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December 31
Neuroscience Ph.D. ************************** Passionate about science education and outreach; enjoys a great discussion about the intersection of science and everyday life *************************** Currently a biomedical researcher at a Harvard University hospital - Areas of expertise: endocrinology, appetite and metabolism, neuroscience, biochemistry, molecular biology *************************** Areas of interest: science and art, science and society, science policy, books/films/music, reading great magazines, travel, learning new things and sparking new ideas, gardening/nature *** All Content Copyright Aliquot - do not reproduce without express permission ***

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DECEMBER 10, 2009 11:23AM

the most magical scientific experiment of our time

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 LHC image from


This weekend I sat down with the latest copy of Vanity Fair.  I often enjoy VF's political and social commentary, but I do not expect to get any sort of science knowledge, whatsoever.  I was pleasantly surprised this month to find Kurt Andersen's well-researched (and  nicely metaphored) article on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - possibly THE experiment bringing magic out of science in our lifetimes.  


 Here are the vital stats on the LHC from Andersen's article:

 - cost $9billion to build

- largest machine on earth

- generates a magnetic field 100,000 times as strong as Earth’s

- the coldest place in the universe


And just WHY was this massive undertaking conceived and carried out?  Well, mostly to recreate the conditions of the big bang and learn more about particle physics, subatomic particles, the Higgs boson, supersymmetry (ie: matter and anti-matter),  extra dimensions, black holes, proving superstring theory, etc. 

After a failed start-up in 2007 that cost $40million and 2 years of repair time, the LHC is ready to run again - with the switch being flipped sometime before Christmas.

While this VF article goes a long way in attempting to explain these physics ideas via metaphor, perhaps your interest will be sparked and you'll want to read more...

Here are my suggestions for further reading:

- Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe (book, and PBS series:

- Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time (yes, a non-physicist can read and begin to understand this  book)

- Richard Feynman's Six Easy Pieces

- Some great physics blogs:

The Physics World  blog:


Uncertain Principles (this links their list of best physics blogs):


Great resources on the LHC:

- descriptions via CERN:

- Wired's Insider's Guide:

- The VF article referred to in this post:

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launched again last night apparantly...
oh noes theyz makin black holez!1!!

lol sorry, I couldn't help myself :)

I have Singh's "The Big Bang" sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to finally read it. That's probably where I need to start before getting into Hawking's, or even Feynman's, books. Physics is just too over my head, but I can appreciate the awesome nature of the collider. It's a spectacular concept let alone the fact that they actually have it up and running.
So if they create a black hole and we're all sucked in will the internet still work? Is there email in a black hole? If there is anti-matter can there also be pro-matter?
Alicia - thanks for the book suggestion. Its true, that even when physicists are breaking down the info in to simpler language (and sans the math), its still quite complex (like the books above). Always good to find easier places to start reading...!! (hopefully the blogs above are easier, too)

Ablonde- funny! In your humor, there is a grain of truth however - people do have a great misunderstanding about matter and black holes (see the VF article - it addresses this a bit!)

Thanks for the comments!
Al...can you say COLD FUSION?!!! xox