Thursday, September 11, 2008

Large Hadron Collider topped by lipstick on a pig

By now, you've probably all heard about the Large Hadron Collider. If that name doesn't ring a bell, think of this ... the big machine that some people believe will unleash microscopic black holes that would eventually destroy Earth.

Well, yesterday it passed its first test by firing beams of protons around a 17-mile underground ring. What is the goal of this $3.8 billion project, which is described as the biggest physics experiment ever?

According to this story:
Scientists hope to eventually send two beams of protons through two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space. The paths of these beams will cross, and a few protons will collide. The collider's two largest detectors -- essentially huge digital cameras weighing thousands of tons -- are capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.

The CERN experiments could reveal more about "dark matter," antimatter and possibly hidden dimensions of space and time. It could also find evidence of the hypothetical particle -- the Higgs boson -- which is sometimes called the "God particle" because it is believed to give mass to all other particles, and thus to matter that makes up the universe.
Wow ... that's way over my head. It's no wonder we have heard less about the collider than Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" reference that seems to have created a big bang.