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Current Topic: Physics

Large Hadron Collider nearly ready
Topic: Physics 7:30 am EDT, Aug  6, 2008

At The Big Picture:

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27 kilometer (17 mile) long particle accelerator straddling the border of Switzerland and France, is nearly set to begin its first particle beam tests. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is preparing for its first small tests in early August, leading to a planned full-track test in September - and the first planned particle collisions before the end of the year. The final step before starting is the chilling of the entire collider to -271.25 C (-456.25 F). Here is a collection of photographs from CERN, showing various stages of completion of the LHC and several of its larger experiments (some over seven stories tall), over the past several years.

See also:

With the Large Hadron Collider almost ready to turn on, it’s time to prepare ourselves for what it might find.

From the archive:

Colliding with nature's best-kept secrets

Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More

See also:

Scientists Ask Congress To Fund $50 Billion Science Thing

Large Hadron Collider nearly ready

Working for the Revolution
Topic: Physics 1:19 pm EDT, Oct  6, 2007

Freeman Dyson reviews Gino Segrè's "Faust in Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics."

Dyson is lukewarm about the book, but you'll love his essay. (Publishers Weekly gives the book a starred review, calling it "as informative and accessible as it is appealing.")

It is one of the ironies of history that Max Delbrück chose to study the bacteriophage, which may be the only organism simple enough to be described without invoking complementarity. The life of the phage is pure replication without metabolism. ... When Crick and Watson discovered the double helix, they loudly claimed to have discovered the basic secret of life. The discovery came as a disappointment to Delbrück. It seemed to make complementarity unnecessary. Delbrück said it was as if the behavior of the hydrogen atom had been completely explained without requiring quantum mechanics. He recognized the importance of the discovery, but sadly concluded that it proved Bohr wrong. Life was, after all, simply and cheaply explained by looking in detail at a molecular model. Deep ideas of complementarity had no place in biology.

... In the middle years of the twentieth century, this was the verdict of the majority of scientists. The historic debate over complementarity between Bohr and Einstein was over. Bohr had won in physics. Einstein had won in biology.

Now, fifty years later, this opinion is widely held by physicists, less widely by biologists. I disagree with it profoundly. In my opinion, the double helix is much too simple to be the secret of life. If DNA had been the secret of life, we should have been able to cure cancer long ago. The double helix explains replication but it does not explain metabolism. Delbrück chose to study the phage because it embodies replication without metabolism, and Crick and Watson chose to study DNA for the same reason. Replication is clean while metabolism is messy. By excluding messiness, they excluded the essence of life. The genomes of human and other creatures have now been completely mapped and the processes of replication have been thoroughly explored, but the mysteries of metabolism still remain mysteries.

Subscription required for access to full text, or pick up a copy at your local newsstand or bookseller.

Working for the Revolution

Living Cornstarch
Topic: Physics 1:14 am EST, Nov 19, 2005

Watch all of this video. It's astounding.

Living Cornstarch

On Gravity, Oreos and a Theory of Everything
Topic: Physics 9:31 am EST, Nov  1, 2005

A lot of physics is taste, discerning what is an important and a potentially soluble problem.

The fifth dimension could actually be infinite and we would not have noticed it.

Brian Greene: "Sometimes it takes an outsider to come into a field and see what is being missed, or taken for granted."

On Gravity, Oreos and a Theory of Everything

One Hundred Years of Uncertainty
Topic: Physics 9:53 am EDT, Apr  8, 2005

Brian Greene explains the quintessential example of a "paradigm shift." So don't belittle Einstein by throwing the term around willy-nilly about every Great New Business Idea With A Fabulous Value Proposition.

Physicists call 1905 Einstein's "miracle year" not because of the discovery of relativity alone, but because in that year Einstein achieved the unimaginable, writing four papers that each resulted in deep and formative changes to our understanding of the universe.

With these three papers, our view of space, time and matter was permanently changed.

So the next time you use your cellphone or laptop, pause for a moment. Recognize that even these commonplace devices rely on our greatest, yet most puzzling, scientific achievement and - as things now stand - tap into humankind's most supreme assault on the idea that reality is what we think it is.

One Hundred Years of Uncertainty

The Fly in the Cathedral
Topic: Physics 10:58 pm EST, Feb 18, 2005

This is the book that Freeman Dyson recently reviewed for The New York Review of Books. Publishers Weekly has given it a "Starred Review."

Through crisp prose, interesting analogies and ample insight, Brian Cathart makes the basics of nuclear physics accessible while demonstrating the passion scientists have for their work. Cathcart instills in the reader a sense of excitement as the nuclear age unfolds around the world.

The Fly in the Cathedral is a riveting and erudite narrative inspired by the dreams that lead the last true gentlemen scientists to the very essence of the universe: the heart of matter.

The Fly in the Cathedral

Even Einstein Had His Off Days
Topic: Physics 11:32 am EST, Jan  2, 2005

As we celebrate the Einstein Year, let's also bear in mind the fact that he was prepared to admit that he was wrong. Perhaps humility, more than anything, is the mark of true genius.

This op-ed by Simon Singh appears in the Sunday New York Times.

Even Einstein Had His Off Days

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