Posted tagged ‘LHC’

More Treats: CERN, Physicists, Hippopotami, Higgs Love, Flanders and Swann edition

August 30, 2010

Via ThonyC, from Blake Stacy ab origio, this transport of delight*:

For those of you too callow, or merely victims of a deprived childhood to get the ur text from which Cern’s songbirds derive their version, here’s the original, by the irreplaceable Flanders and Swann:

*And just because I do truly love you, and we need all the happiness we can get at the end of a week that featured goldbug-cultist-grifter Glenn Beck’s misspelling of the word “honour” and the start of the final days before the students arrive…

…here’s the source of that little bit of F&S slyness with which I chose to open this farrago:


Just a bit of mild snark to start off what augers to be a depressing week: According to NPR, physicists go fishing ediThtion.

December 14, 2009

I always get into trouble with these, but I’m an editor’s son, so I can’t help myself.

From this piece at on the long-looked-for restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern:

“Everybody’s so jazzed that the machine’s actually working,” says Zach Marshall, a graduate student on a detector called Atlas. “But we’re all just waiting with baited breath, because it’s been so close so many times,” he says.

Now I  know that English usage changes and that we move with the times/practice and all that, but breath is baited only in certain, unpleasant-to-visualize circumstances.

The proper spelling of this word/phrase is bated breath, which, as this brief etymology by Michael Quinion describes, has a very distinguished pedigree.  First found in written English in the mouth of Shylock, speaking to Antonio in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, it has persisted as a sport of the still-common verb, to abate.

The misspelling NPR commits is becoming increasingly standard, however, and as Quinion suggests, that way lies linguistic change, however much curmudgeons like my mother’s son may protest.

But c’mon:  I have this vision of poor, ill-transcribed Mr. Marshall, standing before his NPR interviewer, night crawlers dangling from his mouth, trout gaping at the proffered meal.

(And on that theme, enjoy this bit of doggerel taken from “Clever Cruel Cat” by Geoffrey Taylor, and brought to light (to me) by Quinion:

Sally, having swallowed cheese,

Directs down holes the scented breeze,

Enticing thus with baited breath

Nice mice to an untimely death.

Image:  Carel de Moor, “Angler,” c. 1700.

Quark Humor (That’s My Story and I’m Sticking To It Dept.)

September 11, 2008

xkcd is on the news:

Set Your Alarm Clocks: LHC Ends the World as We Know it at 3:30 AM EDT Tomorrow

September 9, 2008

Or not — as this post at Cosmic Variance ably discusses.

Protons fly in what is being called the first beam at the Large Hadron Collider tomorrow in the early morning, my local time.

You can watch it live here. (h/t Endgadget).

If you want to get a head start on the deal, and/or if you prefer to study the inside of your eyelids at 3:30 a.m., you can dive into the science of the LHC in a film called, appropriately “The Next Big Bang,” broadcasting tonight at 8 p.m on The History Channel.

If you do happen to see a micro black hole whizzing by, shut your eyes and it will go away.

And, by the way — I can’t tell you how happy I am to be thinking for a moment about physics rather than the person whom John Scalzi assures us must not be named. (h/t Cosmic Variance again — and I must plead as guilty as any of the other gripless folks Scalzi excoriates.)

Update:  This is why friends don’t let friends read Gregg Easterbrook.  In his weekly football column he writes:

In end-of-the-universe news, reader Jared Adkins of Silver Spring, Md., reports the European organization about to turn on a super-advanced atom smasher — see last week’s TMQ — says that if the device inadvertently creates a black hole on Earth, the black hole will “rapidly evaporate.” Why do I not find this reassuring? How much of Switzerland will the black hole take along as it evaporates?

Uhhh — you may not find this reassuring because you chose to listen to reader Adkins instead of actually reading this and its supporting report.

Money quote:

“The LHC safety review has shown that the LHC is perfectly safe,” said Jos Engelen, CERN’s Chief Scientific Officer, “it points out that Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth – and the planet still exists.”

That is, cosmic rays smashing into the earth’s atmosphere have already produced a truly unbelievable number of LHC scale collisions on just about every body in the universe, and yet strangely enough, we’re all around to check things out.

The moral of this story…ahh, you can figure it out.

Just in Case You Were Wondering…

June 11, 2008

…When a lab created black hole might next form and end life as we know it….

(Joke, folks, in case you weren’t sure.)

…Follow this countdown to the activation of the Large Hadron Collider. (h/t Peter Steinberg via Planet Musings.)

Given that by pretty much any standard I can think the LHC of is the most complex machine ever built, this seems like a milestone worth noting.

One thing that does strike me in this last month before lift-off (or perhaps better, dive-in ) is the seeming reversal of roles in the fact of how often, and how frequently breakthrough science turns on top-flight engineering.

That is: a ton of science turns on instrumentation. A leap in the power of key instruments produces not just better data, but qualitatively new information. Think of how much of modern astronomy — and really, modern cosmology – turns on the twin transformations in the size of the light buckets of modern telescopes, and the enormous increase in the resolution and throughput of spectrographs. Everything from exoplanets to the fundamental questions raised by the observation of dark energy emerges directly from the engineering advances that produced the observational astronomy renaiscance of the last two decades. (Many of which, to be sure, were led by scientist-engineers, among whom Jerry Nelson may be taken as the type specimen).

High energy physics is in the same boat, perhaps more so: when and as observation of the universe fails to supply sufficient data (see above) only large machines focused on very small spatial interactions can do the job. It’s a cliche to call accelerators as the telescopes of the microcosmos, but the analogy ain’t bad. It is precise in this way: each significant increase in the power of the two types of instruments yields new science. The making of the tool precedes the discoveries that we then, rightly, celebrate

Which is my point: engineers take their lumps for, in the phrase I remember from a now-mislaid Seth Lloyd interview, trading in science so well established that even engineers can understand it. See xkcd‘s take for the succinct version of the basic trope:*

Well, for the last ten years or so, it has been the engineers ascendancy. In a few weeks and over years to come, physicists will again dominate the life and meaning of the LHC. Consider this a tip of the hat to the extraordinary creative skill that will permit the glamorous side of high energy physics to strut the catwalk once more

*There is also J. Robert Oppenheimer’s “compliment” to the chemist George Kistiakowsky, whose leadership of the implosion group was essential to the completion of the Manhattan Project’s plutonium bomb. In an interview late in his life conducted by Carl Sagan, ultimately edited and broadcast on NOVA, Kistiakowsky said that Oppenheimer told him that as a chemist, he was a very good third rate physicist.