filed in Science on Sep.10, 2008
Because, if one were able to, it would suck its eyeballs backward into its body, resulting in a vacuum style loss of pressure in its eye sockets that would offset the balance of atmospheric pressure around the globe. This simple, TINY event would set in motion a chain of similar tiny events in turn creating a snowball (metaphoric) of catastrophic proportion, the conclusion, of which, would be the earth, surrounding solar system and entire galaxy (of course, followed by the universe) “winking” out of existence instantaneously, being replaced by a black hole. And, it’s a scientific fact that, when this happens, the only sound that one could hear (if one were still in existence TO hear) would be a single “ribbit.”
I don’t know about you, but if I were to be winked out of existence, I’m pretty sure being swallowed by a black hole would be the most agreeable method. One second you’re matter, and then “poof” you’re anti-matter…or, really tightly packed matter…or, zipping through alternate levels of the universe what scientists call a “worm hole.” Worms holes are like the tubes at the bank, only you’re that funny cylinder that whooshes away from your car. (And, like at the bank, you want to make sure your loose change is tightly stowed before a foosh through a worm hole…trust me.)
This morning, on the Swiss-French border, physicists (a type of scientist–the name comes from Greek origins and means “observer of the stuff smashing into other stuff) from around the world waited eagerly (some for two decades (that’s over 50 years for any of you that struggle with math and want to punch Albert Einstein for inventing it)) for the first test run of the LHC (or, Large Hadron Collider). The potential for this machine might show them what existed billionths of a second after the big bang. The first tests include shooting sub-atomic particles (protons) around the 17-mile track buried in the earth. Supposedly, they have the ability to send these guys wizzing around the track almost 11,000 times a second…that’s approaching light speed. (Electrons, other sub-atomic particles, are the orbital pieces of atoms. If it helps to picture them like little lighting bolts, please do. They circle the nucleus of an atom (comprised of neutrons and protons) 15 billion times a second. They’re the original Lance Armstrong. It’s kinda like seeing light speed at the atomic level.)
Then, after testing the LHC by sending protons in both directions, they’ll start sending them in both directions at the same time, forcing them to collide. Kind of reminds me of that question, “If you’re driving at the speed of light, what happens when you turn on the headlights?” Only this time, they’re not accelerating the protons from each other near the speed of light, they’re crashing them into each other.
Not big bang, like we think happened 15 (ish) billion years ago, but little bang (no crass humor from me on this one…at least, not printed, this is a family community). This little bang might show them (the physicists) what kind of goo came flying out of the big bang. If they can determine that, they say they can more definitively conclude how the universe was created.
I’m not a scientist, but I’m just as curious as the rest. Some speculate a huge breakthrough. Others criticize the machine and the effort as a gigantic waste of money (in the billions). Doomsdayers think that the machine, running balls to the …er…full steam ahead, has the power to create a marble sized black hole that will, not unlike a Dyson vacuum cleaner, suck the earth and everything around it through a HEPA filter and into oblivion (or, worse, drop us at the business end of some cosmic worm-hole). The physicists say that if anything goes wrong, the only thing that will be in danger is the machine as the beam will likely just shoot into the rock surrounding the tunnel.
So much for drama.
But, if they know what could happen if something goes wrong, why are they spending time building this machine to do something that none of them really understand? They can predict what will happen if the machine malfunctions, but they’re all eagerly awaiting some huge surprise that might happen when the machine functions? Huh?
What if, and this is a big what if, the original Big Bang was the successful end to physicists trying to recreate another original Big Bang? What if we’re on a 14 (ish) billion year cycle and this is our scientific glass ceiling? Of course, I don’t believe that, but, it sets up one hell of a story, right?
And, now, the really fundamental question: when is one of these physicists going to try using this proton accelerator to shoot something else? When will it be available in hand-gun size? You think two protons smashing into each other near the speed of light is illuminating, try shooting a Dr. Pepper can off a fence post 60 feet away. What kind of bang would that be?
While the world is watching, waiting for the beginning of the end to take place in Switzerland, cows around the world are releasing more greenhouse gasses (methane, CO2, etc) into the atmosphere than all the cars, planes, boats, lawn mowers and politicians combined. I love beef, and I’m not about to sacrifice my love of tenderloin (don’t think about where tender loins come from) to help reduce my carbon footprint. If we can re-create the immediate after-effects of the Big Bang, why can’t we harness methane escaping bovines world-wide? (Escape is one of the many PC versions of the word “fart.” Other PC synonyms include “cut the mustard,” “squeeze the duck,” “release the hounds,” “liftoff,” “getting ready to unload the truck,” and several others I can share if anyone is curious.) Gasoline and methane, though in different forms, share many of the same combustion properties. Until we can really grab significant energy from geo-thermal, solar or wind power, I think we should seriously consider the efficiency (and comedy) of cars that go “pthbthbthbthb.”
Both heifer release and subatomic particle acceleration/collision have the potential to adversely affect our quality of life on Earth. When you realize the air is getting more and more flammable and you start to feel gravity’s pull more substantially, you can’t argue that we’re not living in exciting times.
Whether it’s the combustion of cow farts or protons smashing at nearly twice the speed of light, bring on the bang!