[Previously on Reassembler: Dorigo’s fantastic chess sacrifice and subsequent analytical exchange drew my attention to the world of particle physics.]
In particle physics, it seems that all roads lead to Switzerland and CERN, home of the forthcoming Large Hadron Collider, a vast buried high-tech ring of concrete and steel used for smashing tiny bits into each other to see what happens. CERN is near Geneva; the LHC ring (pictured) actually crosses the border and much of its 17-mile circumference lies in France.
The LHC should be up and running in 08. Many physicists are hoping that LHC experiments will help prove or disprove the existence of the so-called God particle (more formally known as the Higgs boson particle) which is believed to bestow mass on all other particles. It’s apparently a kind of missing link in theoretical physics right now.
Interesting stuff. But the culture (not just the science) of that endeavor is also quite fascinating. Here’s a well-done ’05 article from Symmetry Magazine about the nature and the sociological challenges of collaboration on four proposed massive research projects that will use the LHC. (Theoretical physicists aren’t all one big happy family: See this, and this.)
Incidentally, Symmetry is “a magazine about particle physics and its connections to other aspects of life and science, from interdisciplinary collaborations to policy to culture” and it looks very accessible to the layman. I think I’ll tuck into their feature on Dark Energy next.
* Any actual physicists who’d like to correct or contest anything in this post, please do.