Monday, September 08, 2008

Dan Brown comes to life.

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.


Rhetoric Innes said...

They have been colliding sub-atomic particles for years at Cern.
They have already collided two positrons with the net result of 2 positrons + muon minus. Strange stuff (forget the pun-strangeness one of there evaluative descriptions)
but it shows one that at the sub-atomic level the same laws of nature do not always apply.

Valleys Mam said...

did you know one of the key scientists is from Aberdare
he is the one who apparently will press the button

ROMAN JONES Esq. said...

I will be very intrigued as to their findings. My hunch is that they will not find the Higgs Bozon, the elusive 'god' particle that gives mass to all the others in the Standard Model. I think what they may discover is that all exisiting particles from your photons to your strange quarks are likely to have twin particles, wrapped up in the extra 7 dimensions theorised in basic string theory, which would atleast double the number of particles and may even account for elusive dark matter, or something like that....

Anonymous said...

Well, to be fair, one of the key scientists said he believes there is a 1% chance of creating micro black holes. But he says if it does happen they will 'evaporate'.

Given the unpredictability of the science here one wonders if they really will 'evaporate' as claimed, in the centre of the sun the might evaporate, but in an essentially cold micro-climate inside the Hadron Collider who really knows – if we knew we would not have built it. Sometimes science can be too scary. Has anyone wondered why very advanced civilizations have not contacted us? Perhaps they built their own next generation collider and created a black hole in line with the Three Little Pigs story, a micro black hole that grew and grew until it ate up the planet it was on, and then looked ‘round for more.

What the ‘evaporation’ theory scientist is saying (and we are talking about a very senior scientist here, possibly a future Noble prize winner for physics); he is saying if we build a powerful enough collider we will create micro black holes, but they will 'evaporate' ... the new collider is about four times more powerful than the previous most powerful collider, but not in his view powerful enough to reliably create micro black holes. What a relief!

Frankly, I don't want any collider on Earth that can create black holes, even small ones. The next collider should not be built absent a clear convincing showing that the collider will not create black holes of any magnitude.

Strange stuff happened at the beginning of the 'big bang', some scientists believe there was faster than light travel, some don't, and some are not sure. There is a feeling of uncertainty even among scientists. The scientists working at the Hadron Collider are bound to be biased in favour, they are human after all.

I think we should rule out building a more powerful collider after the Hadron Collider is commissioned, the Hadron Collider should be the end of the line until we have more certainty. In the alternative, we might want to think about building the next collider off-planet; even the moon might be too close for comfort.

A collider built moving at near light speed in a vector taking it away from our solar system would be a preferred 'location' for the next collider.

frankie said...

I watched a programme presented by a delightful young man called Professor Brian Cox(he looked about 14 to me!) Anyway, I absolutely struggled to understand what the LHC would actually discover - something about matter apparently. Even my OH look bewildered - and he can answer most of the questions on "University Challenge"! Have to admit we gave up and turned over to something much less highbrow.

Pyers said...

Multidimensions are not that dificult to imagine - if you switch off your normal perception. One analogy is of tables (or arrays if you are into IT)

Think of a simple table - say 10 units long - hey its one dimensional ..

Make it two dimensions - a square - so its 10*10

Now into 3 dimensions 10*10*10

Now you could imagine that as a cube of 1000 units ...

Now the fun starts... There is nothing to stop you going in to 4 dimensions: 10*10*10*10

Now we can't visualise that but its sure as hell there ....

6 dimensions: 10*10*10*10*10*10

and so on ....

Bonetired said...

The world didn't come to an end :-)

Howver, one analogy about about multidimensional space is as follows (it uses tables or arrays if you are a programmer!)

Think of an array 8 slots long - there it's one dimensional.

Now make it a square (ie 8 by 8 slots or 64)
No problem - its a two dimensional table AKA a chess board

So far so good.

Three dimensional is 8 by 8 by 8 (512 slots) which is a cube - a sort of a jumbo rubics!

So what happened next?

There is nothing stopping us to produce something like a 8 by 8 by 8 by 8 matrix (4096 slots)

Now we can't visualise it but it certainly is in 4 dimensions ...

8 by 8 by 8 by 8 by 8 is in 5 dimensions and so on ....

Pyers said...

Apart from the fact that I have managed to pretty well post the same thing twice ( doh! ), it would be fantastic if they did produce micro black holes that did evaporate. That would be Nobels all round - and one for Stephen Hawking who proposed such a thing. (The Nobel commitee are quite conservative and insist on experimental evidence before they dish out)
The evaporation of black holes would be a critical point in the unification of quantum mechanics and gravity

Anonymous said...

To be fair to the end of the world brigade, the Hadron Collider hasn't been used much - the "switching on" is a joke. It's not a light switch. The experiments have yet to get underway. The full potential of the machine has not been tested.

Personally, as a scientist I do think this machine should be the end of the line. I don't think it threatens mankind, but the 'one that will come after' could.

The designer/scientist behind the new Hadron Collider that was just 'switched on' (yeah, right) thinks there's a 1% chance of creating a black hole, and thinks a more powerful collider will likely produce black-homes, but that they will "evaporate" - the conditions in the Hadron Collider are unlike in our sun, much colder and so the physics will be different. The kinetic energy in the sun is far higher and probably will cause micro black homes to 'evaporate'.

The reality here is that we are on the edge of known science - there are dimensions beyond our current experience. There is some 90% of our universe unaccounted for (well, as far as mankind goes). Who knows, some of that unaccounted for stuff might be in another dimension not so very far away.

The physics at the beginning of the universe was very strange indeed. We are still guessing.

I'm all for the current 'switch on', but like the designer said, the next one will likely produce black-holes and they 'should evaporate'.

If a black-hole survives for even a few seconds, it is likely to be very dangerous and if it has time to eat up matter, it will grow exponentially and could well turn out to be a disaster for mankind. While mankind is still located solely on the '3rd rock from the sun', I think we need to think very carefully about building the next collider, the 'one that will come after me' (line from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Please don't quote the "Sherlock line" ...

Anonymous said...

PS ... the 8*8 matrix/array does not truly represent 8 dimensions! We don't really know what's in the other dimensions. Maybe some of that missing 90%, and we certainly don't know the physics going on in those dimensions. If we do break into one or more of them there might well be 'an issue or two'.

The next collider should not be built on terra-firma until Man is located across the cosmos and therefore invulnerable to being wiped out if mother Earth goes AWOL.

eric said...

built by evans the atom, a welshman from aberdare, needs as much recognition this fella as our gold medallists in my opinion.

I've met, him, hes a really nice bloke. WAG really needs to up its game to supply big internationalprojects like this too. A few dedicated bods for instance

An ignorant stupid American - you decide! said...

Oh oh ho ... big BOOM coming, and no LHC required ... oh no...


... C/o the chair person of the Democratic Party in SC (South Carolina) - you heard it here first. Said Democrat leader said (just a couple of hours ago): "The only qualification that Palin has is that she didn't have an abortion".


Such an awful sexist/misogynistic/dreadful/put-down comment about a woman's qualifications.

This awful comment from a senior Democrat is going to hit the news faster than *take your pick*.

Like what I wrote earlier - it's all over for the Democrats, they are now melting down in disarray - talk about 8*8 arrays/matrices - we are witnessing Obama-Biden campaign meltdown - their campaign is collapsing inwards so fast it is generating heat supernova style, at some point the implosion is going to turn into an explosion.

Pyers said...

I know it doesn't ! I was using t as an analogy :-) It is far nastier than that but as an analogy it helps to get peoples head round it ....

Glyn Davies said...

Rhetoric - What on earth are you talking about?

VM - Yes I did know that. He's been on a lot today.

Roman - Likewise rhetoric above.

Frankie - I'm with you here. I'm trying to understand some of this stuff, but its tough on a hill heep farmer to take in.

all - I've realised that I've posted about something I know b***** all about, and comments have exposed me. I'm just reading the comments over and over to help me out.