Monday, November 30, 2009

The Large Hadron Collider – Watch Out – Are you crazy?!?

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Today’s Blog Post

The Large Hadron Collider – Watch Out – Are you crazy?!?
I would like to Whiz you back between 51 to 52 years to my very first Physics Class in Central Collegiate in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Chemistry Teacher was drawing something on the board that fascinated me. It was my first Atom. I was following him by drawing what he drew in my note book.

Then he said, “Everything that exists is made up of this Atom… you, me, your desk, your pen, this school, the earth, the sky…everything. And the Atom is made up of different pieces, one is the nucleus, one is the electron. Some Atoms have many electrons… others have few. The Atoms are joined together to make Molecules. Each Molecule is uniquely different from all the rest. Each unique Molecule makes up the elements that exist around us…”

I trail off his lecture at this point or I will lose you… the way that he lost most of the class that day 50+ years ago.

But then he said something that made the whole class groan. Pointing to the Elements Chart that he pulled down over the Black Board he said, “Before this class is ended you will know all of these Elements.” There from the top left side of the chart to the bottom right were 100+ squares with many numbers in them and Letters in them, H, He, Li, Be, all the way to the U-s…

The challenge was great…but we did what he suggested we could do. We were the future scientists and designers of the future.

Men and women before us had created unbelievable things like the Atomic Bomb that had helped end the war when we were little.

We also went into the Lab and did experiments with these Elements. We learned what happened when you put certain elements together and the reaction that took place… poof… sizzle… pop…. BANG! The smoke and sparks that flew were positively exciting. I couldn’t wait for the Chem Lab happenings.

One day one of my class mates was mixing two chemicals together when the teacher approached his desk. The Teacher asked what he had in the crucible. The student stumbled a little and offered a weak answer. To which the Teacher then erupted in displeasure… “You have to watch out! Are you crazy? Don’t you know what happens when you put dangerous things together and then add the final chemical!? You could kill us all!”

The teacher pushed the student aside as we all watched… and then he applied a tiny drop of acid and jumped backwards. The purple coloured mixed chemical in the crucible was only about the amount that would fill a half teaspoon.

The chemical suddenly burst into flames that rose to a height of three feet and filled the room with white smoke. He quickly opened the windows and let the smoke out.

(Note: This happened 50+ years ago before smoke alarms, high insurance costs, and law suits.)

Within a day or so after that the police came one morning. One of our fellow student’s desk was empty that day. It was the boy that had mixed the chemicals that had exploded in the ball of fire. The night before he had died at home while mixing more chemicals. Everything had exploded and killed him instantly. Apparently he had been making rocket fuel with the small amount of stolen chemicals from the School Chem Lab.

He didn’t quite consider all the possible side effects of what he was doing.

That was long ago…but I have never forgotten what could happen when something went terribly wrong.

(However it didn’t stop us from making homemade bombs – but that is another story.)

Whiz forward to now…
This morning I read more about the LHC that the wizards are testing near Geneva, Switzerland at this very moment.

The LHC is the “Large Hadron Collider” that is 27 kilometers in length – actually a circle… built underground… and operated under tight controls.

(You can read the link below referring to an article written by Matt Hart from The Star.)

The LHC and these dear folk under ground are about to create a small version of the “Big Bang” that some folk say actually started the creation that we know… and others in the theological world have added this as a possible method that God used to make us all… with a million other theories following all of this.

As I read the story and explanation of this new LHC and the firing up of this 27 Km Monster below ground… the words of my Old Chemistry Teacher came back suddenly…
“You have to watch out! Are you crazy? Don’t you know what happens when you put dangerous things together and then add the final chemical!? You could kill us all!”

The LHC will drive Protons against each other at just a little less than the speed of light… to cause an explosion inside the large LHC…

The scientists admit that they DO NOT KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN when the Protons collide.

With my vivid 50+ year memory in place… I can see a divided Switzerland when some one throws the switch… or could they be dividing the entire world?

Knowing what our class was like… that one big ball of fire in that Chem Lab the fateful day… was enough to encourage the rest of us to try something a little bigger and better – even though a friend had died.

Now at 65 years old… I see things a little different. I don’t want to Blow up the Chem Lab… or my neighborhood. I have had enough of Big Bangs around me. I can’t hear properly today – because of what I did back then.

It just seems proper to stand up and shout loudly… “Watch Out! Are you crazy!?! You are going to kill all of us.”

Theologically… we have always talked about a “Rapture” taking place… where people on earth will be taken up to meet their maker in the air.

The LHC may give the word “Rapture” a whole different meaning and possibility… we will no just go up to meet our Maker… the LHC will Blow US Up to meet him… BANG!

Yikes… that wasn’t the way that I was looking for it to happen!

~ Murray Lincoln ~



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