4 – 1 Odds That God Exists

Q: What does God, Russell Brand and the Higgs boson all have in common?
A: Unsurprisingly, not a lot.

'Eye of God' (a.k.a. the Helix Nebula), Russell Brand (with Kristin Bell on the set of the excellent movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and my Higgs boson (from the Particle Zoo)

The candidates (from left to right): 'Eye of God' (a.k.a. the Helix Nebula), Russell Brand (with Kristin Bell on the set of the excellent movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and my Higgs boson (from the Particle Zoo)

OK, so it’s been a “stupid news day” today. First I find out that 52% of voters in the great state of California believe that same-sex marriage is a bad thing, voting in the draconian Proposition 8. And then I read that a UK betting company has taken the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) search for the “God particle” literally.

So, that’s why The Eye of God (Helix Nebula as taken by Hubble) and my Higgs particle plushie are in the picture above… but where does Russell Brand and Kristin Bell come into it? Actually, there’s no reason for Bell to be in the picture at all (apart from being the first ever bikini-wearing actress to grace pages of Astroengine – don’t get used to it!), but it appears that Brand has some “god-like” qualities himself, coming a close second to old Higgsy…

Hold on to your muon detectors, this is about to get silly
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‘The Hills’ Girls Suffer LHC Information Overload

"Why are they doing that?" The Hills Girls bravely confront the LHC and the Big Bang (E! Channel)

'Why are they doing that?' The Hills Girls bravely confront the LHC and the Big Bang (E! Channel)

Superb! The Large Hadron Collider has barged its oversized supercooled magnets into the very popular US teenie drama, “The Hills.”

Now I’ve heard it all. Not only did the LHC grand switch-on event appear as headline news on every newspaper, website, TV and radio news channel back on September 10th, the LHC has now been worked into the script of The Hills.

The program usually deals with fever-pitch relationship battles between the cast of over-privileged teenagers who shop and fill their days saying “yeah… that’s cute.” For the vast majority of the world who may not have seen the show, imagine a hoard of Paris Hilton clones, struggling by on the mean streets of the Beverley Hills (having just moved from that other well-known dive, Laguna Beach) dressed in Prada, sipping tall-skinny-chai-lattes, moaning about boys. And don’t get me started on the guys, just think “metro-sexual” with a heavy dose of Boy George thrown in…
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Will the Real Walter Wagner Please Stand Up (and Put the Geiger Counter Down)

Wagner discovers tiles of uranium-filled death (MSNBC)

Wagner discovers tiles of uranium-filled death (MSNBC)

After chatting with Walter Wagner (the guy who filed the LHC “Doomsday Suit” in an Hawaiian court… only for it to be thrown out last month) on Paranormal Radio in July, I was left a little unsatisfied.

By the July 28th radio show, I’d only written about the LHC lawsuit a couple of times and had little time to prepare for the discussion. However, after only a few minutes of digging for some background information Wagner I’d unearthed a couple of things. For one he had previously attempted to sue the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 2000. This attempt had failed on the basis that Wagner’s “evidence” that the RHIC could create strangelets (that will spawn the end of the world) and black holes (spawning… well… the end of the world) was too flimsy to warrant any serious investigation. Then I uncovered something a little unsettling: Wagner had a rather unhealthy scrape with the law. At the time I didn’t want to follow this up, as I was going on air in 30 minutes, the RHIC lawsuit was enough for the time being.

Today, another piece has been added to the puzzle of what drives Walter Wagner. Over at the hilariously named “The Physics Anti-Crackpot Blog” there’s a link to an article chronicling Wagner’s Geiger counter crusade against radioactive tiles (oh yes!). I’ll leave it for you to read, it is both entertaining and unsettling.

Wagner believes he is a public safety crusader, and I doubt we’ll hear the last of him (besides superheroes love the attention, whether it is good or bad).

Why does Mr. Wagner hate the LHC? Well, the short and simple answer — ironically, this is the short and simple answer — is that Mr. Wagner and a lot of other people who like physics but don’t really understand it as well as they think they do have latched onto the notion that the LHC will spontaneously generate black holes, which will destroy the Earth. – Excerpt from Return of the Radiation Man (Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets)

Source: The Physics Anti-Crackpot Blog

LHC Quench Ripped Magnets from Concrete Floor

Report into Sept. 19th Large Hadron Collider Incident Released

The LHC will be out of commission for months (CERN)

The LHC will be out of commission for months (CERN)

September 19th was a sad and frustrating day for accelerator physics.

After a long, long wait, the world was sitting on the edge of their seats, anticipating news about the first proton circulation on September 10th. Then, only a day later, a huge transformer broke down, stuttering LHC operations and forcing yet another delay. And then, only a week after the first successful circulation of particles, the worst possible news surfaces from CERN: A “quench” had occurred, stemming from a short circuit across two electromagnets, causing tonnes of liquid helium to leak into one of the tunnels. A huge amount of energy was dumped in a short period of time, heating the once-supercooled magnets by 100°C…

Now, a month after the quench, an official interim incident report has been released and it’s not good news. The report’s findings can be summed up by one of the engineers first on the scene of the damaged section of tunnel who said, “it wasn’t a pretty sight.”
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LHC “Doomsday Lawsuit” Scrapped by Sensible Hawaiian Judge

The Large Hadron Collider is now officially safe in the eyes of the law (and no, that's not because it broke down). Credit: CERN

The Large Hadron Collider is now officially safe in the eyes of the law (and no, that's not because it broke down). Credit: CERN

Oh no! It’s all over. The US Large Hadron Collider lawsuit filed by Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho has failed. On Friday, Hawaiian Federal Judge Helen Gillmor officially declared that the American judicial system has no jurisdiction over the largest experiment ever devised by mankind. Although Wagner and Sancho were suing the US partners in CERN, it would seem this convoluted and inaccurate attempt at proving the LHC will destroy the Earth was a bridge too far for the Honolulu court to entertain.

This decision ends the seven month battle for Wagner, following quickly behind Otto Rossler’s eleventh-hour failed attempt at the European Court of Human Rights last month to convince lawmakers that the LHC was going to turn the Earth into a dot.

So in the eyes of the law (and every other sane person on the planet), the LHC is safe and the claims about the production of micro-black holes, strangelets, monopoles, bosenovas etc. etc. are totally unfounded.

But hold on, why do I feel a little sad about all this…?
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“Apologies for calling it the Hay-dron Collider the other night, pure ignorance.”

Did he REALLY just say that? Brian Cox's expression says it all... (still from the BBC's Newsnight program)

You did NOT just say that! Brian Cox's expression says it all... (still from the BBC's Newsnight program)

It’s days like this that I worry for the future of science in the UK…

Sure, Sir David King is the former Chief Scientific Advisor for the UK government, but the opinions he voiced on last week’s BBC Newsnight airing caught my breath. If his short-sighted and ill informed ideas are indicative of the UK government’s science funding strategy, I’d suggest all UK-funded particle physicists pack up and move to Europe or the US.

In the aftermath of the LHC grand event on Wednesday, outspoken Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman was joined by King and the ever impressive Professor Brian Cox. The topic focused on how the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will benefit mankind. As the media had been buzzing about the event for weeks, it was great to see a leading news opinion program set aside six minutes for a particle physics debate.

And what a debate it was! Let’s put it this way, Brian Cox got pretty irritated by King’s point that “brilliant people” should be attracted into other challenges to mankind, rather than focusing their attention on “navel searching” projects like the LHC. Brian’s response was awesome
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Greek Hackers Invade LHC… Nothing Much Happens

LHC computing is some of the most advanced in the world... but it can still be hacked... (CERN)

The LHC computers are some of the most advanced in the world... but they can still be hacked... (CERN)

As the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) circulated its first beam of particles last Wednesday, there was an electronic battle being waged inside the computer systems of the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment (CMS), one of the four LHC detectors. The detector’s monitoring systems (CMSMON) were compromised and Greek hackers were able to upload half a dozen files during September 9th and 10th forcing CMS software engineers to scour all the systems for any more hidden files as the historic LHC “switch on” happened around them. The detector’s website displayed the Greek Security Team‘s (GST) replacement, mocking the poor security of the international particle accelerator facility, CERN.

This chain of events will of course raise a few eyebrows as to how this could possibly have happened at the multi-billion pound experiment (after all, CERN was the birthplace of the World Wide Web back in 1991), but the LHC is a huge target for hackers, if there’s a flaw, someone will eventually exploit it. CERN officials have pointed out that the security breach did not affect any experiment-critical systems, but there was bound to be some worried faces at CMS last week…
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