Large Hadron Collider - A $10 Billion Metal Donut That Can Annihilate The Galaxy
By now virtually everyone on this planet has heard of the Large Hadron Collider. This particle accelerator is the single most powerful experimental machine ever built in the history of nuclear physics: an enormous ring shaped mechanism with a circumference of approximately 17 miles or 27 kilometres... which is the distance from Battery Park to Yonkers!
Picture this, if you can: A huge underground tunnel dug in the rocks beneath the Alps near Geneva, Switzerland at a point close to the border which Switzerland shares with France. Inside this tunnel is a gigantic 27 kilometre circumference metallic donut filled with what is essentially whopping electro magnets. Physicists fire off subatomic particles into this donut, the electro magnets accelerate them to around the speed of light and then they collide them into other subatomic particles. The result of these head on collisions is the creation of different kinds of particles which the physicists then measure and place into the Official List Of Particles To Be Mentioned By Sheldon On CBS' The Big Bang Theory Next Week.
The amount of electricity which the Large Hadron Collider consumes is roughly equivalent to the entire electrical use of the nearly one million people of the entire nearby city of Geneva, Switzerland. So far the costs to build this humongous donut have exceeded 6 billion Euros or 10 billion dollars. This works out to well over $100,000 per foot. So on your pleasant little stroll from Battery Park to Yonkers, every step you take costs around a quarter of a million dollars. It is particularly interesting to note at a time of global recession that the expenditures of the physics experiments in the Large Hadron Collider seem to have no end in sight.
CERN is the French initials for the European Nuclear Research Council, and it is a physics organization based in Europe that runs and manages the Large Hadron Collider. It is important to note that the vast majority of the funds used to build and operate the Large Hadron Collider come from taxpayer money, since CERN receives its finances by the funds contributed to it by 20 member states in the European community.
Interestingly CERN has been given a status of supra national entity therefore it is effectively immune to the laws which even the Parliament of the European community, the very owners of CERN, have to live under.
So what are these Overlords of Physics doing with all this money and power? Well... let's just take one example of a single one of the various proton beams which the Large Hadron Collider will be utilizing. They will accelerate this beam to a velocity which is close to the speed of light and then it would be directed into a head-on collision with a source of protons. Boom! The energy released would be that of a European bullet train travelling at over 100 mph. CERN itself has calculated that the energy released just from this one experiment could smash a hole 100 feet deep into solid copper. All in search of the elusive Higgs Boson or God Particle as it is, theoretically at least, the originator of all the mass in the universe.