Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gentlemen, Start Your Accelerators!

Yeee-Ha! What we have here is a good old physics challenge on our hands! The problems plaguing Cern's Large Hadron Collider may cost it the coveted prize of discovering the elusive Higgs Boson. Last week at the annual AAAS meeting, Fermilab's Tevatron director Pier Oddone said that there was between a 50 and 96 percent chance of discovering the so called "God particle" before the end of the year.

It's the showdown of the supercolliders!

The Higgs boson is the theorized elementary particle that gives matter its mass. So far no one has directly observed it, because the only way to "see" it is to slam two heavy particles together at nearly the speed of light and carefully comb through the wreckage. So far no particle accelerator has been powerful enough to see it, but they've been getting close. The LHC should have no problem seeing the little bosons when operating at full speed, but it'll be out of commission for quite a while still.

Last fall, the LHC shut down after an electrical short damaged over fifty of the superconductor's magnets. Repairs have dragged on, and the restart date has been pushed back to sometime in November, over a year after the collider was originally supposed to be finished. Full high energy collisions would follow in early 2010.

Now, Fermilab's Tevatron in Batavia Illinois is looking to capitalize on the delay. Though Cern's LHC has eclipsed Fermilab as the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator around, the old Tevatron still has some fight left in it.

Like any good race for the gold, there's been trash talking coming from both sides. At the meeting Lyn Evans, project leader of the LCH said to Dr. Dmitri Denisov of Fermilab, "The race is on,"

"If they do find the Higgs, good luck to them. But I think it's unlikely they will find it before the LHC comes online. They may well be in a position to get a hint of the Higgs but I don't think they'll be in a position to discover it" Evans said, "In one year, we will be competitive. After that, we will swamp them."

Then Denisov said, "It's a race. Whoever is first is first."

And then LCH is all like "No way!" To which Fermilab says "Bring it!" and then LCH is all like "As if!"

Well maybe that last little paragraph didn't really happen, but the race is on! I'll be bringing you updates as they occur!


2 comments:

  1. Yeehaw! Nothing better than trash talking physicists! I'll be impressed when Fermilab comes out with a rap besting the LHC one!

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  2. May the particle scientists have painted themselves into a corner?

    The physicists have become so fond of the Standard Model that the Higgs boson just 'has to' exist. 6 kinds of quarks and the strong and the weak nuclear force are taken for granted, even though none of them have been unambiguously or directly detected.

    Is it about time to give new thoughts a chance? Maybe take a look at some of the 'crackpot'-ideas, even if just to realize that is possible to think differently...

    E.g. the classical atom

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