Super-colliding? Science Can Be So Violent!

You are, of course, following mankind’s approach ever closer (later this summer–signs and wonders from a former solar system near you!) to the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything? CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is set to rev up (to some very large percentage of the speed of light) and do unspeakable things to perfectly normal, peace loving, matter-making protons. And then what? One non-scientist humorist asks if there are better ways to get answers.

(Or if you really want the full straight scoop on what’s about to happen and why, this LA Times article is about as complete and comprehensible as a non-physics-major can handle or should need. All jocularity aside, this is a Big (Bang) Deal, kiddos–the largest and most expensive Dr. Science Chemistry Set in the history of Life, the Universe, and–well, you know.)

The whole colliding thing just seems like such a violent way of solving universal mysteries. If the proton actually does know some answers, aren’t there better ways to get them to reveal them to us? Such as:

The SuperDistractor: An underground entertainment center designed specifically with the uptight proton in mind. PlayStation, plasma screen, foosball, pool table, trampoline, high speed Internet – when the proton is embroiled in a game of Donkey Kong, it’s bound to blurt out the secret of the universe without even knowing it.

The SuperRelaxer: Like a proton spa – hot tub, sauna, lap pool, hookah. Who’s to say that a couple of protons weren’t just chilling one day and decided, hey, wouldn’t it be kinda cool to get together and form, like, a universe? Groovy. The SuperRelaxer could simulate these circumstances and allow scientists to do whatever it is that scientists do while it happened – take notes and get grants and stuff.

Waterboarding: Maybe a bit of gentle “encouragement” is all that’s needed to get the stubborn, tight-lipped proton to reveal the secret plans of the universe. True, information gathered under such circumstances is not reliable, but it is a bit more humane than colliding.

If you know the answers to any of my questions, please don’t tell me. It’ll ruin the bliss.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thanks for the links to the LA Times and to the Aspen Times articles, Fred. (Reading the LA Times was one of the real joys of the time I spent working in the LA area.) More to the point of my missive: The local university’s physics department has me hip-deep in putting out the premier issue of a newsletter for the alums of the department (yes, I plead guilty to be numbered among the alums.) Wouldn’t the snippet that you excerpt from Mr Smith’s piece be a perfect inclusion? Wow! The snippet is the more appropriate as the department has a new department head–a well-credentialed particle physicist–who is charged with building up/re-building the department.