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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Partcle Accelerators - Just How The Heck do They Work?

Particle Accelerators. They're big. They're sexy. And they may change our view of the universe and our place in it. A particle accelerator is device used to accelerate sub-atomic particles (like a proton) to very high speeds. Particle accelerators have also been known as cyclotrons and atom smashers. Physicists design them in hopes of inquiring into the dynamics and structure of matter, space, and time. There are scores of particle accelerators and accelerator laboratories in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

These awe-inspiring and magnificent machines come in all different shapes and sizes. There are ring and linear accelerators and they perform various functions. Most people are excited about the colliders, like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

How an accelerator Works
The principle behind the LHC is pretty simple. First, you fire two beams of particles along two pathways, one going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. You accelerate both beams to near the speed of light. Then, you direct both beams toward each other and watch what happens.

According to Dr. Brian Cox, “In that moment of collision — less than a billionth of a second — you get extreme conditions, like the very early universe. You get a massive amount of energy, and loads of things flying out — like the debris of the collision. It can also form new particles that have never been seen before. And that’s what we’re really after.”

Just What the Heck are They Looking For
Today, physicists are looking for evidence to support their proposed model of the universe such as other dimensions we can't perceive. This could help support theories such as string theory and M-theory which need additional dimensions in order to make sense. Along with the Higgs Boson, they’re also looking for evidence of dark matter, dark energy, anti-matter, and whatever other surprises may appear.

We have to retain our sense of humor!

Scientists from CERN and around the globe will try to compute, analyze, and interpret massive amounts of data that could take many, many months. Will the LHC help us in advance our knowledge about our universe? It is almost certain it will raise more questions than it answers. Yet if past experiments at labs around the world are any indication, we can assume the answer is yes. Of course, there are those who claim these giant academic egghead toys are a complete and total waste of time and resources. Time will tell. Stay tuned!

Check out this computer animated YouTube Video on just how the Large Hadron Collider works!

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Anonymous said...

LOL, that scientist dog is cute.

Interesting post.

Elise Fallson said...

Very cool breakdown of the LHC. The video was really good too. Thanks! (:

D.G. Hudson said...

Hubs reads physics books for fun, so I know about the Hadron Collider.

When we were in France a couple of years ago, he wanted to visit Cern, but we couldn't fit it in.

Interesting post. Liked it.

M said...

I got to tour the Stanford Linear Accelerator when my daughter's research team presented their final summer project....totally awesome!

Great post :)

Andrew Leon said...

I don't think they're a waste of time. What I'm more worried about is the possibility of black hole creation, which they acknowledge but dismiss. As if Murphy's Law isn't even a thing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Maybe they will make an Interociter? (Of course, they need to use genuine Interociter parts.)

Tina said...

Our family of four has four nerds, and we soak up ANYTHING we can about science. Caught a great episode of NOVA last night about time travel and the "slice of bread" theory of time. Have you heard of this? Anyway, totally cool stuff.

We really want the Hadron Collider to lead to the discovery of lost of cool, science nerdy stuff, but without blowing up the world. Love what Andrew said about Murphy's Law. It's one that certainly fits our family's "luck".

Stephen, I love these posts. Thanks SO much for sharing with us at a level that I think the average Joe can understand. That's takes some skill, bro.

Tina @ Life is Good
Post A-Z Road trip!

Arlee Bird said...

"The principle is pretty simple..."

Yeah, I set one up in my living room and boy did I ever make a mess. My wife was really pissed.

Another great look into something that will either help us make discoveries that will lead us to do amazing things or will blow us all to smithereens. Oh well, if we don't take giant chances sometimes we never know what will happen.

Wrote By Rote

Karen Baldwin said...

Luv this stuff. I watched the youtube video, and I grasp how it works, but can't how they can 'see' it.

JoJo said...

This stuff is fascinating and I wouldn't understand it unless it was dumbed down. Thank god for Big Bang Theory and Angels & Demons! lol

Anonymous said...

Susanne, I'm sure the CERN scientists feel this way at times.

Elise, glad you liked the video!

D.G., that tour is high on my To Do List!

M, that would make for an awesome project! Makes my exploding volcano from science class look pathetic.

Andrew, great point about Murphy's Law!

Alex, hahahaha!

Tina, these are fun posts to put together. Glad you enjoy them!

Arlee, wives get mad over every little thing.

Em-musing, its an amazing project that inspires people regardless of how many times we see a TV show or read an article of the latest and greatest coming out of CERN and other research facilities around the world.

Jo said...

I find this stuff fascinating. Beginning to miss my first hubby who was a physicist, I would have had a personal 'explainer' handy. Thanks for all you have written on the subject.