Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Large Hadron Malarkey

Now, I don't want to be accused of scaremongering, so treat this as less in the way of factual news and more in the way of extremely awesome news. (It's also quite old news but let's not let that get in the way of me writing about it.)

In only a couple of hours they are turning on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC is a device 27 kilometres long installed in a series of tunnels one hundred metres below the Franco-Swiss border.

What can the LHC do? Hopefully, say scientists, it will produce the previously theoretical Higgs boson, also known as the "God particle". Also, says British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (aka Baron Rees of Ludlow), it has a one in 50 million chance of destroying the world. Them's good odds.

Possible candidates for an LHC apocalypse include a micro black hole, a magnetic monopole, the incredibly cool vacuum metastability event, or the creation of a strangelet, which could in turn result in an "ice-nine" disaster scenario.

Now, I've had a bit of a hunt around about the LHC and as far as I can tell no one involved in the project is an obvious super-villain. That's a bit disappointing, really. You'd think a giant doomsday machine located in secret tunnels beneath the French border would draw megalomaniacs like mice to cheese. Joystiq does have an excellent photo demonstrating that Gordon Freeman is attached to the research, though.

The infinitessimally small chance of the world ending is a bit of a worry, I'll grant you, but it's totally balanced out by the massively jaw-dropping science-faction involved. Thumbs up, LHC. Thumbs up.


Matthew Gallant said...

I know you're being facetious, but the fears are really completely unfounded. Indeed: "nature’s own cosmic rays regularly produce more powerful particle collisions than those planned within the LHC."

Greg Tannahill said...

Yes, I'm not particularly worried. Even if the 1 in 50 million number is right, we're in more danger each year from nuclear accidents, unplanned release of chemical warfare agents, a supervirus epidemic, or collision with an extraplanetary body.

But - strangelets... if I have to suffer an apocalypse, I hope it's as excellently named as that.

Chris said...

In another branch of the timeline, I would have been working on this device. I was originally an astrophysicist but jumped ship to computer science for reasons more to do with being denied access to computer equipment than anything else.

Then, somehow, I ended up a professional game designer. :)

While we're playing the "more likely than" game, let's not forget giant unexpected asteroid impact. ;)

Happy imaginary doomsday!

madlep said...

I'm glad Freeman is on staff. There is no one better qualified or more experienced to deal with the eventual trans-dimensional rip and the ensuing alien invasion.