Possibly the most important event in the history of science almost happened this month, but due to technical difficulties in the Large Hadron Collider we will have to wait until next year.
Nevertheless, the world seems to have caught LHC fever. For all its notoriety though, the LHC is still woefully misunderstood; the trend for amateur particle physics is on the up, and everyone has attempted to explain the theory behind the particle accelerator to a friend, contributing to the tomes of myth and legend surrounding the experiment.
The most popular nugget of apocalyptic speculation is that they will create a man made black hole by mistake which will swallow up the earth in a fraction of a second. Although the scientific community has rubbished the idea, the doomsday brigade has never been happier, ranting and raving on Internet chat rooms and preparing for the end of days.
Just type the word ‘large’ into yahoo and the predictive search engine will offer Large Hadron Collider as its first option, (followed by ‘large ladies’, ‘large mirrors’, ‘Peter Large’ and the fifth is just not worth mentioning).
The abstract complexity of the physics being tested in this experiment makes it very difficult to drive home actual significance of this experiment. Over the next few years we may well undergo a total paradigm shift, scientists hope to finally resolve the conflicts between particle physics and general relativity. This should be a massive step forward for science.
Students at Glasgow have reason to be proud then, as researchers at the University have been integral in the engineering of the hypersensitive ATLAS and VELO detectors, and the Grid system, which will relay massive quantities of CERN data around the world for analysis. When this research comes to fruition, Glasgow will have played an essential role in man’s approach to science for years to come.