Category Archives: Science

An instantaneous eruption of absence

Conceptualizing sheer nothingness is quite befuddling. I think it might be the human equivalent of telling a computer to divide by zero. Perhaps now I understand why they exhibit such antipathy toward doing so. That and the whole mathematics thing, but I’m not a computer scientist, I’m a journalist with a degree in history.

Nonetheless, before my introductory digression we were discussing the potential of existencelessness. Why? Well, the most recent report on the impending activation of the Large Hadron Collider has burrowed under my skin.

A Los Angeles Times article yesterday lifted my eyebrows.

There’s something awe-inspiring about the simple statement:

“The most complex piece of scientific equipment ever built, the collider will send particles crashing into each other at just a wink shy of the speed of light, generating energies more powerful than the sun.”

Before delving deeper, has anyone mentioned the fact, at all, that using the modifier “large” to describe the Hadron Collider is a bit overly cautious? It’s like calling the ocean damp. There is no melo in this drama, and hyperbole just doesn’t apply. I think an $8 billion, 17-mile ring of man-made equipment capable of producing more energy than a star 870,000 miles across and 330,000 times more massive than the Earth is worthy of a scientifically applied title of Ginormous.

Delving into the thick of reporter John Johnson Jr.’s article (awesome name, by the way) only further solidifies why the collider merits such a title. Its main purpose is determine whether a theoretical particle responsible for giving other particles their mass, known the Higgs-boson, the so-called “God Particle,” actually exists. In doing so it will produce an extremely massive particle in an apparently tiny space:

“But how could a collision of tiny particles like protons produce a massive particle like the Higgs?

In our macro-world, crashing things together, like cars, makes big things into smaller things, like broken headlights and fenders. But it’s different in the subatomic world, where crashing two Priuses together can produce a 10-wheeler.”

This entire situation is unbelievably fascinating yet incredibly underreported. Continue reading

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