Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Beam me up

The LHC turns on tomorrow for its first major test run with proton's circling around one of the two rings. As there's only going to be one beam there should be actually be no collisions just yet. This is still quite exciting as it should test out a lot of the systems needed to ramp the whole thing up to a proper operational level. I don't want to pander to the sensationalist media that seems to have been getting the public unduly concerned about it destroying us all, but I do want to add another word or two as to why it won't do that - particle physicists are not maniacal Bond villians! They do not want to destroy the world or participate in its destruction through anything they do. They really like living (and skiing - CERN is pretty near the Alps you see), and anyway discovering something cool and new really isn't worth shit if you've not there to see that you've discovered it (or if you can't go skiing anymore!) If they (the thousands of physicists who've worked on the project, and even more of their colleagues at universities and labs around the world) thought there was any chance of the LHC doing anything bad then they wouldn't do it. So let me reiterate the LHC is perfectly safe and there is no chance at all of it so much as harming a fly (well a fly could get irradiated if it was stupid enough to go near the beam tube or one of the detectors while it running, but then it would be its own darn fault).

The main thing I'm worried about tomorrow is if something technical goes wrong like some of the superconducting magnets failing as that could set things back a while, and we've already been waiting ages for it to come online. But while your waiting to see if these first tests are successful and things are running smoothly you can go and play at being a particle physicist yourself here.