LHC image from picasaweb.google.com
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: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/)
- 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: http://physicsworld.com/blog/
Uncertain Principles (this links their list of best physics blogs):
Great resources on the LHC:
- descriptions via CERN: http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/LHC-en.html
- Wired's Insider's Guide:
- The VF article referred to in this post: