• Question: What do you think of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland?

    Asked by matthewgeals99 to Ant, Dan, Matt, Mike, Steph on 14 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Dan Veal

      Dan Veal answered on 14 Mar 2012:

      What is there to say? It’s amazing. It’s a combination of literally thousands of physicists, engineers, architects, accountants, builders, government officials, all working together to make a kilometers long tunnel under the ground that works very well. Whether they’ll find all the fundamental particles they’re looking for is another thing….

      It’s a bit controversial too by the way, it cost much more than they expected, and their electricity bill shared by several nations is monstrous, is it worth all that money to investigate things which might change the world, or on the other hand not exist at all?

      What do you think of it???

    • Photo: Matt Maddock

      Matt Maddock answered on 14 Mar 2012:

      I think it’s amazing!

      It’s basically a way to look back in time to see how the universe behaved just after the Big Bang. You probably know that the Universe is expanding – getting bigger and colder all the time. Just moments after it all began, the whole Universe was very small and very, very hot – unimaginable amounts of energy – all the energy in the Universe – squashed into a small volume. When it’s that hot, things start to behave very strangely – it’s too hot for chemicals – they all boil away – too hot for protons and neutrons, too hot for quarks and neutrinos!

      To see how things behaved back then, we have to try to reproduce those conditions and the LHC tries to do that by getting particles going at just a hair-under the speed of light with as much energy as we can possibly give them, then smashing them together, head on! The energy in that collision is huge and as close as we can get to the way it was just after the Big Bang. By watching what comes out of the wreckage, we can learn about the very basic levels of how the universe works, how it’s glued together, even things like how gravity gets from one place to another!

      So, the LHC is a way of looking at what the Universe was like 14 billion years ago. To me, that’s awesome.

      Even just the building itself is amazing – the main detector itself is in a hole big enough to put a cathedral inside. The accelerator is so big it is in two different countries!

      Spot the person in this picture to get some idea of the scale!

      The LHC and the whole CERN facility are an astounding achievement, on a par with the greatest things the human race has managed. Building pyramids, flying to the moon, building the LHC. It’s an illustrious list!

      …oh and it’s perfectly safe, by the way. People like to spin scary stories about it, but trust me, engineers and scientists are not stupid or reckless. There is and never was any danger of destroying the world from the LHC. In fact collisions just as energetic happen in the atmosphere all the time, we just can’t predict where and when and, even if we could, we certainly couldn’t get a detector there in time!

      There’s nothing to fear from the LHC, but a massive amount to find amazing and cool!

      …and let me add – my wife has actually been there, inside the detector building! She says it’s all the more awesome when you’re in there, although the heights (the heights UNDERGROUND!) are a bit scary!

    • Photo: Stephanie Tomlinson

      Stephanie Tomlinson answered on 14 Mar 2012:

      I think it is beautiful and an amazing feat of engineering. The scale and complexity of the egineering required to make the LHC do what is needs to is magnificent.

    • Photo: Anthony Hollingsworth

      Anthony Hollingsworth answered on 14 Mar 2012:

      as great as I think it is I have to say it costs far too much money (especially when smaller British projects are sacrificed needlessly)! I do love big science very much and the work that goes on at CERN is exciting, not to mention all the impressive machines. There are developments in accelerator physics using lasers and plasmas waves that may make the whole thing a lot cheaper in the future, they just need more people to work on it!