Monday, September 08, 2008

Read about a breathtaking experiment which is ongoing. A climax of sorts will occur this coming Wednesday!
CERN fires up new atom smasher to near Big Bang
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer GENEVA - It has been called an Alice in Wonderland investigation into the makeup of the universe — or dangerous tampering with nature that could spell doomsday.
Whatever the case, the most powerful atom-smasher ever built comes online Wednesday, eagerly anticipated by scientists worldwide who have awaited this moment for two decades.
The multibillion-dollar Large Hadron Collider will explore the tiniest particles and come ever closer to re-enacting the big bang, the theory that a colossal explosion created the universe.
The machine at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, promises scientists a closer look at the makeup of matter, filling in gaps in knowledge or possibly reshaping theories.
The first beams of protons will be fired around the 17-mile tunnel to test the controlling strength of the world's largest superconducting magnets. It will still be about a month before beams traveling in opposite directions are brought together in collisions that some skeptics fear could create micro "black holes" and endanger the planet.
The project has attracted researchers of 80 nationalities, some 1,200 of them from the United States, which contributed $531 million of the project's price tag of nearly $4 billion.
"This only happens once a generation," said Katie Yurkewicz, spokeswoman for the U.S. contingent at the CERN project. "People are certainly very excited."
The collider at Fermilab outside Chicago could beat CERN to some discoveries, but the Geneva equipment, generating seven times more energy than Fermilab, will give it big advantages.
The CERN collider is designed to push the proton beam close to the speed of light, whizzing 11,000 times a second around the tunnel 150 to 500 feet under the bucolic countryside on the French-Swiss border.
Once the beam is successfully fired counterclockwise, a clockwise test will follow. Then the scientists will aim the beams at each other so that protons collide, shattering into fragments and releasing energy under the gaze of detectors filling cathedral-sized caverns at points along the tunnel.
CERN dismisses the risk of micro black holes, subatomic versions of collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong they can suck in planets and other stars.
But the skeptics have filed suit in U.S. District Court in Hawaii and in the European Court of Human Rights to stop the project. They unsuccessfully mounted a similar action in 1999 to block the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state.
CERN's collider has been under construction since 2003, financed mostly by its 20 European member states. The United States and Japan are major contributors with observer status in CERN.
Scientists started colliding subatomic particles decades ago. As the machines grew more powerful, the experiments revealed that protons and neutrons — previously thought to be the smallest components of an atom — were made of still smaller quarks and gluons.
CERN hopes to recreate conditions in the laboratory a split-second after the big bang, teaching them more about "dark matter," antimatter and possibly hidden dimensions of space and time.
Meanwhile, scientists have found innovative ways to explain the concept in layman's terms.
The team working on one of the four major installations in the tunnel — the ALICE, or "A Large Ion Collider Experiment" — produced a comic book featuring Carlo the physicist and a girl called Alice to explain the machine's investigation of matter a split second after the Big Bang.
"We create mini Big Bangs by bumping two nuclei into each other," Carlo explains to Alice, who has just followed a rabbit down one of the hole-like shafts at CERN.
"This releases an enormous amount of energy that liberates thousands of quarks and gluons normally imprisoned inside the nucleus. Quarks and gluons then form a kind of thick soup that we call the quark-gluon plasma."
The soup cools quickly and the quarks and gluons stick together to form protons and neutrons, the building blocks of matter.
That will enable scientists to look for still missing pieces to the puzzle — or lead to the formulation of a new theory on the makeup of matter.
Kate McAlpine, 23, a Michigan State University graduate at CERN, has produced the Large Hadron Rap, a video clip that has attracted more than a million views on YouTube.
"The things that it discovers will rock you in the head," McAlpine raps as she dances in the tunnel and caverns.
CERN spokesman James Gillies said the lyrics are "absolutely scientifically spot on."
"It's quite brilliant," Gillies said.
On the Net:
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory:
The U.S. at the LHC:
Large Hadron Rap:
Once again, the art of physics has taken my breath away. The truth is, there is probably at least an element of art in nearly every single subject, though we often don't immediately see it. I remember hearing the ping-ping-ping of cash registers in a department store and thinking it had a strange musicality to it. I found myself picturing actors onstage, running in a back-and-forth motion, lights scanning them vertically, the words of Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine running through my head(The Adding Machine is an Expressionist piece of theatre--the play was written in uh, 1923-ish I believe). I never thought about producing that play before, but suddenly, ideas came crackling through, all because of a ping-ping-ping sound that elicited something in me. It simply rang "true". I think scientists most likely work in a similar way. Something strikes them, reminds them of something, and suddenly, they leap to another thought, and suddenly "see" a production, an equation's answer, even before it's fully formed. The intuition that it takes for an artist to create, often informs that creator of another sort: the scientist. Poets and playwrights often see what's happening long before anyone else. Our minds conjure, our hearts hear. And so we write.
The scientist observes using his eyes, but his intuition kicks in at some moment(if he's good at his work) and the leap from strong feeling to hypothesis, is made.
I think the mystics among us, the saints, the visionairies, probably have both the qualities of a scientist(acute awareness of reality, AND tremendous objectivity) and the qualities of an artist (acute awareness of reality AND the unique ability to synthesize their experiences into another form, imbued with meaning). These would include Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Father John Dear, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Eastern Rite priest, Fr. Charles McCarthy, The Dalia Lama, Sister Helen Prejean, to a name a few that leap immediately to mind.
Any thoughts about this? Gee, I'm rambling.....

The past two weeks this blog has been saturated with politics and occasionally, peace. Get ready for a "boatload"--as we say in these parts-- of poetry, over the next several days. I've been reading the current issue of The Chattahoochee Review (I have a subscription) and have become so enamored of a particular poet and one of his poems, that just today, I've re-read it ten times. Once I gain permission, I'll post that poem here at my blog. In the meantime, pick up a copy and read over the poems. Take a guess at who it is who has me swooning. I'll even give you a hint: The poem manages to incorporate several losses by connecting all of them to one earlier loss.
And I'll be posting about poets I love, books I'm looking forward to: Sandra Beasley of chicks dig poetry, click below
has Theories of Falling (it won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize; the judge was Marie Howe).
Cecilia Woloch ( Georgia Author of the Year for Poetry in 2005, for Late)will be brandishing her Narcissus here in Atlanta soon.

I'll be posting at least one of my own poems that's brand-new, right here at Lisa Allender Writes in the next day or so, and asking for comments, kids.
There's never going to be enough time to read everything I want to read. And I know there'll never be enough time to write all these feelings down, let all the poems out, turn them loose. Like those pinwheels I used to buy at the state fair, the feelings swirl in so many colors, and the leaves of the pinwheels spin and spin, such that I am dizzy.
Peace, kids.


Selma said...

Well, I am giddy myself. This could be something that truly changes the way we view the world and the universe. Thanks for the link to the poetry - it sounds really good. I am very much looking forward to reading some of your work. Can't wait!

Lisa Allender said...

Hi Selma--thanks.It IS an exciting thing, yes? Look for a video on the subject I just posted about.
I'm posting a poem of mine later today.
Peace, kid.