Still thinking small...

The biggest science machine ever built has begun churning out the smallest known bits of matter in the universe. Its goal is to uncover some of the deepest, long-hidden secrets of nature.

This enormously ambitious device is the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, a 17-mile-long ring-shaped tunnel 300 feet under the Swiss-French border near Geneva. It began operations on March 30 and has been called the greatest scientific undertaking since the Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bomb during World War II...

"... The proton collisions produce a spray of even tinier particles, mostly "quarks,'' which are the smallest, most fundamental building blocks of matter so far discovered. According to CERN, protons are 100,000 times smaller than the simplest atom, hydrogen, and quarks are 10,000 times smaller than protons. For comparison, if a hydrogen atom were 6 miles across, a quark would still measure less than four thousandths of an inch..."

Read more @ McClatchy Newspapers.


Roadkill said...


Did you ever hear of the Semiconducting Super Collider that the US started to build back in the 1980's? It was three times bigger than Haldron.

Congress pulled the plug on it in the early 1990's due to costs (it was estimated that the final price would exceed $12Billion), reasoning that due to US commitments to the International Space Station the country could not afford both projects.

The ISS, frought with problems from the start and now estimated to cost the US upwards of $100 Billion, has an estimated lifespan of from 5 to 10 years. A supercollider would probably stay in service for many decades.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but why we ever signed on to that international effort is beyond me. Its been a disaster - and a very costly one. The bigger disaster is that we have forfieted the creation of a much more useful machine, with a much longet lifespan, that would have cost far less.

President Clinton, to his credit, tried to keep SSC funding in the budget, but the mood of the Congress at the time was to curtail spending. Oh but that we could have had today's Congress instead - we could have built the SSC for 12 Billion and still spent an extra $100 Billion on the ISS - calling it stimulus!

Sunny B. said...


Don't all these project start out with a price tag that seems a little high bout workable? Then, as they struggle to convert the Power Point slides into a working reality, the cost skyrocket and the completion time expands to many years instead of a couple.

Wouldn't it be neat, if the collider let to the discovery that the world is slightly older that the universe was created in seven days, Earth is slightly old than 6,000 years and a man and a woman got kicked out of Paradise because they eat an apple.

Personally, I think these programs are pretty much jobs programs to support those really smart people who took calculus, physics and organic chemistry in college. Of course, it's the idiots who majored in political science that are controlling the purse strings.