Tell Us What You Think About the Large Hadron Collider.

>> Sunday, November 29, 2009

I asked for ideas on my other blog, Rocket Scientist, and I got a number of great ideas. Given that I'm dependent on reader input on this blog, this is where I'm going to use them.

So, I'm going to start with Patricia Rockwell, who asked about the Hadron Collider. She'd asked about Hadron before here when she asked about the end of the world. And I've talked about here here, too.

Truth is, I don't really think about it much at all. I'm not a theoretical physicist. I mean it's cool beans, interesting to me like any technical marvel that doesn't necessarily have a practical use. I used to work with the former chief engineer of the never quite completed Super Collider.

Do I worry about it making black holes? Nope. That's not my understanding of how they are created and what they are.

Will it bring the end of the world? I find it highly unlikely.

Will it change the world for regular people? Probably not. It's for theoretical physicists to try to test theories, but the practical applications, if any, aren't exactly forthcoming. Fun stuff but more academic than useful for the short term.

At least, that's what I think. And, truthfully, I've been wrong before.


  • Boris Legradic

    I am of course biased, but I think the LHC is awesome stew with an extra helping of awesome. Not only as the biggest and most complicated machine ever built (and they only had one major breakdown - talk about astounding engineering!), but as a bastion of basic research.
    Much too often you hear people complaining that basic research is a waste of money, that they'd rather have the money spent on things that are 'of some use'. They all forget that it was basic research that got us 90% (<-number pulled out of my ass) of our modern amenities, including everything to do with transistors, and that it is impossible to make major breakthroughs in technology without basic research.

    I'll stop here before this develops in a full-blown rant.

    Just as an aside, Bee at Backreaction has a very understandable and simple refutation about the insane black-hole scare here.

  • Stephanie B

    Don't confuse my opinion with thinking it's a waste. I don't think great literature is a waste, great music, fantastic architecture, learning ancient history or space exploration was a waste and, for many people, they don't see the practical use. If you ask me about the latter, I can give you a litany of why space was useful, but I've discovered, even telling other engineers is fruitless. They just don't get the advantage. But, since I've been out of the theoretical physics world for a few decades now, I'm just not aware of the practical applications, if any. Everything I've heard is either to watered down or too esoteric to be of any use other than for physics philosophical differences. That doesn't, however, mean it isn't worth it. I think the pursuit of science for science's sake, at the worst, is no more worthless than pursuing any other great learning and, in general, much better because you can always open up avenues that do have practical applications.

    And she did ask what I think. I'm inherently truthful.

    In all fairness, I'm sure many people said the same thing about Einstein's theories, yet, within years, we had formed great weapons as well as power generation facilities that still power a substantial portion of the world today.

    So, there you go.

  • Project Savior

    I was about to mention relativity but you beat me to it.
    Anything that gives us a clearer picture of the universe we live in leads to practical innovations sooner or later, usually sooner.

  • Boris Legradic

    Hey Stephanie, I didn't want to imply that you don't appreciate basic science - in fact, from your post I gather that you do. I just wanted to, well, parade my pet-peeve, I guess. Should have made that clear, sorry.

  • Patricia Rockwell

    Thanks, Stephanie, for answering my question. I guess I got really interested in the Collider when I read Robert Sawyer's novel "Flash Forward" and I was wondering more of the possibility of the Collider causing changes in the time continuum. I didn't know about the "black hole" theory.

  • Stephanie B

    The Robert Sawyer connection explains both your and flit's interest in the Collider. Me, I'm sure it made for a great book, but I'm not expecting any time fluctuations or anomalies from the collider. I'm not saying I couldn't be wrong, but I doubt it's plausible, let alone likely.

    Believe me, the people working this huge facility don't want to do any damage.

  • Jeff King

    This is all news to me... i'll have to look into it.


  • The Mother

    While we're on literature that comes from colliders, the Quantum Gravity series (Justina Robson) is interesting, even if I think the last two have not been as good as the first two.

    Premise is that the (now defunct) Texas Superconducting Supercollider tore a hole in reality, opening up the passages to other worlds that coexist with ours. And, mysteriously, no one remembers what life was like before it happened.

    Novels are just that, fiction. Reality is that the LHC is a great tool for physicists, but pretty boring for novel fodder, unless they prove string theory, which opens up all sorts of new ideas.

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