la doomsday machine?

Beware: The French have powered on the doomsday machine.

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has weathered several such search-engine-friendly media sound bytes, and is no stranger to the woes of sensationalism in science. Leading up to it’s first months of successful science, the 17 mile long atom smashing black hole factory buried beneath the French-Swiss border enjoyed much infamy in the press. Yet once scientists assured us that there was no threat to our safety, we changed the channel.

Science and sensationalism have never mixed, as science does not progress in media friendly “ah ha” moments. And while individually we are intelligent enough, as a consumer horde of rapid fire media bits we can be quite moronic. In a day when entire political movements can be summed up in as few as one word (or scream) in a 60 second news summary, our information diet becomes very low on substance. Where’s the beef?

Thankfully in this case science progresses with or without sustained public interest. The LHC completed a successful year with experiments up to about half the planned power range of the device, up to smashing lead ions. It should reach full power (around 14 TeV) in the next two years. And while we’ve no god particle or mini black hole sightings, particle science advances.

The payoff? Among the many goals of the international teams at CERN are answers to key gaps in the generally accepted “Standard Model” of physics, not the least of which are mysteries about gravity unanswered since Newton was presumably bonked by an apple.

For now, expect the LHC work to continue quietly, that is unless the Higgs Boson bears resemblance to any well-known rock stars.

Below is a link to more on the subject, from CERN.

http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/lhc/WhyLHC-en.html

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