Archive for Science

More of CERN in the news

new_yorker_cern_icon.jpg…but first a word from our sponsor: HP references CERN in an advertisement.

With the LHC (hopefully) ready to turn on in the very new future higher energy physics (HEP) is in the news plenty. We begin with the most far reaching: the New York Time (Feb 9) discusses the International Linear Collider (ILC). HEP is in the awkward position these days of requiring apparatus that are so huge and complex that they are 10 or 20 years in the planning. The ILC is the sort of machine that will be difficult to motivate without very strong evidence of new physics at the LHC. But of course the LHC hasn’t even started running. So where’s the motivation? For the moment, in our hopes and dreams mostly.

Three months later (May 15, to be precise) the NY Times follows with an article about the LHC.  And nearly that same day (May 14) the New Yorker publishes a long article on the LHC. Of all these I think the New Yorker article is my favorite. The author seems just a bit more comfortable employing some technical terms while mercifully dancing around some topics that can be hairy to explain,

Arkani-Hamed spent nearly two hours trying to take me through the details of just one of these—the so-called “hierarchy problem.” In the process, he consumed four or five or six cups of espresso—even this I lost track of.

I also liked this bit,

The L.H.C. is a kind of Babel built underground. Dozens of countries have manufactured its components, and dozens more have lent manpower and expertise…. When I ate in CERN’s lunchroom, I heard people speaking English, French, German, and Italian, as well as several languages that I couldn’t identify. The place was so crowded that it took me five minutes to pay for a cup of coffee, proving the elemental truth that man can build a superconducting collider but not a functional cafeteria.

Despite a redesign, which does open up deperately needed space, the cafeteria still has problems.  The natural places to line up still end up getting in the way of everyone else.  Also, the silverware is at the entrance, when it should logically be at the exit after you know what you are going to eat (I hate to commit to a knife that I may never use).  Of course they did put napkins at the exit, but right before you pay, somehow insuring that I always forget to get one.

Finally, there was an NPR story on the the LHC back in April.  (Yes, another old article, but I doubt you have come to expect too much promptness from me.)  I missed the live version, but the NPR archive is a wonderful thing (they throw in some bonus web content too). Unlike a lot of science stories it left me with a great big grin.  Though the focus is on the enormity of it all and the quickly approaching startup, I thought they did a nice job of representing the science, it’s challenges and goals.  David Kestenbaum approaches the topic with just the right mix of respect and childish glee.

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Robert Gober causes earthquakes

Well, maybe no causal relation has been scientifically identified; yet… In Basel the Swiss are causing magnitude 3.4 earthquakes with their lust for energy. Not even the US can say that (and maybe we should be, 13 million exajoules can’t be wrong). It’s a boilerplate sci-fi apocalypse waiting to happen. And, meanwhile, Monica is suggesting that I risk my life, or at least the staediness of my footing, to see some Goober Gober’s legs sticking out of a wall.  Pshaw! As interesting as the Gober’s work seems to be, the Earth hasn’t swallowed me up yet and I plan to keep it that way.


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Out-of-body experiences

Just down the road at École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland a professor is stroking people with sticks. In Stockholm, Sweden they attack people with hammers. All on in the name of science! If you are tired of the whole living in a body thing then these guys just might be your salvation. With creative use of sticks and cameras they are trying to induce out-of-body experiences, and it sounds like they have had some success.