Communion Of Dreams

Demolition Derby.
September 28, 2010, 10:22 am
Filed under: Science, Sixty Symbols, tech, YouTube

What’s big, round, and cost a gazillion dollars – all in order to just smash things? Why, the  Large Hadron Collider Large Hadron Collider, of course.

At least that might be the impression you take away from the first part of today’s Sixty Symbols video.

Oh, there’s actually a lot of good science and decent imagery in the video, as well. But it’s an odd mix of being too simplistic and then on the other hand assuming that you understand a fair amount of physics. The explanations are good, if a little basic – but then there are repeated use of images showing the energy traces from collisions (in both two and three dimensions) without much in the way of explanations of what it is you are seeing. Someone who doesn’t understand those might easily come to a conclusion that they’re some kind of explosion (which they are, but not in the sense most people think) and think that the whole thing is dangerous (which it is, but only if the multiple safety features fail). That there have been some problems with this massive machine which resulted in a segment of superconducting magnets breaking loose and dumping a ton of liquid helium into the tunnel doesn’t help matters. These are the sorts of things which may well have contributed to the nonsensical fears in the popular press about the LHC creating a black hole and destroying the Earth.

Anyway, it’s a good video, if you ignore some of these problems. I did learn a couple of things from it (I didn’t realize that they were getting their particles accelerated to within 10 meters-per-second of the speed of light, for example). And I like that they did address how basic scientific research leads to real world applications which more than pay for themselves in the aggregate, though that almost seemed like an afterthought at the end of the video. So if you get a chance, check it out.

Jim Downey

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