Large Hadron Collider – physics teachers take note

I read an article today in a newspaper (I was at my in-laws house, where no internet exists and all information is relayed in newsprint or from TV services!) about the Large Hadron Collider, an incredible engineering feat that is going to be switched on this Wednesday. According to this article, we all better be making the most of the next few days because they could be our last.  

I’ve read a bit about it since, and I’m not even going to pretend that I fully understand what it’s purpose is. My limited knowledge can tell you that scientists are trying to gain a greater understanding of the origins of the universe by pinpointing particles of Dark Matter which are thought to permeate the universe. The article that I read today suggested that switching it on could result in earth being sucked into a giant black hole instantaneously. Cheery stuff really. Other news reports are saying there is nothing to fear. in an article titled ‘Wednesday not doomsday’, reports this about what will happen on Wednesday;

The LHC, installed in a 27-kilometre (16.9-mile) tunnel on the French-Swiss border, is to start unleashing a beam of protons next Wednesday in the first stage of its commissioning process.

Two parallel beams of particles, one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise, will blast around the underground ring.

At four locations on the ring, superconducting magnets will bend the beams so that groups of protons smash into each other in a giant chamber which is swathed with detectors to record the resulting sub-atomic debris.

It goes on to say we have nothing to fear;

The new Safety Assessment Report says that any black holes produced by the collider would be “microscopic” and decay almost immediately, as they would lack the energy to grow or even be sustained.

“Each collision of a pair of protons in the LHC will release an amount of energy comparable to that of two colliding mosquitoes, so any black hole produced would be much smaller than those known to astrophysicists,” it says.

I’ll be interested to see the media coverage that results on Wednesday, assuming we’re all around still to be taking notice! What’s also interesting is this LHC Rap that has been posted on YouTube explaining what the Large Hadron Collider is all about. Kate McAlpine put this together – I think Physics teachers around the world should be sending her thank you notes for doing this. What a great way to transfer meaning about what to me is a complicated idea. It makes me think that this would be a great activity for students to do – explain a process as a rap, act it out and post it to YouTube. Share it with the world and help students everywhere gain understanding of concepts and enjoy it at the same time. 

When I was searching for information for this post I used Silobreaker, a search engine with a focus on news results. Great returns, interesting layout with lots of visuals; well worth adding to your list of alternative search engines to use.