The Large Hadron Collider

To prove a hypothesis, experiments need to be carried out. Scientists and researchers all over the world conduct experiments everyday to prove their findings and discoveries. It can be a simple experiment involving simple chemicals or materials. Or it can be a large scale experiment requiring years of preparation and enormous fundings (e.g. making teh-tarik in space by our “part-time model” astronaut). But none of those experiments will be as significant as the experiment that will take place next month. It will perhaps be the greatest experiment in the history of mankind.


This is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The tunnels housing the collider are underground.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s biggest particle accelerator. It is located at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. It lies in a tunnel under France and Switzerland. Building it requires 1600 superconducting magnets. 96 tons of helium and huge refrigeration systems are needed to keep it at 1.8Kelvin. That’s 1.8Kelvin above absolute zero and colder than outer space! For more information, watch Brian Cox give a tour of the LHC at TED.


Simulation of Higgs boson particle.

The experiment that will be conducted using the LHC this June 2008(provided there are no delays) will enable scientists to verify the existence of the Higgs boson (also known as the God Particle). This will be a significant step towards the search for the Grand Unified Theory.


Detail of the central tracking detector, from the innermost layer of the Compact Muon Solenoid. It contains some seventy-five million silicon sensors that will measure the tracks of particles emerging from collisions inside the C.M.S. A CERN spokesperson describes it as “a bit like a huge digital camera that can take pictures forty million times a second.” – Source: NewYorker.com

Now this wouldn’t be interesting if it wasn’t very dangerous. In fact, some people liken the experiment as betting our entire Earth to prove a theory. So why is smashing protons together at 99.99% the speed of light so dangerous?


Black holes, that’s why.

Collisions of protons at such high energies MAY create mini black holes. While this has not been proven yet, it is a cause for concern. However, scientists backing the LHC have given a few explanations as to why there is little to worry about.

Firstly, mini black holes are really tiny. They are about 10^-32 cm large (hair is 10^-3 cm thick) and they evaporate within 1 picosecond because of Hawking radiation. Since they disappear almost right after they are formed, they won’t have time to swallow up the Earth.

But let’s just say something goes wrong with Hawking’s radiation theory (since it has never been proven or observed before) and the black hole does not evaporate. At a linear growth rate, the black hole will “eat” 1 Quark (a very small part of matter) per day. It will take 1 million years for the black hole to totally swallow up the Earth. Plenty of time for us to find a solution.

That is if we consider the black hole’s growth rate to be linear. If we somehow form a stable black hole with a non linear growth rate, scientists calculate that we’ll have about 4.5 to 7 minutes to say our prayers. This is exactly why some people think that the stakes for this experiment is too high. We’re betting the Earth that Hawking radiation exists and that black holes grow linearly. Both theories have never been proven or observed.

However, physicist Michio Kaku begs to differ and explains why the Large Hadron Collider will not create “killer Black Holes”:

Another danger is the formation of strangelets, or strange matter. If let loose, a strangelet will turn other ordinary matter into strange matter. This will cause a catastrophic chain reaction that will reduce our Earth into a big lump of strange matter.

Video: The Large Hadron Collider: The End Of The Universe?


Part of the 27km tunnel housing the particle accelerator. Image courtesy: BBC.co.uk.

Experiments using the LHC will no doubt enable us to understand the way particles behave and possibly unlock the secrets of the big bang. If everything goes well, in about 2 months we will know if Higgs boson particles exists. If not, I’ll see you in a black hole.


The LHC can also be used for other purposes. Source: xkcd.com

Sources: Wiki, CERN Courier, CERN, lhcdefense.org Continue reading

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

A typical plane consists of a mainplane (wing) and a tailplane (tail). This is a good design because it provides decent longitudinal stability. Conventional flight controls (ailerons, elevator and rudder) can be used. But sometimes planes are designed differently to give them an edge over conventional planes. The B2 Stealth Bomber is one of them.


The B2 Stealth Bomber.

The B2 is a flying wing. It is just made up of a wing section with no tailplane or foreplanes or a very pronounced fuselage. Everything is contained within the wing structure, like the fuel tanks, engines, bomb bays, cockpit and landing gears. Without a tail, it is pretty obvious that rudders and elevators cannot be mounted in the same way as a conventional plane. And since the tail usually provides longitudinal stability, for the B2, longitudinal stability must be achieved using other means.


Flight controls are located on the trailing edge of the wing. It needs special computers to help the pilots fly the plane and provide stability during flight.


Flight control system controlled by 4 computers.

Without conventional rudders and elevators and ailerons, controlling the B2 requires a different approach. Flight controls located on the trailing edge duplicated the functions of ailerons, elevators and rudders on conventional plane. Flaps on the wing tips were designed to open like dive brakes to help in turning, essentially doing the job of a rudder. A “beaver tail” flap provided trim for the pitch axis and helped reduce wind gust effects. Many pilots who have flown the B2 described it as being very stable in flight and they “don’t have to fight with the plane” to keep it pointing at where they want it to go.


The B2 is a heavy stealth bomber, capable of carrying a range of different weapons, including nukes.


Building of a B2 is complicated because of the different kinds of materials that gives it its stealth feature.

The wing of a plane provides most of the lift. The other sections like the fuselage and the tail does not. The B2, being a flying wing, therefore achieves greater lift and can carry more payload than any other conventional planes. It saves weight by incorporating everything into a single wing. And since it’s very streamlined, aerodynamic efficiency is very high, and that contributes to it’s weight-carrying capability. With the ability to lift 22.7 tons, this B2 can almost carry an empty Boeing 737.


Coming in for a landing.


Condensation has started to form around the plane. This can be observed when a plane is flying close to the speed of sound.


The B2 can go 11,100km without refueling. If it needs to, it can refuel mid-air.


Close-up of the flight-deck.

Here are some videos on the B2.

With it’s stealth characteristic and low observability and the capability to reach any part of the world undetected, the B2 has really proved itself as a true stealth bomber. They would really never know what hit ‘em.

Sources: Wikipedia, Globalsecurity, Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Update (7 June 2008): Apparently one crashed in February earlier this year. Video was released by the Air Force 2 days ago.

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