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large hadron collider

Big Bang machine makes history

From Computerworld:

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider succeeded today in smashing two particle beams into each other at an energy level three and a half times greater than ever achieved before.

As a physics enthusiast, I normally just love any new investigation of our wonderful universe, but here for once find myself in disagreement with a physics experiment. I have already written about the danger of running this machine at all, a mistake which I believe can be put down to the inability of the human mind to conceive the risk in extremely improbable, but vastly immense, danger. People just can't internalise the size of the danger of destroying the entire planet. Odds against it, which admittedly are small, something like winning a lottery, simply don't become worth it at this scale of damage. However, I've already said all that, so let me say something different.

I am going to make a forecast: They will not discover the Higgs boson.

Arrogance and the Large Hadron Collider

I see they're going to fire up the Large Hadron Collider at half power. For those who haven't been following this story, your life is being put at risk.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a project by The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN. Back in 1964, a physicist called Peter Higgs found an elegant mathematical theory by which he explained one of the great puzzles of particle physics, why mass exists.

There is some background to this question. The twentieth century produced two great theories of physics: relativity and quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics explained many curious puzzles in the subatomic realm, for example, why atoms don't collapse. Atoms have a field of electrons orbiting the nucleus; according to classical mechanics, any accelerating charged particle (like an electron orbiting an atom) should radiate energy. This means the electron should spiral into the nucleus and the atom should collapse. Obviously they don't because we are still here, made of functioning atoms! Another example is the radiation from black bodies. Only quantum theory can explain why the spectrum is what it is.

It is no exaggeration to say that the modern world only exists because of quantum mechanics: every piece of electronics that exists only works because of quantum mechanics, and a great deal of it was only discovered because we understood the theory behind it all. It is the most successful scientific theory ever. It has passed every experimental test ever thrown at it. But it doesn't explain gravity.

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