Archive | May 2011

Large Hadron Collider smashes another record

About a month ago, the LHC had set a previous record of 10 million collisions a second – this is now up ten-fold.

For those who don’t know any physics (shame on you :p ), the whole purpose of the LHC is to smash together hadrons, or subatomic particles that are made of quarks and are affected by the strong nuclear force. The strong nuclear force is the strongest of all the fundamental forces (SNF, electromagnetic force, weak nuclear force and gravity), but it only acts over distances on the order of 10^-15 metres, which is approximately the size of the nucleus. One of the hopes of the LHC is that the Higgs Boson, which is postulated to give objects mass, will be detected somewhere – by which they mean they need at least 15 detections. However, this is not it’s only purpose.
One other purpose is to try and figure out why gravity is so much weaker than the other forces: if the SNF is taken to have a relative strength of 1, the electromagnetic force has a relative strength of 1/137, the WNF is about 1/10^6 (one millionth), but gravity is 6*10^-39! That’s 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000006 of the strength of the SNF! And yet, gravity is the only force that scales up to the macroscopic world we’re all familiar with. Despite this, the particle that’s supposed to carry it, the graviton, has not yet been found. Well, I guess that’s something either the LHC or Fermilab might find.

WTF is wrong with some people!?!

WARNING: This is a bit of a rant.

For nearly two years, I’ve been taking part on a web forum dedicated to busting myths – the official forum for MythBusters on the Discovery Channel Website. And the sheer stupidity and lack of critical thinking that shows up there is just unbelievable at times. A topic comes up that some basic knowledge of science and critical thought will tell you is rubbish, and even after they test it, some complete idiots come up and insist they tested it incorrectly.

A case in point would be Running On Water: a viral ad for some “high-tech” running shoes. How do they do this? By running on a clear plastic plank and carefully using camera angles. In fact, Adam Savage admitted that they knew it was faked BEFORE they even tested it.
Despite this, some complete fucking idiots have shown up on the boards insisting it was done incorrectly. They gave reasons such as:
“They need a much shorter, lighter person with big feet”
“When they were right at the edge of the water they basically ‘jumped’ into the water”
“I think the water they ran on had less salinity than the water from the video”
“Watch the video again – they take smaller steps as they get closer to the water and lower their centre of gravity”.

For fucks’ sake: what is wrong with some people? Even after it was revealed as a viral ad, they still believe it’s possible. In a strange coincidence, UrbanDictionary’s Word Of The Day for today is “reality challenged”. It doesn’t go far enough, I think!

Trombone’s shockwaves caught on film

I know some people will like this:the shockwaves from a trombone have been caught on film. It seems that the waves can travel about 1% faster than the speed of sound, or about 347m/s.
Next question: how much damage does this do to the hearing of anyone who’s sitting in front of the trombone? Any volunteers to test this?

N00b3ry For Dummies

I made this a while ago and thought I’d share it here. For the record, I based it on this image. And if you don’t know what a noob is: here’s UrbanDictionary’s definitions.

They always do this

The thing that really pisses me off about end-of-the-world predictions is that when they fail, as they always do, the people who made the predictions just change the dates, i.e. move the goalposts. Once again, that is the case with the latest prediction of the end of the world.

And people will still be following this guy even after this. When will we have a power source that can turn human gullibity into energy?

Actually, I know why it didn’t occur: we didn’t have some fitting music to go with it!

No Internship for me :(

I applied for an internship in the College of Science a few weeks ago, and I got a reply yesterday. There was a lot of competition, and not enough funding to go around – added to which, I got an F in Electrical Systems and Signals last semester. So now I’ll probably be back in Italy for most of the summer. Oh well…I’ll have this to keep my mind off things.

Are we in a sci-fi future?

While browsing around on the BBC, I came acrossthis article on the predictions of science-fiction compared with reality. Personally, I wonder how people in (for example) the 1920s or 30s might have reacted to me typing this post – or talking on a mobile. Some of the basic ideas behind how my computer works were already understood by then – electricity and the electromagnetic spectrum – but there was still a long way to go. Quantum mechanics was still being developed and baffling scientists (Niels Bohr famously remarked that anyone who isn’t shocked by it doesn’t understand it – it is that strange), and nanotechnology hadn’t been invented, not even as a term – as a concept, it wasn’t invented until 1959 by Richard Feynman, and the term wasn’t coined until 1974 by Norio Tanaguchi.
As for flying cars or jetpacks, I personally think they are a Bad Idea, unless you want some idiot flying into the side of your house because they’re texting or drunk or both. Plus, add the extra kinetic energy into the crash, and you have a potential catastrophe just waiting to happen. And there is also the problem of fuel storage and how to get the things into the air – jetpacks have only room for a few seconds worth of the stuff, after which Newton’s Law of Gravitation kicks in. I know that I wouldn’t be getting in one of those any time soon!