web site. Also, because we live in the age of YouTube, you should head over there and search for the videos coming from the researchers on the experiment. Here’s one showing the successful launch of the LHC this morning:

Big thanks to NotReallyAlice and her truly awesome friend.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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79 Comments

  1. Seeing how we haven’t been spaghetified yet, I’m really looking forward for the first experimental results.

    My prediction: The Higgs boson will be detected and found to actually be “God’s particle”, so it will be given the name of theon. Its antiparticle, the atheon, will also be found.

    When a theon and an atheon collide, the result is a lot of heat, but no light.

    And, if the collision is energetic enough, a new particle is created: the agnosticon, which is composed of an anti-charm quark and a new flavor, the smug quark.

  2. Andres,

    I thinik I would perfer to start the week that way the rest of the week would look better.

    Doomsday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thrusday, Friday, Saturday.

    And it would be a nice present to the fundies, they sit around talking about doomsday on the first of the week anyway.

  3. @Andrés Diplotti: COTW!!! COTW!!!

    When a theon and an atheon collide, the result is a lot of heat, but no light.

    And, if the collision is energetic enough, a new particle is created: the agnosticon, which is composed of an anti-charm quark and a new flavor, the smug quark.

    As a former/still(?) agnostic, I laughed my ass off at that comment. That is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a LONG time! Well done, sir!

    The smug quark? Hilarious!

  4. I look forward to the day when we can identify each partical, mark them, and of course take bets on which one survives the longest. Let’s face it, we’ve got to find a way to exploit this technology for financial gain.

    I’m just saying

  5. I do sometimes wonder if scientists consider all the possible downsides of their experiments before they perform them.

    If you were to successfully create a man made black hole that sucked the universe into oblivion no one would be around to hear what would undoubtedly be the coolest sound ever created.

  6. @jabell2r: First just as an FYI, CERN did commission a study looking into the possibility that an earth-swallowing black hole could be formed by LHC. So at least in this case the answer is yes, the scientists did consider all the possible downsides.

    Second, I like to think it would sound like “FWOOOOOMP” but I admit I’m not sure how close I am. Can any astrophysicists here weigh in on this?

  7. Isn’t the button that ends the world supposed to be red, and not the button that saves it? I think it should be blue. Or maybe green. The styrofoam construction and dymo labels are a sad reflection of the lack of funding in science today.

    On a more serious note, can sound propagate through an infinitely small, infinitely massive point? Is the event horizon dense enough to propagate sound? Does the smug quark taste like grapeade or Tang? The world wants to know!

  8. I’m not an astrophysicist, but I have been interested in this stuff for a while. Even if a micro black hole is created it should evaporate, if the Hawking radiation theory is correct. Under most situations, a micro black hole will have a net loss of mass through emission of Hawking radiation. I don’t know off-hand how big a black hole has to be and how much mass density in its vicinity there would have to be for it to continue growing. The smaller the black hole, then the faster it will evaporate, since the smaller it is, the higher the proportion of the surface area is to the mass or equivalently volume of the black hole. I assume that the experimenters have already worked this out. Also in the beam paths and in the collision area at CERN, it should also be a fairly good vacuum area, since they don’t want the particles that they are accelerating to collide with any stray mass.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawking_radiation

    http://physics.about.com/od/astronomy/f/hawkrad.htm

  9. I wonder how much time it would take such a theoretical black hole to suck up the entire earth.

    My guess is it wouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes before the earth’s core was entirely gone and the crust would start caving in. In the mean time, the rest of us might experience weird gravitational changes as the black hole swings around inside the earth, devouring parts of the mantle and core and gaining more mass …

  10. I’ve got a soundtrack for today that I’m using as background music in my classroom.
    Don’t Change by INXS
    Elephant Bones by That Handsome Devil
    Galaxy Song by Monty Python
    I Melt With You by Modern English
    It’s the end of the world . . . by REM
    Nothing is Permanent by Brave Combo
    Particle Man by They Might Be Giants
    Que Sera Sera by Pink Martini
    Time Has Come Today by The Chambers Brothers
    Time Waits For No One by Ambrosia
    Timestretch by Jellyheads
    Anyone have any other suggestions?

  11. Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, for a nice little reincarnationist spin.

    Actually, I’m going with a slight modification of the Douglas Adams theory:

    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    I think they did suck the entire universe into a black hole earlier today, but the black hole didn’t want it. (I mean, how would you feel if YOU ate several geriatric rock groups for breakfast, topped off with a bunch of star systems, China, and Kevin Federline’s boxer shorts?) So here we all are again, and it happened so fast we can’t even blog about it.

    Prove me wrong, suckers.

  12. @ greenishblu #23
    “Seems to me that whatever sound there would be would be spaghettified to infinity…”

    RAmen!

    “El Paso”, by Marty Robbins.
    “We’re gonna hold on” – George Jones & Tammy Wynette

    I mean, the world is over. Country should rule. Right?

  13. @MathMike:
    Simon/Garfunkel: Sound of Silence or Slip Sliding Away
    Jerry Garcia Band: Sitting In Limbo
    Widespread Panic: Boom Boom Boom
    Medeski, Martin & Wood: End of the World Party (Just In Case)
    The Doors: The End
    DMB: When The World Ends
    Dar Williams: The World’s Not Falling Apart

    & for all the CERN doubters: Weird Al’s Dare To Be Stupid

  14. @Rebecca:
    I don’t know what sound it would make, but I do predict that the information and anti-information content of Earth will nearly cancel out. This will leave Black-Hole-Earth’s parting message to the universe (via Hawking radiation) a giant belch.

  15. Woohoo for TMBG and Particle Man!

    And we have to add “Star Trekking (Across the Universe)”, even if for no other reason than that it will let us shout “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it!” while we go flying into the black hole together.

  16. @Rebecca: Yeah, well it’s hard for me to forget it as it gets stuck in my head quite frequently, especially because as the LHC has been in the process of getting turned on, I have been reading a book about theoretical physics (Lee Smolin’s The Trouble with Physics) and reading various blogs and news stories that constantly remind me of the song (that and I really like that song).

  17. “E=MC2” – Big Audio Dynamite.

    Clearly the LHC did destroy the world at 0915 GMT and we are all now in hell but have failed to notice. Oh the irony.

    Loved the quote from German “scientist” & anti-LHC campaigner Otto Rossler:

    “Nothing will happen for at least four years,” retired German Otto Rossler told the Mail. “Then someone will spot a light ray coming out of the Indian Ocean during the night and no one will be able to explain it.”

    Four years and counting people. You have been warned.

  18. OK, that’s twice today that Andrés Diplotti has made me laugh — smug quarks, and the H2G2 reference.

    And did anybody else get JUST the first line from that song from the movie stuck from their head? “So long and thanks for all the fish” … and then the songwriter gave up. If the whole thing had been that catchy, it would have rivalled “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” for Earworm of the Millenium award. (I was going to say Earworm of the Century thing, but I guess Monty Python is pretty much last century, thankyousomuch Graham Chapman for dying.)

  19. And we have to add “Star Trekking (Across the Universe)”, even if for no other reason than that it will let us shout “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it!” while we go flying into the black hole together.
    @Improbable Bee: There’s Klingons on the starboard bow, scrape ’em off Jim!

  20. Great scoop story from inside CERN. Well, I always thought they do something really strange there…

    In my personal opinion I would prefer to be “spaghettified” by a strangelet, rather than a micro black hole. You know, sounds cooler to be totally transformed into “strange matter”. Of course, some say, that most people on earth did transform to it already.

    At least it is nice to see, that some people find their fun in constructing such an incredible machine, rather than spending their time in worshipping some god. It will get unnoticed of course, that these people at CERN do more for the advancement of mankind than any pope could do.

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