Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The big bang - it's nearly ready to happen again

Beneath our feet in the Pays de Gex in the amazing tunnels of CERN's particle collider the final preparations are underway for the big switch on next Thursday - which just happens to be September 11th ...
The Guardian has produced a wonderful bluffer's guide to the large Hadron collider (LHC). There's an excellent article by Michio Kaku on why the extremely tiny blackholes the collider may produce will not gobble up the universe. It is nevertheless expected that protesters will gather outside CERN's main entrance just up the road here on Wednesday next week.
Stephen Hawking says this in an article in the same part of the Guardian:
"Some have asked if turning on the LHC could produce some disastrous, unexpected result. Indeed, some theories of spacetime suggest the particle collisions might create mini black holes. If that happened, I have proposed that these black holes would radiate particles and disappear. If we saw this at the LHC, it would open up a new area of physics, and I might even win a Nobel prize. But I'm not holding my breath."

Meanwhile it always makes me smile that the French translation of the big bang is "le bing bang".
Anyway I do hope that CERN will still be open for me to visit at the end of the year - there's a three month wait for the guided tours and I'm sure they wouldn't still be taking bookings if they were worried about black holes.