“If the human race cannot afford that, it doesn’t deserve the epithet, human”

Less than 24 hours to go! Until the first live firing of the Large Hadron Collider, that is, not the end of the world as some apparently still believe. Stephen Hawking was interviewed on the Today programme this morning [presumably a pre-recorded interview.. – Ed] and you can listen again here – if they do find the Higgs [Brout and Englert] boson he loses a $100 bet. Meanwhile, the [other] Professor points to this useful article on the science fiction meme that some still mistake as science. Still, if we’re going to go [and we’re not], let’s go singing!

Update According to the CERN bulletin – “The first injection of the beam into the machine will be between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. [CET]” – That should be 8am-9am local time [BST]. LHC First Beam website here. And

Please note that the event will also be webcast but, given the limited number of connections, this option is intended for use of the public outside CERN.

Live webcast will be available here from 7.30am [BST].

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  • Wilde Rover

    Of course, the beauty of messing around with black holes is that if anything were to go seriously wrong no one would be around to give your grief.

    Now where did I leave those dilithium crystals…

  • this project is a monumental contribution to climate change! – has anyone recorded the carbon footprint involved in putting this thing together?

    parts manufacture/transport/air miles/road miles/nautical miles…..

    or is it sooooo cool that nobody cares?

  • Pete Baker

    Wilde Rover

    Don’t encourage them..

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Hopefully they find the anti-terrorist particle.

  • Big Maggie

    Looks like the Brits have found a typical British answer to the search for dark matter and the rest: a cupboard down a coalmine. Total cost £2 million as opposed to the Hadron’s £3.5 BILLION.

    At the bottom of Britain’s deepest mine, scientists are putting their finishing touches to a device that could solve one of astronomy’s most baffling mysteries: the location of the universe’s missing matter. If they succeed, the group will snatch some of the glory from one of the most prestigious scientific projects undertaken in recent years: the £3.5bn Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is to be opened officially in Geneva this week.

    Both machines are attempting to pinpoint mysterious particles, called dark matter, which is thought to permeate the universe. The LHC is the favourite candidate to achieve this goal, but is unlikely to complete the task for at least two years. The Boulby project, based in a £2m underground laboratory in Cleveland, could succeed in half that time.

  • The Raven

    Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith of Cern says: “The chance we produce a black hole is minuscule.”

    I was looking for words that mean less than miniscule….

  • Pete Baker

    Raven

    In the extremely unlikely event that a black hole were to form, that black hole would itself be beyond miniscule in size [mass].

    It would then immediately evaporate.

    And in the process earn Stephen Hawking his Nobel Prize.

  • Rory

    This is absolutely riveting stuff. So riveting in fact thatI almost stayed awake during one of Radio 4’s trailers for the big event. I can’t remember being so excited since I learnt that Educating Archie was finally to finish.

  • Pete Baker

    Just move along to the next post then, Rory.

  • McGrath

    People in close proximity with Pacemakers would have more to be concerned about, and those paying the electricity bill!

    Its going to be a milestone or the most expensive white elephant ever.

    And, they seem to be rapping about it more than singing about it.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/08/26/scirap126.xml

  • Pete Baker

    Whatever the experiments reveal, McGrath, it is no white elephant.

  • susan

    Pete, The Michio Kaku piece from the Guardian you linked yesterday was very reassuring that we don’t, as a species, have “less than 24 hours to go.”

    He’s also very reassuring on YouTube, for the truly agitated or those who cannot find their eyeglasses.

  • susan

    Dear Dewi and Pete,

    I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t dial up a song for the Apocalyptic Jukebox just in case Michio’s misfired and it all goes South (so to speak).

    Here’s my YouTube selection for tomorrow if This Is The Way the World Ends:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=64MSsOOitt8

    Don’t worry. If I were really frightened there would be more overtly religious overtones.

    Probably.

    Susan

  • McGrath

    Whatever the experiments reveal, McGrath, it is no white elephant.

    Posted by Pete Baker on Sep 10, 2008 @ 12:06 AM

    Even if it reveals nothing? Although I hope that isn’t the case.

    Proposals for an upgraded (and massively expensive)stage 2 of the experiment are already under review.

  • circles

    Such belly-button staring exercises are all very well if it weren’t for the fact that its a complete waste of money and resources. At the end of the day what does it really matter what they find?
    No matter how pants-wettingly exciting it may be to ponder these speeding particles crashing into each other and how the universe started we’re living today on a planet were the majority of people scratch out a minimal existence with limited access to clean water, food, sanitation, shelter…. How will the CERN results help this? Narcissus would have loved it though – as wll Star Trek fans everywhere.

  • TAFKABO

    Circles.

    Can you honestly not how advances in scientific knowledge directly affect and improve the life of all of us?
    if the plight of people scratching out a living is of such concernt to you, tell us what you’re doing to combat it, and also let us know how great things were for them all when we didn’t have science?

  • gram

    >>Such belly-button staring exercises are all very well if it weren’t for the fact that its a complete waste of money and resources. << Apart from gaining a greater understanding of how the universe works with spin offs for cancer treatment and nuclear fusion I take your point.

  • Dewi

    Project leader is from Aberdare Notorious jokers – he’d make a black hole for a laugh. Apparently the whole of the Cynon Valley are seeking sanctuary in Tower Colliery….

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Well the experiment is well under way and the world hasn’t ended yet. We haven’t all disappeared into a black hole.

    The creationist folk are very quite on the matter!(and the anti-matter)

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    The creationist folk are very QUIET on the matter!(and the anti-matter)

  • Harry Flashman

    As far as I understand GO’F the experiment will recreate the situation immediately after the Big Bang, any answers as to what was going on before the Big Bang and what (who?) set the Big Bang in motion?

  • circles

    Ahhh very astute answers TAFKABO and Gram – except they aren’t answers at all. Its the usual “don’t interfere with the scientists cos they can save us all” knee-jerk response. But “science” is not the big blanket that provides warmth and comfort and wisdom that you seem to think. There’s a whole range of things “scientists” are involved in ranging from the very useful to the completely useless.

    Mindlessly praising an experiment as offerring a cure for cancer and endless progress for the huamn race whilst knowing little about it is about as logical as those who praise the sacrificing of a cow to make the rains come. Most often people can’t even say what the benefits of an experiment or technology will be before the thing happens. Just because this is big and flashy and mediatised to death with plenty of boffins on the scene does not make it automatically a great thing.

    And as for the benefit to those scratching out their lives from whatever they can find – well a lot of people aren’t holding their breath.

    Now TAFKABO and Gram, starting with the basics – with around 2.5 billion people in the world without even a place to take a shit if its not behind a tree or under a bridge, you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend 3.5 billion pounds than on a bunch of excited schoolboys sitting aound a 27km long ring smashing things together. I’m not saying thats not important but its far from being a priority.

    By the way, 2008 is the International Year of Sanitation (http://esa.un.org/iys/ )- less Dan Dare than whats happening at CERN but for a lot more people a lot more important.

  • Pete Baker

    Dear susan,

    “Do you realise?”

    Why, yes. Yes I do. ;o)

    Circles

    “But “science” is not the big blanket that provides warmth and comfort and wisdom that you seem to think.”

    No, that’s religion. Science has a tendency to rip that comfort blanket away, god bless it.

    And I’ll embrace the “human” epithet that sees neither science nor sanitation as being mutually exclusive.

  • Big Maggie

    Circles

    Mindlessly praising an experiment as offerring a cure for cancer and endless progress for the huamn race whilst knowing little about it is about as logical as those who praise the sacrificing of a cow to make the rains come.

    Hardly. Science is provable, superstition not. That’s the big difference. And do you honestly think they’d have got £3.5 billion funding if it was all useless navel gazing?

  • gram

    >>Mindlessly praising an experiment as offerring a cure for cancer and endless progress for the huamn race whilst knowing little about it is about as logical as those who praise the sacrificing of a cow to make the rains come. < < Let me know where I stated cure. I said treatment. Conversely you are mindlessly criticising something you know little about. Thing is you/we can't state for certain what the long term benefits will be. History shows that large government projects can have important future benefits for example the transistor was developed in WW2 out of heavy military investment in electronics, nuclear power from the manhattan project. >>Now TAFKABO and Gram, starting with the basics – with around 2.5 billion people in the world without even a place to take a shit if its not behind a tree or under a bridge, you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend 3.5 billion pounds than on a bunch of excited schoolboys sitting aound a 27km long ring smashing things together. I’m not saying thats not important but its far from being a priority.
    << I think your ire would be better directed elsewhere rather than at projects such as this or space exploration whose admirable objective is to advance human knowledge.

  • circles

    I’m as much for science as anybody, but I do think some of you are getting a little carried away in your blind faith in the miracle of CERN. And I use the term blind faith most deliberately here, as much as it can be applied to any belief system where the faithful look on as the initiated engage in a ceremony to reveal the secrets of the universe.
    Replacing black-robed men of the church with white-robed men of the lab doesn’t really change a thing for me – and lets be honest, even if we understand a little of what they want to do there, we “the congregation” really are only taking their word for it concerning what its all about, simply taking it as gospel. Verifiable science is of course infinitely preferrable to unverifiable smoke and nonsense, I just think we could do with some caution when using our scientific hosannahs and alleluias (I mean Pete even the title of this post is overblown).

    We’re all just on the sidelines looking in at this thing. It is most probably an impressive technical feat, but is this really the priority activity that we should be applying our knowledge too, or, given the problems we face today here on the planet, is this where we should be directing our search for knowledge in such a bombastic way? (Oh and Gram, sorry about the cure – you of course only meant treatment for cancer. A treatment for diarrhoea actually exists by the way and still it kills 2.2 million people per year. Looks like science can’t solve everything )

  • Pete Baker

    circles

    You mistake enthusiasm for “blind faith”.

    I’ll quote one of the lead scientist who has just spoken on the RTE coverage.

    “If we knew the answer, we wouldn’t need the experiment.”

    And if you have a problem with the post title, take it up with Stephen Hawking – it’s his quote. And note his scepticism on the LHC finding evidence, not “blind faith”, for the Higgs boson.

  • gram

    Circles thanks for correcting your mistake.

    >>or, given the problems we face today here on the planet, is this where we should be directing our search for knowledge in such a bombastic way?<< I guess the results will let us know whether it was worth it or not. You seem to be trying to put a dollar value on something you know little about.

  • circles

    Yeah perhaps I am gram. I seem to be the only one questioning if its worth the money anyway rather than drooling at the tech. I just think it could be much better spent. You seem to be more of the “do it first and let’s see what use it is afterwards” school of thought ( as you said “I guess the results will let us know whether it was worth it or not”). Very exciting, but a bit far away even from your “finding treatment for cancer” claim earlier.
    Given that even Stephen Hawking is betting against them finding the “God particle” I’m surprised so many people were squeezing their teddy’s at around 8 this morning. Although as I said before, the media have done their duty in hyping this one up suitably.
    Regarding the Hawking quote – he my have said it Pete, but you picked the title.

  • TAFKABO

    Questioning whether it is worth the money is always valid, for anything. On the other hand, your reasoning as to why it isn’t worth the money seems a little flawed. You suggest that resources and space are already in limited supply, leading to the high numbers of starving people on the planet at the moment. This is a nonsense, there is space and supply in abundance, today, right now, and more than enough for many many more. What is in short supply is proper management of the resources we have.
    This experiment is exciting for many of us because we know from experience, not blind faith, that advances in scientific knowledge are generally a good thing for us all.
    As for your suggestion that we know little about the experiment and what it is about, well that’s what I call a knee jerk response, not to mention patronising.

    It is not a coincidence that it was the Irish who came up with the phrase “fuck the begrudgers”.

  • Big Maggie

    TAFKABO

    What is in short supply is proper management of the resources we have.

    Well said. If the supernaturalists would butt out we could feed those starving. As it is, the pope doesn’t want starving Africa to use contraception to prevent the birth of children doomed to die, or dying Africa to use condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. And while I’m on a roll here, Bush and his mates should hang their heads for trying to prevent valuable stem-cell research. That said, it’s 2008 and science rules… at last.

  • Big Maggie

    Well I finally tracked down the truth about the Hadron, courtesy of a poster to the inimitable Landover Baptist Church blog.

    This whole “hadron” thing is just “hard on” with the letters switched around. “Hard-on collider”? It’s a code word for what this machine is really aimed at achieving. They are going to create homosexual particles. They plan to literally harness the very essence of homerism. I plan to have my tallywhacker planted firmly inside my wife all day 10 September so that those hard-on particles don’t turn me queer.

    Er… hard to argue with that.

  • circles

    TAFKABO – I never sugested that the problems facing the global population were a result of a lack of space or resources. What I was suggesting is exactly what you said – “What is in short supply is proper management of the resources we have.” And for me 3.5 billion quid for research motivated by the curiosity of physicists and aimed primarily to satisfy this curiosity is not a grand example of the proper management of resources – even if there may possibly be positive spin-offs that we can’t predict in advance. Its a particular waste when there are real, solvable problems that would be signficantly improved with this kind of funding. Its hardly begrudging to say that the money spent on whizzing particles around and smashing them together could have been better spent for example on improving access to water supplies and sanitation in sub-saharan Africa – unless of course you’re an “I’m alight jack” type of person, which I never reckoned you for TAF.

    Big Maggie – your posts would be greatly improved if you read other people’s first. Religion has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion. Please do not feel obliged to defend the men in white coats (who may eventually come and take you away) – I think were all agreed that organised belief in a sky god has on balance not been a positive thing. The discussion is about what type of research and knowledge would prove most useful to improve the lot of the people on the planet. I think we could display our humanity in a much more useful way than looking back 13 billion years, by actually lookin around us today and seeing what can be done. Others seem to think expensive experiments with unknown outcomes display our humanity well enough. I suppose this depends on how you define humanity.

  • circles

    Sorry – for “alight” read “alright”!

  • Rory

    “History shows that large government projects can have important future benefits…”

    Hear, hear, Gram. Let us remember how a certain U.S. government project assisted the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with their stalled urban renewal programmes. And where would genetics be today without alll those dedicated German scientists of the 30’s and 40’s?

    Such examples of selfless altruism demonstrate how important it is for ordinary citizens to trust blindly to the goodwill of government and its scientific servants.

  • Big Maggie

    Circles

    Big Maggie – your posts would be greatly improved if you read other people’s first. Religion has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion.

    Really? I suggest you try rereading the posts then. And yes, Greagoir, the creationists are VERY silent on the (anti)matter.