On Wednesday, the world may come to an end.
Last Xmas, I enjoyed reading Dan Brown's thriller 'Angels and Demons'. It seemed total fantasy to me. Who would have thought that there was something as fantastical as a Large Hadron Collider, built and run by a secret and mysterious body called CERN, made up of the world's top scientists, funded by all the nations of the world rich enough to pay for their bit of the action. And that the basis of this secret development would involve particle accelerators which whizzed these little nanodots around a perfect circular tunnel, 27 kilometers in circumference at the tiniest fraction less than the speed of light. And that the plan would be to spin these particles both ways in the hope that some of them will bump into each other, even though no-one had the foggiest idea what would happen when they did. Well this was the basis of Dan Brown's book - but it turns out it wasn't a figment of Dan Brown's imagination at all. The Large Hadron Collider, which cost £4.4 billion to build is being switched on the day after tomorrow in Geneva. There have been some attempts to stop this happening, by those who think it may destroy the world.
Martin Rees is Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, and he's very excited about all this. I read his article in today's Telegraph - and felt a bit like little Ffion looks when dumped down in the middle of an unfamiliar room. She just sits there, eyes wide open, trying to take in what she's looking at. I read the article twice. Found it difficult to grasp the concept of space as being 10 dimensional - or that atoms only make up 10% of the stuff in the universe, and no-one has any idea what the constitutes the other 90%. This was too much even for Dan Brown. I wonder when we'll read about a plot to blow up the Vatican with anti-matter, the other half of the 'Angels and Demons' plot.