Posted by dorigo in news, personal, physics, science.
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The preparations for the first beam of LHC are in full swing. I am surprised to see such a giant organization around an event which, albeit symbolic, has really little practical relevance. Protons will be launched across the full 27 kilometers of the LHC tunnel, bent by the superconducting magnets of the machine, at less than 1 TeV of energy. It is not clear to me the exact energy of the beam, but I suspect that even CERN itself could do better as far back as during the eighties, when the smaller-lesser $Sp \bar p S$ collider provided 546, and later 630 GeV proton-antiproton collisions that fruited Rubbia the W and Z boson discovery and a hefty Nobel Prize, together with SImon Van Der Meer. As for the beam intensity, as compared with the super-highway design one, the flux of protons will be more or less like that of vehicles on a dust trail in Arizona, and our detectors will be like poor souls dozing on the side, thumb up for a hitchhike in case a car stops.

The event, therefore, is purely a mediatic one. Hordes of reporters are crowding the place already today, and you can see them wandering around in small groups, with video cameras and other gadgets. So one really has a hard time escaping the feeling that September 10th will be a special day. Even munchies and beverages will be allowed in places where usually food and drinks are strictly forbidden! And this ain’t America, where the despicable habit of “bring your lunch” meetings is still en vogue.

So if we have to die, let us see how it is going to happen in some detail. First of all, you might want to check the following information:

• The latest press releases are available here.
• Here you may find up-to-date information on how to follow the event from your desktop computer, either via a webcast or via Evo, in the Universe community (in the latter case I suggest you to register in advance here).
• This document (in pdf) explains what will happen during the day.

A cartoon illustrating the communication network set up for the event is shown below (click to get an enlarged version):

A number of events are planned in several laboratories around the world: Fermilab, Desy, ETH, INFN… I have no links to offer for these, but it should not be too hard for you to find them in case you are interested – just visit the web sites of the laboratories. For Fermilab, see here. For a list of US sites participating in the event, see here.

As for me, I will be on day shift from 8 to 16 on Wednesday. I expect that being in the CMS control room will be enough excitement for me. Probably we will also get the visit of journalists, maybe video recordings. I will make sure I wear a jacket. And, just in case I see too many black holes being produced, I will stay close to the main switch!

1. Kea - September 8, 2008

LOL! But I would like to know how hitting the big red button (and turning the machine off) manages to destroy the Black Hole, which is presumably stable?

And this ain’t America, where the despicable habit of “bring your lunch” meetings is still en vogue. Hah! Brings back memories of the time I went to the Enrico Fermi school – 3 or 4 course lunches AND dinners! Of course, that’s the way it should be done.

2. Luboš Motl - September 8, 2008

Dear Kea, quite on the contrary.

When you press the red button, all black holes in the Universe begin to evaporate at the Hawking temperature.

(If you don’t press it, they evaporate as well, but you don’t need to know this part.)

3. Stefan - September 9, 2008

Oh, lucky you, got quoted in the NYT ;-)

Cheers, Stefan

4. Brian Moore - September 9, 2008

I’m a non-scientist who is still quite intrigued, to put it mildly, by this LHC collider, new technology, and perhaps the new ENERGY prospects(correct?) that it will offer.
Just wanted to add that, going by the almost “tongue-in-cheek” quality of your web page here, that I probably need NOT, worry about this September 10th Event turning into a kind of MAN MADE “Rapture,” to paraphrase from some, usually Rightist “Chris\$tian” Extremists?

5. dorigo - September 9, 2008

Kea, well – hitting the red button would turn off the HV and thus preserve our valuable silicon detectors from the radiation caused by the black holes streaming through ;-)

Hi Stefan, oh, that’s why my hit stats today has a logarithmic y scale ;-)

Hi Brian, you get it correctly.
Protons hit protons at energies a billion times higher on a daily basis in our solar system. We lived happily so far despite our Universe is home to very violent processes. Physicists are the first to know that we really are not so powerful to create big disruptions in the order of the cosmos.

Cheers,
T.

6. island - September 9, 2008

*cough*… ;)

7. Fred - September 9, 2008

Thanks, T., for literally being a fly on the wall in the eye of the hurricane

8. goffredo - September 9, 2008

In science all laws and theories are induced from a finite amount of experiments. (paraphrsaing Einstein “no experiment can prove a theory; it takes just one experiment to disprove a theory”). The scientists of mature hard sciences KNOW the domain of application of the laws and theories wherein they can be used with “relative certainty” (i.e. when it is legitimate to do so), AND they keep in mind the limits of the laws and theories, when the conceptual, theoretical and calculational premises of the laws and theories aren’t well founded and instead are more or less illegitimate and give rise to intollerable uncertainties.

In the issue of the LHC-producing-catastrophic-black-holes it appears to me that the catastrophists and an annoying large but constant fraction of people do not understand this issue. For even those that have a high level of education, it is not that they don’t know it, it is that they don’t get it! Indeed they actually do not understand how immature their pet catastrophist theories are.

This whole LHC-producing-catastrophic-black-holes issue reminds me of how a large fraction of people really do scare and believe predictions of world-wide disasters by astrolgists, horoscopists and Nostradamus interpreters. The composition of these gullible people is varied. I feel they are to be found in all social and economic groups and with a wide level of formal schooling. I feel that the only group where they are rare is that group that has a training in hard sciences.

9. Fred - September 9, 2008

Hello Goffredo,

You always make me smile. I can agree with your thoughts, however, in a very limited way as one of many who are unable to accurately comprehend the scientific dynamics involved in this venture. This might be the case where your assumptions can only be honestly entertained by those within the scientific community. To what extent is relevance and meaning given to applied physics as it relates to other fields? Is the competition for distributed finances and resources always a divisive issue between the various groups? Could you describe in greater detail “that group that has a training in hard sciences.”?

“Indeed they actually do not understand…”

I agree with you almost every time you reiterate this but I am completely convinced that there is nothing to be done about it. Someone is always going to dance to the clouds in hope of producing rain.

10. votetheday.com - September 9, 2008

Gosh, it’s just a big atom smasher, and the possibility of something dangerous to happen is too small for that something to happen ;) If it would have been real risk, scientists would inform us, or take measures against it, or, after all, never would have thought of taking this idea to reality. So stop worrying, listen to common sense and do not let this rumor by fools take over your mind.
http://www.votetheday.com/polls/worlds-largest-particle-accelerator-experiment-214/

11. dorigo - September 9, 2008

Hey Fred, yes I feel a lot like a fly on the wall right now. I am just back from the CMS control room which, at 11.30 in the night, was full of physicists trying to make sense of the real-time graphs they were getting from the detector. Exciting times!

Cheers,
T.

12. dorigo - September 9, 2008

Hi Jeff,

well, I do not know about not being gullible… I am very gullible on non-scientific matters – matters on which my scientific judgement is useless. For instance, when people lie to me, I am usually powerless.

I think we all have our weak spots after all. Only, we regard things that can be disproven by logical, rational thinking as silly to be believed by others, while I guess I may look even more silly to those people when I trust somebody on something I shouldn’t.

Cheers,
T.

13. dorigo - September 10, 2008

thanks vote the day,

that is a reasonable attitude…
Cheers,
T.

14. niki - September 10, 2008

I hope you all are saved and ready to meet Jesus if this is true,.

15. adminor - September 10, 2008
16. goffredo - September 10, 2008

Hi Fred
Lincoln, a very great and wise man, said this:
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

Indeed there are some people that can always be fooled. There is nothing you can do about it! As an optimist I feel that most people can be fooled sometimes but then learn to some extent. As an pessimist I feel that this vast majority can quickly forget what they slowly learned as soon as some charismatic person or flashy idea hits the scene. I also think that we all change during our lives and the risks of being fooled change: a maturing youn man might wisen up, but also suffer from peter-pam sindrome and pathetically behave like a teenagers; an older man that should have leaned the lessons of life might instead fall in love with a chute girl 40-60 years too young or fall for a strange idea just to feel a last surge of hormons before the curtains of life falls and darkness sets in. Ah… we must always be vigilant and NEVER assume the lessons are really learned.

The scientific community is not as compact = closed minded as many non-scientists think. But indeed what makes good science is connectedness. An idea, concept or theory is good if it connects with a wide assortment of data, concepts, theories, fields, realms, fields. An isolated wild idea that doesn’t connect, let alone fit, with other well established ones is not going to be useful because it doesn’t allow anyone to use it; there are no handles to grab onto. And if no one uses it then the uncertainties never get reduced and the checks on the idea don’t start producing more credibility. If anyone cares to go back and carefully read the history of so-called outsiders he will learn that they were not really outsiders and knew very well that the main-stream ideas had holes in it and they started poking there until they make a creative break that widened then gap more and more until the avalanch brushed away what had become the old obsolete theories. Break-throughs (revolutions) occur where there is a gap. Of course there are also unexpected discoveries but that is another story.

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