LHC – It’s the end of the world as we know it

These pictures of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN are awe-inspiring, but also make me a bit sad. It’s depressing to think that Big Science like this can’t be done in the US anymore. Or rather, won’t be done.

these are just a few of the amazing photos available. For captions, and many more, check out the original link.

I visited Fermilab as a kid and then actually worked on some hardware for an experiment there as a summer student in college at UW. I don’t know much about particle physics but I do know that every square foot of those massive, intricate assemblies is the product of some grad student’s or researcher’s life work. It’s humbling to think of the intellectual capital invested in this machine, built to answer what amount to such fundamental, even basic questions.

I had a similar reaction when I visited the Saturn V on the grounds of the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake, TX. That was once functioning hardware; had there been the money, it could have flown to the moon. Instead it rusts in a placid Texas field.

It occurs to me that I’ve never seen the equal of these pictures of the LHC in any science fiction, on TV or film. Nothing in the imagination of our storytellers has equaled the sheer complexity and power of the simple photos here.

2 thoughts on “LHC – It’s the end of the world as we know it”

  1. Hubble and Cassini were largish science, but keep in mind that those were single satellites. The ATLAS and ALICE experiments are on a different scale entirely. From the link, look at the picture of the ATLAS toroidal end-cap, or the ALICE detector, and consider that these are just pieces of the whole. I’ve seen comparable hardware at Fermilab in person, and I’ve also stood next to the Huygens probe of Cassini while visiting JPL, and the two are just not comparable in scope. Also keep in mind that Cassini launched 11 years ago, and Hubble 18 years ago.

    There are only three comparable projects to LHC/CERN in US history: the Manhattan project, the Apollo project, and the Superconducting Super Collider. That’s 70 years ago, 50 years ago, and never, respectively. You could argue that the ISS is also the same scale, but that’s not exclusively ours.

    Do I think we can do Big Science on this scale in the US? yes, absolutely, which is exactly why I am so bothered by thefact that we aren’t – not for lack of capability, but lack of will.

    Read this about the SSC and what could have been: http://tinyurl.com/pr822

    and keep in mind that the SSC had a proposed energy of 30 TeV per beam, compared to the 7 TeV for the LHC.

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