My Throbbing Hadron


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Today’s Sarah Palin mockery video: Hockey Moms Against Sarah Palin.

And if you haven’t caught the excellent Hillary/Palin sketch on SNL, you can see it on Antonia Zerbisias’s blog.

Big news this week was the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider by CERN in Switzerland. For those not in the know, CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and are responsible for pretty much inventing the World Wide Web.

Back when I was an undergrad physics student at the University of Toronto, my good buddy Good Ol’ Nojjy Boy (now a Canadian diplomat) once roared in laughter after cracking open one of our new physics textbooks.

“What?” I asked.

“Look!” he cried. “There’s a particle called a HARD-ON!”

Clearly, Nojjy Boy was suffering from lack of sleep. The particle he had discovered was in fact a hadron, which is a collection of quarks bound together into known forms, like photons or neutrons. And this past week, CERN finally started up the LHC, after 25 years of construction. This is a hallmark moment in the history of science, comparable in some ways to the detonation of the first atomic implosive.

Prior to that experiment 6 decades ago, there was some concern that the test itself would ignite the Earth’s atmosphere and bring all life on this planet to a gruesome death. Similarly, some people were concerned that the LHC would create quantum black holes that would consume the Earth.

Well, the LHC’s first true experiments are still weeks away, so I suppose quantum collapsars could still be created there. Fans of Larry Niven‘s stories will be familiar with quantum black holes. In one story, “The Hole Man“, a quantum collapsar is discovered in an ancient Martian laboratory; when released, it begins consuming both Mars and, soon, the Earth. It would devour both worlds in about a thousand years, at which point it might be visible to the naked eye –assuming any naked eyes were still around to see it.

In the David Brin novel, Earth, aliens fire a quantum black hole into the Earth (which was the actual source of the famous Tunguska explosion), and it’s not discovered till centuries later. Another of Niven’s stories, “The Borderland of Sol“, also plows this topic.

Well, the world is supposed to come to an end in 3-4 years anyway, so why not this way?

Still not sure what the LHC is supposed to do? Check out this educational rap by CERN employee Kate McAlpine:

I plucked that one from one of Andoo‘s links, specifically The 6 Quirkiest Memes of 2008. On that list, as well, was a follow-up to a video I’d posted here months ago, the test of the quadrupedal robot Big Dog:

Someone tried their own Big Dog test:

That’s all I got today. By the way, my AIDS talk last night at 1848 went well. Thanks to all those who came out!