Roll up, roll up!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gang Of Two

The UK is one of only two nations without a written constitution. The other is Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Our Understanding Of The Universe Is About To Change...

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100m underground. It is a particle accelerator, which will be used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.

Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will then use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.

There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, but what's for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well, as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push this knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.

The first attempt to circulate a beam in the LHC, will be made on Wednesday 10th of September, 2008.

The LHC in Facts and Figures:

The precise circumference of the LHC accelerator is 26,659m, with a total of 9300 magnets inside. Not only is the LHC the world’s largest particle accelerator, but just one-eighth of its cryogenic distribution system would qualify it as the world’s largest fridge.

At full power, trillions of protons will race around the LHC accelerator ring 11,245 times a second, travelling at 99.99% the speed of light. Altogether, some 600 million collisions will take place every second.

To avoid colliding with gas molecules inside the accelerator, the beams of particles travel in an ultra-high vacuum – a cavity as empty as interplanetary space.

When the two beams of protons collide, they will generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the Sun, concentrated within a minuscule space. By contrast, the 'cryogenic distribution system', which circulates superfluid helium around the accelerator ring, keeps the LHC at a super cool temperature of -271.3°C (1.9 K) – colder than outer space.


BBC Radio 4's Big Bang Day

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"Almost everyone has more than the average number of feet."

Just What Is Average?