Large Hadron Collider Still Can't Deliver
What costs billions of dollars, is always trying to destroy itself, and resides 300 feet below the Earth's surface inside a 17-mile long tube? Why the Large Hadron Collider, of course! Over 10,000 scientists and engineers have spent 14 years creating this monster machine in an attempt to find the Higgs boson particle, or, the "God particle." What does this "God particle" do? Here's the kicker: no one knows for sure! Scientists believe it is the oldest particle and finding it would be a major milestone. They also believe it would unlock many secrets of the Earth and Universe such as… again, they don't know! On top of the many years of construction put into this project, once they get it running it will no doubt take another few years to analyze all of the data produced by the LHC. Everybody seems to have a different take on this scientific experiment. Some believe it is just a big waste of money. Others believe the machine could create black holes and destroy the world. And some are just wondering why billions are being spent on finding a particle that is a complete mystery.
The LHC costs upwards of 10 billion dollars and is located on the border of France and Switzerland. This machine is made up of so many parts that every time one is fixed, another breaks. The LHC has been out of service since September of last year and is scheduled to begin running again at the end of this month. The poor machine, however, just can't seem to catch a break. A few of the 1200 magnets, which each weigh 35 tons and are 50 feet long, have been demagnetized and must be repaired. More recently, a piece of bread dropped onto the outdoor machinery by a passing bird has caused considerable damage. Freak accidents like this continue to cause the deferment of starting this machine up again.
As for those who believe the world will be destroyed by the LHC, you can rest easy… for now. While the machine does have the potential to create microscopic black holes as well as vacuum bubbles, strangelets, which are fragments of strange matter, and magnetic monopoles, the likelihood is slim. Even if a microscopic black hole was created, its impact would be at such a slow rate that the Earth would still survive billions of years without anyone the wiser. There are also other colliders, such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in New York, that have run without destroying the world. Add on the fact the LHC breaks down every so often and we could be looking at another year or five of repairs.
What about radiation? How would someone be effected if they were to stand inside the LHC when it was charged up? Realistically, security is so tight that this would likely never happen, but what if? It's likely that the radiation would barely hit you, and if it did, it would be about as much as a CT scan, according to Popular Science Magazine. However if the scientists lost control of the beam and you were anywhere near it, around 320 trillion protons would be zooming at you and it would feel like a 400-ton train was hitting you at about 95 mph. If you were to position yourself directly in front of the beam, "it would burn a whole right through you," as reported by Popular Science Magazine.
So, while the Large Hadron Collider has its positives and negatives, is it worth the billions that have been pumped into it? The jury is still out with physicists. Some who have been working on the project are now abandoning it for a while to work on a rival collider, while others stick by it and continue working. Peter Limon, a physicist who helped build the LHC, said, "These are baby problems." While others, like Nima Arkani-Hamed, who has said, "I want it to get up running. We can't tolerate another disaster," are obviously fed up with the problems the LHC is having.
One physicist, Pauline Gagnon, stated something we can all agree on: "The public pays for this and we need to start delivering."