Sunday, June 13, 2010

Large Hadron Collider: Halfway to full power

The newest bulletin from CERN on the LHC begins, "Over the past 2 weeks, commissioning of the machine protection system has advanced significantly, opening up the possibility of higher intensity collisions at 3.5 TeV..." (TeV = trllion electon volts).
The CERN gang is current working on curing a "beam instability" in order to enable those collisions. The significance here is that, as CERN's Steve Myers explains, “With two beams at 3.5 TeV, we’re on the verge of launching the LHC physics program." Collisions with a total energy of 7 TeV are - physicists hope - halfway to the realm where the Higgs boson will pop out.

COMMENT: Despite all this progress, of course, unscientific alarm has not gone away. Interestingly, the link on the LHC page for Safety requires a password. The best a casual visitor can do is read a very general two-paragraph discussion on the site's Outreach section FAQs. I know CERN scientists think the whole "destroy the universe" thing is absurd, but they could do a better job of public education. If you think about it, public concern over misunderstood science is the perfect attention-getting opportunity to explain the science right.

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