Tuesday, September 09, 2008

LHC startup - links only

I'm afraid that things are simply too busy for me to justify a full writeup, the length of which the LHC deserves, so I shall just jot down some thoughts for now and link to the best places to get information on tomorrow's start-up.

Tomorrow is not that day of first collisions, that will come presumably in a few weeks time. Tomorrow is the first day of full circulation of protons within the beam pipe. This is a technological milestone, and a hugely important day for the progress of the machine, but not a special day for scientific discoveries.

The LHC is the largest, most complex machine ever built to discover what happens on the smallest, most basic level of nature - somehow this seems rather perverse, but that's the way the world works, and this is how we've learnt to probe the forces that govern the universe, and the matter which lies within it. The LHC is a feat of engineering, technological and political marvels, and the fact that it is already many, many years behind its original startup date does not detract from the fact that it is an incredible human achievement...and tomorrow we discover whether or not they correctly connected the starter motor. In fact tomorrow they will be discovering many new things about this machine which cannot be known until protons are running through it.

Having spent some time myself at Babar, a particle accelerator at SLAC, in Stanford, and spent many many hours in the control room, watching over the histograms, and seeing the engineers lose the beam over and over again (this isn't a criticism, it's a comment on how difficult the job is, even for a well-established machine), I won't be too surprised/dissapointed if tomorrow things do not go off to a perfectly smooth start straight away. If it takes hours/days or even weeks to correctly get the proton beams circulating, it wouldn't be that incredible, but I look forward to seeing what happens tomorrow nonetheless.

Anyway, tomorrow I will be keeping up with the progress in the morning through various sources. You can find many good links from:

A quantum diaries survivor
Cosmic Variance, who will be live-blogging the events
The US LHC blog

Of course, the CERN/LHC webpage
Including the live webcast
Twitter on CERN, or indeed CERN on Twitter - I've never looked at Twitter, being already deluged with too much information, but it seems that for up to the minute events, this is probably useful.
Also check out the TED website for some more information.

OK, that'll do for now. Enjoy!

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