11 June 2008
t-shirt design / Large Hadron Collider ready to power up / Higgs Boson / Peter Higgs / black hole & strangelet / yglem
A t-shirt design. I rotated it 90 degrees and shrunk it to 33 percent, and it fits on one sheet of 8.5 x 11 inch (21.6 x 27.9 cm) paper, which I can take to Paradise Copies tomorrow and have made into a t-shirt. Please feel free to do the same. I filched everything.
Any day or week now, they're going to power up the Large Hadron Collider for the first time, accelerate beams of protons to 99.999999 percent of the speed of light, and then smash them into one another. This is the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth, and will achieve energies of 7,000,000,000,000 Electron Volts. At those energies it should show unambiguous evidence of the Higgs Boson, which, until now, has only been theorized to exist, but has never been detected.
The theory -- called The Standard Model -- says the Higgs Boson is the particle which gives mass to massive things. If the LHC, and other accelerators around the world trying to find it, can't unambiguously verify its existence, then there's something wrong with The Standard Model, and a new theory of matter, energy, time and dimensions -- there seem to be lots of these, many more than our Wal-Mart 3 or 4 dimensions -- will have to be developed.
Looked at another way, the LHC will recreate the conditions of physical reality that existed the instant after the Big Bang. We will be looking back to the beginning of time and the universe -- to an instant when there was stuff, but none of it had any mass. Having no mass, there was no gravity, therefore stuff could not attract other stuff, therefore no stars could form. Things were a little different at and right after the Big Bang than they've been since.
The unimaginably dense glob of stuff at the beginning of time is called the yglem. I'm just saying that because I love that word. Yglem. Yglem. I think the word was filched from Norse mythology. I can't find it in my Merriam Webster dictionary, and although I get about 60 Google hits, the only one about Big Bang physics is an old VleeptronZ post (it's Hit No. 1). I have utterly no idea how it's pronounced. Maybe the Norwegian guy who wrote my free (not counting the fresh spices I sent him) XCALC Reverse Polish Notation desktop calculator knows, I'll ask him. (You probably think you don't need a Reverse Polish Notation calculator, but you do.)
I don't personally believe the powered-up LHC will create a Black Hole or a Strangelet which will devour the Earth. But there's the constellation Draco munching on Geneva, as some people claim will happen.
Agence-Vleeptron Presse regularly and routinely reports on the nasty crap going on all over Planet Earth, and there's lots of it.
But this summer, thousands of Earth's best human minds will do a rather sublime and extremely important and positive thing when they power up the LHC and search for the Higgs Boson -- to reveal a deeper layer of physical reality. Maybe the deepest level of physical reality human beings can ever see.
At top, the theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, who, in 1964, postulated the existence of the Higgs Boson as the mechanism that transports and imparts mass to things. Its elusiveness -- a half-dozen powerful atom-smashers have been searching for it ever since -- has even caused him to doubt its existence.
Here Higgs takes a tour of the LHC, at CERN a little west of Geneva. The LHC is an experimental project which has cost between U$5,000,000,000 to U$10,000,000,000 , and it's all to find a fundamental particle which first appeared between Higgs' ears in 1964 during a walk in the Cairngorms, a Scottish mountain range.
Higgs is a retired Professor Emeritus now. As a kid, he was home-schooled. He is an atheist and is said to be annoyed that his Boson has acquired a popular nickname, "the God Particle." (Actually the original nickname was "goddamn particle," for its elusiveness, but the publisher altered the blasphemy to "God Particle.")
I think this is all wonderful and very exciting. To search for the particle which gives mass to the universe (and thus gravity as well), no living creature will be extincted, no human child, man or woman will be put in fear or harmed, or degraded or insulted.
You can see an 11-minute BBC documentary about the LHC, and see and listen to the women and men who designed and built it, including theoretical physics superstar Dr. Lisa Randall.