LHC breaks beam collision record

The Large Hadron Collider continues to ramp up, and is setting new records for particle collisions. In your face, Simon Jenkins.

From the BBC:

The world’s highest-energy particle accelerator has produced a record-breaking particle collision rate – about double the previous rate.

The collider is now generating around 10,000 particle collisions per second.

Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) at the LHC. Photo from the BBC.

One columnist doesn’t understand science

Simon Jenkins is a columnist for a couple of UK newspapers, an author, and an editor. I agree with some of his positions; the benefits of nuclear power, for instance. But lately I’m disagreeing with him a lot more than I’m agreeing.

Back in January he tried to argue that the UK’s reaction to the swine flu threat was overblown by scaremongering scientists. He doesn’t seem to understand probabilities, or the value of problem avoidance (that is, that an appropriate and timely response may have prevented a crisis, which is really the entire point).

Now Jenkins is taking shots at Martin Rees’ recent Royal Society address. This time he’s saying that scientists are money-grubbers who won’t allow anyone to question them.

Science, [we are told], should “engage broadly with society and public affairs”. In other words, it should get more money.

The Large Hadron Collider [is] on a par with aircraft carriers and Olympic games for useless extravagance.

It’s a good thing that no useful scientific discoveries have ever been made by accident, then, Simon, or come from an unexpected source. He goes on and on. University science programmes get more funding per student than arts! he exclaims. Well, duh, those programmes require far more labs and equipment.

He also employs that slimy tactic of making someone’s position seem suspect by putting lots of double quote around individual words and phrases:

Yet [Rees] promotes just such theft. He wants more money or Britain’s “success in attracting mobile talent will be at risk”. Unless we continue to attract and nurture foreigners, we will “not retain international competitiveness”. Less cash would jeopardise the nation’s status in “the international premier league”. It would damage Britain’s “standing”, its “leverage”, indeed, the very “sustainability of its society”.

Jenkins is cranky. I’m not sure why. Luckily the comments on his column have plenty of people calling him out on his bullshit.

LHC gets scientists excited

You may have seen the press excerpts that indicate the Large Hadron Collider has been running – finally – and has been working.

But what’s working so far, exactly?

This article in the Guardian is written by John Ellis, one of the senior physicists at CERN. He’s very excited. But he explains what they’ve seen so far, what surprises we’ve already glimpsed, and why he’s encouraged.

LHC: Beams are back

From ScienceDaily:

Particle beams are once again zooming around the world’s most powerful particle accelerator — the Large Hadron Collider — located at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. On November 20 at 4:00 p.m. EST, a clockwise circulating beam was established in the LHC’s 17-mile ring.

From the BBC: pictures of the happy moment.

CERN’s Twitter feed shows that initial testing complete, and commissioning is now underway. Their tweets have links to info and animations.

Large Hadron Collider to get fired up again this weekend

Tests are going well, and it looks like CERN may fire up the Large Hardon Collider (LHC) again this weekend. They’ve shown that they can fire protons around the collider, and that the detectors are working. If things continue, they should soon be smashing particles.

You’ll remember that testing has been delayed because on 19 September 2008 a bad electrical connection caused a fault that damaged a bunch of the superconducting magnets. It’s taken over a year to repair that and put in safeguards in light of the fault. I’m sure CERN are anxious to move ahead (but to avoid further delays whilst doing so).

And if you’ve forgotten what they’re trying to prove with all this particle-smashing nonsense, let me remind you:

Large Hadron rap

Back in May I posted about the Large Hadron Collider, the particle accelerator and collider in Switzerland that fires up this summer. We hope it’ll shed light on some fundamental mysteries of physics. Some nutters think it’ll create a mini black hole (ignore them).

Some of the scientists at CERN have used that most timeless and effective forms of communication to get across their mission to the masses: they’vemade a rap video.

Thanks to Nick for the tip.

A few science items…

…some of which I’ve touched on before.