September 2008

Is your blogster alone in thinking that there are some contraditions in the reactions of some scientists to the suggestion that the LHC might create a black hole which will destroy the world.

On the one hand we get a lot of this:
Prof. Jordan Nash: “To create a giant black hole would take a star much bigger than the sun to collapse. We are not doing anything that doesn’t occur in nature every day, and in our own atmosphere.

and at the same time, we also get a lot of:
scientists want to simulate the conditions of the Big Bang – the point at which our universe was thought to be created
In the $10 billion project — the most extensive physics experiment in history — the Large Hadron Collider will come ever closer to re-enacting the “big bang,” the theory that a colossal explosion created the cosmos.

Well – which is it?

Today. the Times published an article on the large Hadron collider which contained a series of such bizarre comprehension-lite comparisons (sadly none with OSSPs) than I can only assume that it was deliberate. So its (ten gallon) hats off to Mark Henderson, Science Editor. Read it here.

Pick of the bunch (but sadly not on the website version):
“140,000 fridges full of sausages could be kept at a temperature colder than outer space by the magnet cooling equipment.”
“2 British Libraries could be filled with the data the LHC will generate every year.”

In the paper there is a really cute little graphic of a London bus to scale against a picture of the ATLAS component, whose purpose is to ‘search for extra dimensions, dairk matter and the Higgs boson.”

There’s a great throwaway comment about the extra dimensions: “some theoretical physicists suggest that there could be as many as 26. Most physicists find these every bit as hard to visualise as normal people,” I’d like to meet the others but I’m not sure they could see me.

There’s an unpleasant insight into a physicist who’s really passionate about his work: “That’ll be the first sight of relief, that there are no obstacles in the vacuum chamber,” Dr Evans said. “There could be a Kleenex in the chamber – we’ve had that before. Only when we get the beam around will we be able to tell it’s clear.”

Finally, a bizarre comparison which Matty points out is also a crapstat: “The two streams will collide, at four points, with the energy of two aircraft carriers sailing into each other at 11 knots, inside detectors so vast that one is housed in a cavern that could enclose the nave of Westminster Abbey.” They don’t convert that vastness into Olympic sized swimming pools – but that’s not the main point, its about the energy. Firstly energy is measured in Hiroshimas or Suns, although this may be too little energy for that. Secondly the energy of two aircraft carriers sailing into each other at 11 knots is in fact the same as the energy of two aircraft carriers sailing parallel to each other at 11 knots; and roughly the same as one aircraft carrier sailing alone at 22 knots. Indeed it is roughly comparable to the energy of a London Bus travelling at 147,000 mph.

In my physical copy of the Times yesterday, it discussed a recent headline in the Daily Express promising 10 days rainfall in a single day last Friday – and invited readers to submit similar examples of twaddle to

Note that there is no reference on the website to this – and my email hasn’t got through to them yet either.
So now you know where to send the stuff when you find it, but my question is haven’t they already got enough themselves?