Science Podcasts

Naked Scientists episode

Sun, 7th Sep 2008

The Large Hadron Collider

The biggest science experiment in the world - The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, will start on September 10th.  So this week we peer inside a proton and discover how the LHC works to help scientists in the search for antimatter and the elusive 'Higgs boson'.  Plus, we unlock the genetic key to a happy marriage, explore what giant clams can reveal about our ancestors and hear why bats silence themselves to avoid traffic jams.  Plus, in Kitchen Science, Ben and Dave get dizzy with the science of spinning!

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

Full Transcript

  • 19:42 - What is a tingle down the spine?

    Why is it when Iím listening to a piece of music or watching the Olympics and a gold medal is won, why do I get tingles down my spine, goosebumps and perhaps even drawn to tears? Whatís happening biologically?

  • 23:51 - What is the LHC?

    The LHC may be the biggest particle accelerator in the world but how does it work? We spoke to Ben Allanach from the University of Cambridge to find out...

  • 32:05 - Constructing the LHC

    What does it take to create something as big as the LHC? Guy Crockford is an engineer in the control room of CERN and he helped in it's construction...

  • 40:12 - Using the LHC in Research

    The beams created by the LHC will be used by scientists from all over the world in their research. Tara Shears from the University of Liverpool is using the LHC to answer her questions about the origins of our universe...

  • 44:53 - Can my brain become too full?

    I'd like to know how much information can my brain take before I start overwriting stuff thatís already there. Is all this learning good for me or should I concentrate on learning less? I have asked this question and nobody can give me an answer.

  • 53:00 - What is the grid?

    What about this new super internet system called the grid thatís being developed to handle the level and volume of data thatís going to be coming out of the LHC?

 

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Thanks for discussing this on yesterday's show.     

Will this thing ever be switched off - perhaps in years to come?     Then we will breathe a sigh of relief!     

I thought it was switched on a few weeks ago - or was it turned on then but only starting to rev up to the "collide" on Wednesday?    I am puzzled! Lynda, Mon, 8th Sep 2008

It's a truly magnificent bit of science and engineering but what strikes me is how come the press have become obsessed with a daft idea.

We want to study interactions between perticles at very high energies . OK I accept that this is, of itself, not much of a goal.
On the other hand a few week ago the press was full of stories of people who were running round in circles to see how fast they could go or swimming through big long pools of water rather than getting out and walking briskly along the side (which would have been quicker)
They called it the Olympics.

Humans do things "just because they can". Nothing new there; some bunch of people decided to see what would happen when they crashed a couple of particles into eachother really fast. (A bit like kids playing with train sets I guess)..

Now, if we were patient we wouldn't need to build the accelerator. We would just need the detector (that's a very impressive bit of kit too).

Some of you think I have lost the plot here.
No, it's perfectly simple. We just build the detector the put a vacuum pipe above it and wait for a cosmic ray particle of the right energy to crash through our detector.
Of course that wouldn't happen very often.
We could build lots of detectors but they are very expensive.
So we decided to make our own "cosmic" ray particles.

That's all- we are copying something that nature does anyway (and we are not doing as good a job- nature works with higher energies than we can get to).
Why in the name of all that's holy did someone think that, because mankind is doing this, the result would be any different to the result of nature doing it zillions of times over the ages?

It didn't destroy the earth the last time this experiment was done, or any of the zillion times it was done before; why should it this time?
Bored chemist, Tue, 9th Sep 2008

http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/WhyLHC-en.html

Why the LHC
A few unanswered questions...
The LHC was built to help scientists to answer key unresolved questions in particle physics. The unprecedented energy it achieves may even reveal some unexpected results that no one has ever thought of!

For the past few decades, physicists have been able to describe with increasing detail the fundamental particles that make up the Universe and the interactions between them. This understanding is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particle physics, but it contains gaps and cannot tell us the whole story. To fill in the missing knowledge requires experimental data, and the next big step to achieving this is with LHC.
Andrew K Fletcher, Wed, 10th Sep 2008

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