Hadron Collider: Big Bang and Earth is bye-bye or a slow day online?

8 Sep 2008

Large Hadron Collider video

This Wednesday, particles will whiz around a 17-mile tunnel 11,200 times before smashing into each other. While there are fears that this could bring about the end of the world through another Big Bang, one thing’s for sure, it will really test the limits of cyberspace as we know it.

It always returns to CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), where thousands of scientists from around the world will focus their attentions on the slamming together of particles to recreate the Big Bang theory and get an insight into nature, as well as marking the next stage of the internet’s development.

On Wednesday, an experiment will be performed that will not only redefine our understanding of physics and energy but also test the very limits of cyberspace. While some harbingers of doom have been fearing a Big Bang could create an Earth-consuming black hole, another question may be an internet meltdown.

From a 17-mile tunnel located 300 feet underground beneath Switzerland and France, the massive Hadron Collider will slam together particles to find the elusive Higgs Boson, or ‘God Particle’.

This could confirm the predictions and missing links in the Standard Model of particle physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest particle acceleratometer complex, intended to collide opposing beams of 7 TeV protons.

CERN has the backing of 20 European member states and is currently the workplace of approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers representing 500 universities and 80 nationalities.

The main site at Mevrin also has a large computer centre containing very powerful data processing facilities primarily for experimental data analysis, and because of the need to make them available to researchers elsewhere, has historically been – and continues to be – a major wide area networking hub.

It was here that Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web and, appropriately enough, it could be the site where the next phase of the internet might be reborn. The Big Bang Theory meets the Big Cloud theory as thousands of scientists around the world will be on standby to start processing the data.

Around 300 data centres in 50 countries have been networked together into a kind of grid to begin processing the data as soon as the Hadron Collider gets to work.

It is believed the biggest concentration is the 80,000 PCs in a server farm at CERN.

It is understood that the Hadron Collider already generated 15 billion gigabytes of data each year.

However, the doomsayers aren’t confined to strange men with placards reading ‘The end is nigh’ and again the internet has been used by these people to raise fears that the Hadron Collider experiment will bring about the end of the world.

They fear that the experiment this Wednesday could result in energies being developed which are so powerful that a runaway Black Hole will be created that could consume the Earth.

Hawaii-based Walter L Wagner and Luis Sancho have already been to court in a failed attempt to get the Hadron Collider tests stopped on the basis of the lack of an environmental impact statement.

On Friday, CERN even went as far to try and allay fears that the Hadron Collider test will be safe.

“The LHC will enable us to study in detail what nature is doing all around us,” said CERN director general, Robert Aymar. “The LHC is safe, and any suggestion that it might present a risk is pure fiction.”

The organisation said safety has been an integral part of the LHC project since its inception in 1994, and the project has been subject to numerous audits covering all aspects of safety and environmental impact.

A comprehensive report by independent scientists addressing safety issues related to the production of new particles at the LHC was presented to CERN’s governing body, the CERN Council, in 2003. It concluded that the LHC is safe.

This report was updated and its conclusions strengthened in a new report incorporating recent experimental and observational data that was presented to council at its most recent meeting in June 2008.

It has also been reported that some scientists working for CERN have been receiving harassing emails and text messages and even death threats over fears that their plan to send particles running at 11,200 times a second before smashing into each other could bring about the end of the world.

Or possibly the worst that can happen will be a few net addicts might find the going slow on Wednesday. That said, it could be the end of their world, for a little while. We’ll wait and see.

By John Kennedy

Large Hadron Collider video

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years