Live-Blogging the LHC Startup!

By Sean Carroll | September 9, 2008 11:25 am

9:20 am Pacific Time: Let’s be clear. Tonight’s start-up is a symbolic event, not a physics event; as I understand it, the beam will only be circulating in one direction, so there won’t even be any collisions. Still, it’s a very important symbolic event! The first time the beam goes through the entire machine. So, just for fun, here will be a running commentary throughout the day, with links and musings and all that makes the blogosphere special. Co-bloggers are welcome to chime in, and any particle physicists out there who want to say something about the LHC are welcome to comment or email.

9:45 am (Pacific), Sean: Feel free, in the comments, to make predictions about what the LHC will discover (ultimately, not today). Here are mine. Crackpots not welcome. And seriously, folks — black-hole/world-ending jokes are only funny the first million times.

1:14pm (EST), Mark: Here at Cornell there’s going to be a public forum this evening with refreshments, chats with physicists, two talks (by Yuval Grossman and Peter Wittich) and with various instruments and components of the detector on display.

10:26am (PDT), JoAnne: Actually, it is the end of the world as we know it. I will never again have to write a paper detailing the signatures of some crazy new Terrascale theory, wondering if there is any chance of connection to reality. I will never again have to plot a cross section as a function of the Higgs mass. In fact, I will never again have to do a loop over the Higgs mass in a code. I will never again wonder how electroweak symmetry is broken, how the hierarchy between the electroweak and gravity fundamental scales is maintained, whether there is a WIMP dark matter particle, or whether supersymmetry or extra spatial dimensions actually exist. Fundamental questions and roadblocks that have plagued us for literally decades will finally be answered and we will at last be able to move forward instead of spinning our wheels. Yes, indeed, the world will be truly different.

10:47am (Pacific), Sean: Of course we are not the only blog covering this. The US/LHC Blogs have lots of information, and Tommaso Dorigo offers some inside scoop. There is also main CERN page for the event, and one for press releases.

12:02pm (Pacific), Sean: The real excitement of the LHC startup is, of course, that it’s an excuse to party. Mike in comments already mentioned the Fermilab pajama party. Here at Caltech, where it’s not quite so ridiculously late at night, we’re having pizza and beer. And (for the wimps who can’t stay up), a lunch BBQ tomorrow. Everyone should feel free to put together their own party! Suggested soundtrack. (Dammit, I’m violating my own rules.)

12:54pm (Pacific), Sean: I’ve asked some experts to chime in. Here is Gordy Kane, University of Michigan:

The Standard Model(s) of particle physics and cosmology are wonderful established descriptions of the world we see. They leave out a lot we would like to understand, from dark matter and the matter asymmetry of the universe, to WHY the forces and particles (quarks and leptons) are what they are. LHC won’t tell us much more about the world we see and how it is made, but the discoveries there will point the way to “WHY”. It’s a WHY machine.

The discovery that makes sense is supersymmetry, i.e. the superpartners of some of the Standard Model particles. There’s a lot of indirect phenomenological evidence that indeed some superpartners will be seen at LHC, such as the unification of the forces at very short distances, the absence of large new effects at the LEP and Tevatron colliders, and the very good indirect evidence for a light Higgs boson. A supersymmetric world is also one where we can understand how the electroweak symmetry is broken and how the matter asymmetry arises, and it has a dark matter candidate. I estimate ten or twenty gluinos and a lot of Higgs bosons will be produced in October this year (but not seen unless we are very lucky about the decay signatures). IF the LHC indeed establishes the world is supersymmetric, there is a great bonus – we can write string theories at the Planck scale where the laws of nature should be written and calculate predictions for LHC experiments and dark matter from them, and we can extrapolate data from LHC and dark matter experiments to the Planck scale to see what theories are suggested. Without that window we might never learn the underlying theory from which everything emerges.

It’s very lucky that our technologies and our society allowed us to afford and to build the LHC to study nature so deeply (another anthropic idea?). It’s very unlikely (because of technological and financial and cultural limits) that we can ever have a further facility to extend this study, so we’re very lucky that a framework like string theory has emerged, one that addresses all the basic questions, at the same time we may be able to get from LHC the data that can test and establish it.

1:24 pm (PDT), JoAnne: The History Channel (US cable TV) is airing
The Next Big Bang at 8 PM this evening. The show details our expectations for the LHC and features David E. Kaplan of Johns Hopkins as well as many other of your favorite physicists, so don’t forget to tune in!

1:58pm (Pacific), Sean: Ph.D. Comics weighs in.

6:53pm (EST), Mark: BBC World News America, starting in a few minutes on the East coast, and repeated later, will have a piece on the LHC.

4:05pm (Pacific), Sean: Prize for the best paper title goes to Mihoko Nojiri, arXiv:0809.1209.

The Night before the LHC
Authors: Mihoko M. Nojiri

Abstract: I review recent developments on the use of mT2 variables for SUSY parameter study, which might be useful for the data analysis in the early stage of the LHC experiments. I also review some of recent interesting studies. Talk in SUSY08.

4:25pm (Pacific), Sean: There will be a live webcast from CERN beginning at 11pm Pacific, with the actual beam scheduled for half an hour later. But right now you can click the link, and listen to a pre-packaged CERN video. You can also watch the startup on EVO, if you know what that means (or care to learn).

4:50 pm (PDT), JoAnne: Yours truly has just been recruited for a 5 minute live radio interview on KCSB (the station is on the UC Santa Barbara campus) at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I guess David Gross has the good sense to be asleep at that hour! In any case, I’ll be sure to drink some coffee first, lest I spew some gibberish on blackholes.

6:55pm (Pacific), Sean: Sorry, the “live” blogging took a hiatus while I was talking to Hal Eisner, a TV reporter (“extraordinaire,” he asks me to add) from the local Fox affiliate. He, quite rightly, was hectoring me mercilessly in an attempt to explain the purpose of the LHC at a level accessible to six-year-olds. (He also tried very hard to get me to say “God particle,” which I mostly resisted.)

What is the purpose? It’s to discover the laws of nature, of course, or at least extend our knowledge of them. But that doesn’t always quite cut it for people. I think it would suffice to the aformentioned six-year-old; kids are naturally curious, but adults have it beaten out of them by a relentlessly pragmatic world. Among other things, the LHC represents a tremendous triumph of the basic inquisitiveness of the human species.

7:20 pm (PDT), JoAnne: There’s a host of First Beam Day activities planned for tomorrow across the US. Check the listings for an event near you. Here in SF Bay area, swissnex, the annex of the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, is throwing a party tomorrow night in coordination with SLAC and LBNL. Much fun will be had by all!

7:53pm (Pacific), Sean: If you’re wondering whether the Large Hadron Collider has destroyed the world yet, see here.

If you’re wondering whether physics is more or less tawdry than politics, see here.

8:17pm (Pacific), Sean: The right response to end-of-the-world chatter is to change the subject — it’s just crackpottery, not a legitimate scientific debate. But damn, you have to be impressed with the vigor of the meme. Far and away the first thing that comes to mind when a person on the street hears “giant atom-smasher in Switzerland” is “might destroy the world.” How do we combat that? What is the one idea we would like to pop into people’s minds when they hear that phrase, and how do we get it there?

11:52pm (EST), Mark: Gotta sleep, but will try to tune into BBC Radio 4’s Big Bang Day when I wake up!

9:26pm (Pacific), Sean: Reporting now from the High Energy Physics conference room here at Caltech. In an hour and a half we’ll open a live feed to our colleagues at CERN, who will be updating us on what happens. Of course, the best answer is simply “all systems nominal.” The only way a detector will actually see anything (as I understand it) is if the beam is not focused perfectly from the start, which is perfectly possible. If the beam is well-behaved, it will just zip through.

But of course, there are many steps along the way, and “first protons circumnavigating the accelerator” is as good a “turn on” event as any. Folks in the know have assured me that CERN will not be hosting multiple “trust us, this is the real start” events — this is it.

9:48 pm (PDT), JoAnne:
From looking at our comments, it’s clear that some folks are still genuinely frightened by the LHC. This should not have happened. The LHC is one of the most exciting scientific journeys in our lifetimes! We should all watch it in wonder and be amazed at its discoveries.

Many a thoughtful, carefully analyzed and written scientific treatise has appeared which thoroughly disproves the claim that the LHC will destroy the Earth. But these aren’t published or mentioned or taken seriously by the press…. (HELP – I’m sounding like a Republican!)

So, let me present a different, non-scientific, but emotional argument. We physicists are human beings too. We have children, parents, siblings, friends, etc, that we care deeply about. We care about this planet and its future and the future of our families. There are literally thousands of physicists, worldwide, involved in the LHC. If there was a serious concern, the scientists themselves would have stepped forward.

As for me, one of my best arguments is that my bottle of 1990 LaTour remains in my cellar. I’m going to pull it out when we achieve collisions at the next accelerator after the LHC! Oh – and the fact that I’ve just spent the last 8 months undergoing intensive, arduous treatment for cancer so that I too can have a future and be a part of the LHC.

10:00 pm (PDT), John:

B minus two hours. Oh yeah! We’ve waited a long time for this.

11:03pm (Pacific), Sean: Action is heating up, although the pizza has yet to arrive. So I’m going to start paying attention to the “real world.” I’ll come back if any disasters occur.

11:30 pm (PDT), John:

Looks like CERN has stuck a PR video in place of the live webcast…not too surprising…maybe the site got hammered, or they have that up until it starts.

The SPS is cycling nicely. That’s what they’ll use to inject the beam in 30 minutes.

11:37 pm (PDT), JoAnne: This is the error message I’m getting:

Due to a huge interest for this live video feed of the LHC First Beam day, you may not be able to see the live video stream and we apologise for this.
Please try reloading the page, come back later, or check the other connection options available on this page.
Many thanks for your interest in CERN and the LHC!

The folks at CERN should have planned for heavy traffic – I’ve waited 25 years for this and I’m disappointed.

11:48 pm (Pacific), Sean: Getting updates from CERN. No disasters, but there was apparently a tiny glitch with one of the collimating magnets, which has now been fixed.

The current beams are low energy (450 GeV, lower than the Tevatron at Fermilab). They want to ramp up to 5,000 GeV (5 TeV) by the end of October — on October 21st, there is a get-together featuring heads of state, and they would love to have actual high-energy collisions by then.

They will be circulating the beam in both directions — just not at the same time, at least today.

The computing system involves about a hundred thousand processors — soon to be upgraded to a few hundred thousand. Data flies from CERN to Caltech at about 40 GB per second, which they also want to upgrade by a factor of ten.

11:58 am (Pacific), Sean: The webcast is limited to 2000 connections! Who’s the rocket scientist behind that?

Midnight (Pacific), Sean: First beam! Or so they say. (See below.)

12:03 am (PDT), John:

Woo hoo! Did it work?

I think it actually starts in a few minutes. The press kit says

9:00 Live satellite broadcast and webcast begin with an introduction from the commentators in the CERN Control Centre, an animation showing the passage of a beam through the LHC, and highlights of the LHC operators’ daily meeting where they lay out the procedure for getting the first beam circulating in the LHC.

9:06 Coverage begins of the first attempt to circulate a beam in the LHC. Lyn Evans, LHC project leader, will narrate the proceedings from the CERN Control Centre. Video of accelerator operators at work in the CCC will alternate with views of the LHC apparatus in its tunnel 100 meters underground.

12:08 (Pacific), Sean: Well, there was a video countdown. No human being has actually confirmed yet…

12:11 am (PDT), JoAnne: Only 2000 connections? No wonder nobody can get on! With all the hype they should have planned better than this….

12:22am (Pacific), Sean: Robert Aymar, CERN Director General … is speaking in French. Translation: in a few minutes we will let the beam zip through the LHC, sector by sector. (They stick absorbers in the way of the beam at certain points, just to check things in each sector before letting it go.) Sounds like the whole thing will take some time.

Liveblogging closer to the source from Adam Yurkewicz, and from David Harris.

I can’t update our blog because too many people are trying to read it!

12:33am (Pacific), Sean: First beam for real! We saw it! Not yet all the way around, as per previous update.

12:36am (Pacific), Sean: BBC reporter: “Ooh! This is exciting!”

12:38am (Pacific), Sean: Okay, I think the beam they had was … actually still in the injector, not the LHC. Because now there is really beam in the LHC! Still not all the way around.

12:40am (Pacific), Sean: Carlo Rubbia seen wandering around the LHC control room.

12:46am (Pacific), Sean: They removed another absorber, and now the beam has reached CMS! I think that’s 3 octants from the beginning.

1:02am (Pacific), Sean: They’ve made it about half way around, and are preparing a beam dump. Sadly, our reserved time on the videoconference has run out, as has my stamina, so I’m heading home. They’re predicting that a full circle will be achieved in the next half-hour or hour.

See you tomorrow!

1:12 am (PDT), JoAnne: The beam is at Point 8, which is 3/4 of the way around! Thanks to SkyNews for the feed!

1:18 am (PDT), JoAnne: Now the beam is at ATLAS, 7/8 of the way through. They are giving ATLAS some events (not collisions, but beam halo and beam gas). Lyn Evans, LHC project manager, was heard to say that he’s going to win his bet, whatever that is.

1:23 am (PDT), JoAnne: BEAM! We have BEAM! All the way round! Now they’re doing it again.

1:43 am (PDT), JoAnne: SkyNews has just interviewed folks in the control rooms for each of the 4 experiments. All of the detectors turned on without trouble and are excited to be getting beam halo and beam gas events. LHCb and ATLAS saw the muons from the beam dump!

Now that the beam has safely travelled through the full accelerator, it’s time for some shut-eye.

7:38 am (PDT), JoAnne: Turns out that the live radio interview was with KCBS here in the Bay Area (which makes much more sense than KCSB in Santa Barbara – our communications department got that wrong!) and just finished. They mainly asked questions about the operation of the accelerator, what comes next, etc. They did ask if the research was open and if all the results would be public or if some of it would be kept secret. And, yes, the subject of those pesky blackholes came up…

9:34 am (Pacific), Sean: As commenters have noted, Google has caught the fever:

But here is something better: the signal from ATLAS when beam first went through.

Click for the full glory!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Higgs, Politics, Science
  • Doug

    So you’re telling me the world isn’t going to end tonight?

    Guess I’ll have to do laundry then…

  • Greg

    I may have a blind date tomorrow. Are you absolutely certain that the world isn’t going to end?

  • chihiro

    Is there a published schedule of experiments that will be run at the LHC? And perhaps more interesting, is there a corresponding time-line of when results for those experiments can be reasonably expected?

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  • Jon

    And seriously, folks — black-hole/world-ending jokes are only funny the first million times

    I predict that the LHC will destroy all black holes.

    Wait, is that how it went?

  • Sean

    chihiro– They don’t really schedule experiments at the LHC. There are four major detectors — CMS, ATLAS, Alice, and LHCb — and they will all be running essentially all the time. You can’t predict when different results will be announced; it depends on the masses etc. of the particles, as well as the total number of events detected.

  • Mike Procario

    I will be attending the “pajama party” at Fermilab. It will be my first owl shift in over 10 years.

  • chihiro

    Sean- Thanks. So the idea is the LHC will be gradually ramped up to full power, with the detectors continuously recording a data stream. And researchers will be analyzing the resulting data continuously. Therefore, discoveries will come unpredictably?

    Is there a ballpark date for when the LHC will functioning at power levels above what has already been achieved by other colliders? I’m basically just trying to figure out a rough window of time in which I can reasonably expect some new discoveries, or lack thereof.

  • Sean

    That’s right. Over the next couple of months they will start having collisions, and gradually ramp up the energies. But it’s just very difficult to predict ahead of time when we’ll discover any specific thing.

    If nothing is found in the next five years, worry.

  • wibbler

    Surely we can at least approximately predict when the various components of the standard model will be rediscovered?

  • Bob

    The plan is that tonight they will try to circulate beam for the first time. That is, get it completely around the ring. That’s actually more than just symbolic, Sean! Also, as I understand it now, they will try to put the beam in both directions, just not at the same time, and just, no collisions. It is also not clear yet whether they will try to capture the beam using the RF. If they don’t it would slowly lose energy and eventually no longer make it around the ring, although they would dump it before that. The word last week was that they might try for collisions at 900 GeV (injection energy) next week some time. Full energy (at least full energy for this year) probably won’t happen until next month. But predicting things is always difficult, especially when dealing with the future. The machine is a complicated device with a 27 km circumference ring completely filled with magnets, which all have to work in concert.

    The upshot: high energy physicists around the world are getting excited about this. The GB quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, said yesterday that he had been waiting 4 years to make a Lambeau leap. We’ve been waiting a lot longer!

  • JoAnne

    Wibbler: The plan is to have a short physics run later this Fall at 10 TeV center of mass energy (collison energy of the protons). This will give the detectors a chance to calibrate themselves by observing the Standard Model particles.

  • Ben Lillie

    Chihiro: I like the idea of a predictable discovery. We should have more of those.

    JoAnne: I agree! That’s the kind of end of the world worth supporting. Of course, another undetermined parameter will probably show up, so those loops in your code won’t have to go looking for jobs on Wall Street.

  • graviton383

    As JoA said it’s pretty clear that the SM particles will all be `rediscovered’ with only a (very) ew inverse picobarns…so maybe with only a month of running at 10 TeV.

  • Aramael

    I am so happy to be alive in a time when the LHC is happening; how often do you get to be a witness to theoretically predicted new particles being detected? Not often.

    Having said that, my favourite moment in the history of physics has got to be Fred Hoyle’s prediction of a resonance level in the carbon atom — based on nothing more than the fact that we’re here, and we use a lot of carbon.

    To me, that is beautiful. I don’t know of any other instances where the Anthropic Principle kicked so much arse, but wow, what an arse-kicking.

    I love you smart people. Do good, and try not to destroy the world unless it’s cool.

  • Sili

    So far JoAnne wins.

    I can’t decide whether I want the Higgs to be found or nothing at all.

    It’d be … træls as we say here if no new physics whatsoever is found after all that work.

    But, damn, it’d blow our minds!

  • Elliot

    Apparently Hawking is betting that the LHC WON”T find the Higgs. I’m not sure if this is good physics or more evidence that Stephen has a bit of a gambling jones.


  • Jasper Palfree

    The University of Toronto is having a little event tomorrow to celebrate the LHC first beam, in case anyone’s in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately it doesn’t sound as exciting as a pajama party, but it will feature a live video conference from the CERN control room.

  • Michael Sean Wright

    Sean, thank you for taking the time to host this live event here. To me the LHC is already a triumph as it has excited the public imagination about science. Together, we are witnessing the efforts of man to answer seemingly unanswerable questions. To see the LHC as a ‘top-trending- Google search’ is just fantastic. Congratulations to all those involved- you are changing the understanding of our World.

    As to what the LHC will find, the Higgs? – perhaps. A new system of computing/ processing? – most certainly.

  • Kletter

    Oh glory! More members of the particle zoo. Thrilling!

    Get your Higgs boson today!

    If you need to point some poor fellow to a safety analysis, here it is:

    Just don’t point them to a budget analysis…DOE-NSF accounting practices would place the cost for the LHC accelerator and detectors at about $6 billion.

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  • Gordon K

    Have they found supersymmetry yet?

  • Vic Young

    I’m writing a speech on this for tomorrow, I never knew science could be so interesting. I’m excited to see what happens when time comes.

  • Interested

    Do we expect to see the results in 1 month? I am not a scientist. Just an ardent follower of Big Bang.

    Though it is said that we will get a clue on what is mass. That the standard model does not provide for mass, except the E=MC2. So in that trillionth of a second after the collision (Big Bang replicated) something will show up to give the particles mass? or this mass conferment takes place long after like billions years later? or any time? Science a bit hard to grasp.

    If we detect anti matter in that trillionth of a second after the replicated big bang collision in the detectors in cern, then we have the chance to see what happens to anti matter — why they disappear ? and why we see matter only billions of years later?

    This dark matter, is it dark or unseen ?

    Anyway I am glad we are at a new frontier again …

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  • Terry

    Why was my comment deleted? I am curious to know if the collisions would cause tsunamis or weaken the earth structure and cause earthquakes? All that energy got to go somewhere. I’m not a troll. I’m a concerned citizen who want to know some informed answers from the experts.

  • Neil B. ?

    Tonight on NBC News Brian Williams said something like, “I hope they know what they’re doing” re LHC “problem” issues. I think the MSM have been pretty reasonable about it, saying most scientists don’t expect trouble. But BW did explain they have switches on the magnets, to turn off the experiment if weird stuff happens (more like safety than bizarre physical effects.) OK, here’s a serious question: I heard from buddies at J-Lab that protons may have a bit of “strangeness” despite their simplistic composition as uud, apparently things in practice can be more complicated than those combinations show. It looks to have something to do with “sea quarks” which are like virtual quarks I presume. This link to a piece by J-Lab beauty (why not give her that credit too) Sarah Phillips discusses this:

    Wouldn’t very high-energy collisions stir up virtual quarks a lot and stimulate other flavors to an extent beyond the ordinary?

  • Vbar

    The startup of the LHC is as ‘symbolic’ as humankind’s first look through a telescope.

    I know the headlining physics is the particle physics we learn after they get to top energy collisions, but give the accelerator physicists, designers, engineers and operations crews some credit! Some of them have been working on the project for over a decade and have in the process solved very interesting problems in physics, math and engineering.

    In the control room, they’ll be looking for obstructions in the vacuum pipe, discovering all the survey errors in the machine (remember we’re talking about steering with millimeter precision over the course of many kilometers), checking for kinks in the pipe that may have occurred that as the beamline contracted while the magnets were cooled to superconducting temperatures. They will doubtless be test their beam loss and quench protection equipment as well (purposely or otherwise). This is all just for the first turn. It is a serious problem in nonlinear dynamics to design a machine that can maintain stable beam over the course of the millions of turns needed to provide useful numbers of collisions.

    The accelerator (and the detectors) are marvels of physics and engineering in themselves. Beautiful ships for a spectacular voyage, and the first turn is the first real test of their seaworthiness.

    It’s a good day to be a nerd, let’s celebrate all the science!

  • Shannpn

    So they will be creating a miniature Big Bang? And perhaps, a miniature little universe along with it? Is that where our “universe” came from, someone’s LHC experiment? And all the mass we see is what leaked into a dimension the experimenters can’t find?

  • Interested

    Terry, I am not a scientist but I have been reading stuff on this today. In a few places they remark that the mini collision is like a mosquito slapping into your office. The energy of the collision of the particles in the large hadron collider is the energy of a mosquito flying into your face and slapping it in collision. That then will be no where near a tsunami or earthquake. Living in an earthquake zone myself, I have seen the floor move sometimes its shakes slightly and sometimes it sort of bends (west coast ).

    Vbar, I thought they commissioned it in Nov 207 or was that delayed and this is the commissioning? If they commissioned it earlier then the matter you mention would have been mor or less addressed then. This time is a trial run of one round around the 27 km pipes. Also I seem to read they have all these wires, which role I am not sure, but maybe combined with the magnets, help keep the direction travel of the particles in the proper direction. To prevent unforeseen now or in future, it might be why they buried this pipes 100 km below ground level so they hit no one?

  • Interested


    # So they will be creating a miniature Big Bang?
    -When I first heard of this idea a year ago, I was enthralled. It whetted my appetite seeing the 27 km of circular large hadron collider in pictures and the spots (detectors) where the several experiments will be carried out. If it were a mini big bang then it follows as you suggest it will bring along # “And perhaps, a miniature little universe along with it?” That cannot be to my mind, because our universe is 13.7 billion years old. and we are probably not waiting even more than a month or a few months to get the results and maybe then CERN will move onto other experiments. So there is no time of billions of years for the mini universe to unfold as ours is said to have done over that 13.7 bi yrs.

    # Is that where our “universe” came from, someone’s LHC experiment?
    – That’s a touch of humor but to theists, that is an important point as the universe began at that point of time 13.7 bi yrs ago as a creation of God, the someone you elude to.

    # And all the mass we see is what leaked into a dimension the experimenters can’t find?
    – I just read some of the science stuff on branes and M theory and it seems to be suggested that gravity prevents objects ( that is if I equate your mass with objects mentioned, and pardon me, if they should not be so equated, not being a scientist) crossing from one dimension/universe to another parallel universe in a multiverse universe. The point was made as follows on UFO sightings at
    “In fact, we theorise that if they do exist, the force of gravity is the only influence that can pass between them. This would prevent any material objects from crossing from one set of dimensions to another. So, no, UFO enthusiasts must look elsewhere. (BC)” Professor Brian Cox is one of the LHC scientists at Cern.

  • Sean

    Shannon– Creating a miniature Big Bang is overstating the case a bit. We’ll be re-creating events that are closer to those of the Big Bang than ever before. I don’t think any universes will be created — that’s a long shot.

    Interested– It’s not so much that we will understand what mass “is” (since we already understand that pretty well), but that we’ll understand better why certain particles (like the electron!) have any mass at all.

    Questions like “What is the dark matter?” and “Why is there more matter than antimatter?” are potentially up the LHC’s alley. We’ll have to see what it has in store for us.

  • Helen

    Umn hello people… Hasn’t anyone watched the movies: “The Core” or “The Mist”?

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  • cheech

    Wish I could be closer to the action!

  • http://master ratze

    the cern web cast is bad, if you want to real watch it enter this sites from cern of the machinary realtime information:

    -the main one-

    -all this ones are from atlas center, you have to look for more info on other sites

  • http://master ratze

    how many hours until it starts?

  • Interested


    Thanks and I tried to read more. I am buried by the mass of information on the mass of atoms and the origin of mass. Reading again, it seems 70/more years ago, it was known that majority of mass of matter came from the nuclei of atoms ( protons and neutrons). Since protons and neutrons comprise quarks and gluons, most of the mass is from quarks and gluons. Then it is said that 99% of the mass of quarks come from mutual attraction force between quarks in nuclei and only 1% is attributed to the quarks mass. That mutual attraction force is like 15 tons.

    A bit elusive to me, is that Higgs boson is supposed to tell us the origin of mass. How the theory does that I cannot get a handle on. Yet at the same time, Large Hadron Collider could show there is a higgs boson that gives mass or that it is something else that gives mass. If Higgs boson does that job, then the decades old standard model of particle physics is intact and verified. If it is not Higgs boson that gives mass, then everything is up for grab again. New theory of origin of mass.

    As a lay person, the gap between para 1 and para 2, eludes me. Why do we need Higgs boson to give other particles mass? Isn’t it already shown 70+ years ago that particles have mass, whether it is small mass of 0.05% for electrons and 99% for nuclei, and whether the mass of quarks are 99% from attractive force and 1% from mass of quark.

    An analogy I saw on video is that Higgs boson is like a prof walking through a field where his students are. If they like him and want to ask him questions, then they crowd round him and slow down his crossing the field. If they do not like him or have no questions for him, he crosses the field quickly. How this analogy explains the origin of mass beats me.


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  • kiran

    Hi folks .

    It seems to be great experiance. N way hope we will get some mindblowing results..

  • Janus

    I’m sorry if I sound like a fear-mongering crackpot, but the more I read, the less convinced I am that the likelihood of a catastrophic event caused by the LHC in the coming months is infinitesimal. From what I’ve read the chance that mini-blackholes will be formed is small, but significant; Sean estimates it at 0.1%.

    Before you jump on me, yes, I know about Hawking radiation, and I know that if Hawking’s proposal is correct the mini-blackholes will evaporate into non-existence. If it’s correct. Isn’t it possible that Hawking is wrong and that this radiation doesn’t exist? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that there is no or little evidence for Hawking radiation?

    Let’s say that the likelihood that Hawking radiation doesn’t really exist is 0.01%. This means there’s a 0.0001% that permanent blackholes will form on Earth. That’s not a very high likelihood, but isn’t it high enough to warrant delaying these experiments until we have better empirical reasons to believe in Hawking radiation?

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  • Mark

    *sigh* just think what we could be learning now if the SSC had been funded. :-(

  • JoAnne

    Janus, everyone: Just take a relaxing deep breath and focus on cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are contiunally bombarding the Earth and can have even more energy than the LHC and would have destroyed the universe long ago if these pesky blackholes were actually a problem.

  • Sean

    Of course JoAnne is right. There’s nothing the LHC is doing that the universe doesn’t do all the time.

  • Swampy

    Well another Journey

  • Swampy

    And the Lord said let there be light !

  • Swampy

    Any one have any data , Has it begun

  • Nick

    Any word? The webcast isn’t working for me, Did they blow up? lol

  • Sad

    it ain’t working for me, either

    damn it, it’s after 2am, I have work in the morning, and I stayed up for this

    did they score a touchdown or did they fumble?

  • Swampy

    not aware of any thing yet

  • Aramael

    I thought the start up time was 9:30am … that’s still over an hour away.

    Janus, it’s not reasonable to assign arbitrary probabilities to a future event and pretend that you can draw conclusions from the numbers that come out. Maybe it’s theoretically possible for us to build a machine that destroys the Earth (or causes earthquakes, or whatever) but the LHC is not that machine. It’s just flinging protons around.

  • Mark

    xkcd is already in the mood:

  • stas


  • robertknicks

    what the heck?? Who has more bandwidth than CERN??

    I’ve been screwing around all day waiting for this!!

  • Nick

    08:32(Geneva time) LHC status web page shows a cryo problem in sector 7-8, but I asked and was told it is a minor problem. Don’t know if this will delay the beam going around (and to ATLAS) for a little bit.

    From Adam Yurkewicz’s live blog in the atlas contol room.

  • MarkM

    I’m on the webcast. Had to try a few times. Anyone else manage to get on?

  • JoAnne

    I’m trying every few seconds and can’t get on. Very frustrating!

  • Michaela

    I’ve been trying between the webcast and EVO for ages. The worst of it is – I was logged into both and had them running perfectly, and then they went down! Now I can’t get back on, and I’ve been there since nine this evening waiting!

  • Kea

    Noooooo! I’m getting the error message, although I could view the 3 minute video earlier on. Local evening news just gave the story 2 minutes, which was more than I was expecting!

  • Jonas

    same here JoAnne, I get kicked off sometimes, due to buffering error (prolly timeout), and then I cant get in again! :(

  • MarkM

    Kea, lol, isn’t it sad how something this significant gets so little mainstream coverage.

    Check out for a live blog from the ctrl room. Hasn’t been updated in the last few mins tho.

  • Jitendra BHUJBALE

    Every each consern SCIENCETIST should inform to every rural & Urban People regarding all EXPERIMENT acvancly resources should b informed by MEDIA or live telecast as well as they should have to clear all doubts’.

  • Nittin

    “LHC First Beam – 10th September 2008 – 9am CEST (GMT+2)

    Due to a huge interest for this live video feed of the LHC First Beam day, you may not be able to see the live video stream and we apologise for this.
    Please try reloading the page, come back later, or check the other connection options available on this page.
    Many thanks for your interest in CERN and the LHC! ”

    WHY??? They should have prepared for this.. :( :( … am trying since evening.. it suddenly stopped..

  • Nick

    Yeah, that’s the blog I copied from.

  • Danny

    i’m very pissed off actually that i stayed up for nothing and was sooo anxious to see the great, wonderous beam and they say thanx for the support no wonder no one supports anything when they let people down :(

  • Sam Zdat

    2000 connections for the live webcast? And we’re to believe they’re smart enough to avoid creating a black hole? I don’t think so.

  • Ervin

    Any news? Anyone?

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  • Blake Stacey

    Adam Yurkewicz liveblogging at the US/LHC site:

    08:32 LHC status web page shows a cryo problem in sector 7-8, but I asked and was told it is a minor problem. Don’t know if this will delay the beam going around (and to ATLAS) for a little bit.

  • David Harris

    I managed to get on to the feed after 45 minutes of trying. They are about to try to injecting in about 5 minutes.

  • Robin

    Hey Gordy, I thought we agreed that we found supersymmetry at the Tevatron years ago…

  • Claire

    If you can’t watch on the webcast or EVO, try Sky NEws

  • Sam Zdat

    You’d think, out of 2000 connections to the live feed, *one* geek would have VLC’ed a sub-stream. But no, geeks hoard their little acorns.

  • Hech Baan
  • Nick

    Latest from Atlas control room

    09:10 The program should have started by now. Unfortunately can’t watch anything of the speeches from here. The accelerator cryo status looks to be improving on the web, so I think we are looking good for beam, maybe a little late. I hear BBC radio is here. There is some effort to kick people out of the control room, not too many people right now.

    09:28 LHC cryo status is all green.

  • chris

    wow, this is really too bad. i can’t get any up to date info for that much hyped event anywhere. shame on you, cern.

    as a revenge my personal forecast: the lhc will confirm tevatrons finding of a one doublet, 120GeV Higgs. and that’s it.

    yea, take that, cern :-)

  • David Harris
  • Harold

    I think this is the most exciting feeling I’ve had on CV. Thanks for the great idea of live blogging!

  • Michaela

    Agreed – thank you! You’re the only source of information for many people (including me until the SkyNews link was posted), and you’re also a way for us to help one another find working video feeds!

  • Claire

    So far the beam has made it to point 6!

    I’m watching on Sky News and doing updates on my Facebook – don’t know if I can make my profile public though

  • JoAnne

    Claire: Thanks much for the SkyNews link. That saved the day for me!

  • Claire

    They’ve gone to point 7!!!

    Doing updates on my facebook status.

  • Pablo

    Hi, you can see here the beam status
    It gets updated every 10 min or so. Apparently, they’ve made it to point 7.

  • Claire

    JoAnne – no problem :)

    Also you can watch the beam status here:

  • Tom Renbarger

    Strap yourself in and feel the gs!

  • huma

    thank you, sean! great post! real info hub for the first beam day. and thank you all for the comments. lot’s of useful data.

  • Nick

    Good stuff, thanks for the Sky News link! :)

  • Blake Stacey

    David Harris is now reporting as follows:

    10:17: The beam has made it to ATLAS! Through all the experiments and nearly a complete sequence. Lyn Evans commented that he is going to win his bet. It seems that he was betting they would get the beam all the way around in one hour. They have about 10 minutes left to achieve that!

  • Blake Stacey

    Yurkiewicz reports the beam is through ATLAS, and the beam status page shows it making a full loop.

  • Jelio

    there is a video with rap music explaining the lhc to general audience
    very funy
    let me know what you tink

  • Nittin



    BEAM BEAM !!!

    SKY NEWS ROCKS….. !!

  • Akash

    ne1 knows where is d live feed og LHC

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  • Podblack

    Some videos of the event on – thanks to all the sites who have been keeping up on this!

  • Claire

    Here’s a live feed from the control room (and it works!)

  • Claire

    PS… they’re doing a live feed from the Fermilab pajama party right now!

  • David Miller
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  • Joerg

    Why don’t we “This is today’s moon landing!” in peoples’ heads? Isn’t it much like the moon landing in technological advancement?

  • Jasper Palfree

    Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is also in LHC mood.

    (They put it on their RSS feed but I can’t find it on the actual site… odd)

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  • huma

    “Girl commits suicide in MP fearing end of world”

    i knew it was coming..

  • chris wedgwood

    You should have stayed up team… LHC has just had both beams running !!

  • Dean

    I heard them say that they will attempt a collision before the end of the day!

  • Tom

    Remember where it all started! SLAC

  • Sili
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  • Dean

    Ha! Nice one Sili

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Check the Google search page today.

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  • Count Iblis

    JoAnne, did you see the Higgs between 1:43 AM and 7:38 AM :)

  • Count Iblis
  • Le Rital

    Actually the best place to monitor the progress, see the real science of accelerator physics instead of the pr (and monitor the champagne consumption….. those machine guys really like having their accomplishments rewarded with bubbly stuff [*]) is
    Nice pictures of the beam making 1 full turn, then 2 full turns….. There you can see how much monitoring of

    [*] And no the bubbly stuff doesn’t come out of the experiments’ budgets.

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  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    To the effect the LHC “creates” the big bang it really just generates a transient event which reflects the state of matter in the early universe or post inflationary period. Cosmic rays do this all the time when they interact with matter, sometimes with energy a million times that of the LHC. The difference is that we are not skilled at getting as much statistically useful data from cosmic ray events.

    What is unique about the LHC is not the energy scale at which quantum fields are interacting with each other. What is unique is that it is being done in a prepared situation and the outcome of these scattering events are measured.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • interested_party

    Predictions: no evidence of supersymmetry, no evidence for additional dimensions, no evidence of Higgs particles. However, at least one significant but not major gap in the Standard Model will show up courtesy of an unexpected event.

  • Ben Cherian


    I heard your interview on KCBS this morning. It was pretty good, and the interviewers weren’t too annoying about the end of the world.

    It seemed like interviewers didn’t actually know what a proton was, considering the fact that they asked you whether the products of the collisions would be smaller than an atom.

  • JoAnne

    Thanks, Ben. I was worried that I wasn’t functioning well enough at 7:30 this morning to do a good job. When asked the difference between the SLAC beams and the LHC beams, I think I could have done better than to say, `Well SLAC is electrons at much lower energy.’ That probably didn’t mean much to folks.

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  • Ben Cherian

    When asked the difference between the SLAC beams and the LHC beams, I think I could have done better than to say, `Well SLAC is electrons at much lower energy.’

    Well, I guess you could have just said that the accelerator at SLAC isn’t actually used for particle physics any more. Well that, and the obvious fact of linac vs. storage ring. It was pretty informative and I’d never heard the mosquito collision analogy before. (I think that the interviewers were going for beam energy though, not necessarily the energy of a single particle.)

  • John E

    Wonderful event.

    Random question….

    given the ability of people to make money out of incidents and events of much lesser import than this….. why do there seem to be no CERN t-shirts. Surely some beam-day specials would be just the thing to wear!

  • changcho

    To JoAne – thanks for agreeing to talk to KCBS, which I heard this morning in the Bay Area. The interview went very well imho.

  • IceBogan

    Doesn’t it look like the Google logo is being sucked into a black hole?

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  • Matt
  • http://none chongkrk

    so when are they actually going to collide these protons

  • Neil B. ?

    At first I wondered why they didn’t just call the “Large Hadron Collider” the “Large Proton Collider.” I found out the reason at from a commenter going by “njp”:

    The reason it isn’t simply called the Large Proton Collider is that it will also be used to accelerate heavy ions (positively charged atoms) at relativistic speeds, for different experiments.

    Well, it would be interesting to hear more about the ion experiments. Any good scoop on what kind of weird stuff from colliding nuclei? Perhaps even more off-beat than from just protons? Also, can you imagine the radiant energy a wiggler/undulator could produce with this beam, even using protons or ions?

    Also, if the kinetic energy of a proton “bunch” at the LHC is that of an aircraft carrier going 60km/h, I estimate the momentum is about 75 kg * m/s, which is substantial (just about enough to knock down a big man, or even Sarah Palin caught off guard 😉 , I presume! – but only if it would actually stop when it hit the person … Which simply encourages gruesome thoughts, what indeed would happen to a person hit by this beam? (I am not encouraging further thoughts about who is in the way!) Or other things – I would love to see a car blasted by the beam, who wouldn’t?

    PS: Since v is almost c, p = U/c where U is total energy which in this case is only a tiny percentage above the kinetic part. I used 160,000,000 kg for mass of “aircraft carrier.” BTW I have worked at or for NGS (“NNS”), premier builder of such craft, in nuclear and design fields.

  • sidney

    Greg on Sep 9th, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I may have a blind date tomorrow. Are you absolutely certain that the world isn’t going to end?

    so tell us, when your two particles collided did a dreaded conversational black hole develop or were you able to observe the ever elusive higg’s bosoms?

  • noname
  • what cern is

    Cern is nothing more than an international group of terrorist that should be shut down RIGHT NOW before anything is smashed.

  • Katharine

    133 –


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  • Dean

    133 – If the world was populated with fear mongers like yourself, we would still be living in caves wearing pelts..

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  • Interested

    huma, “Girl commits suicide in MP fearing end of world”
    – I think it is probable that there is another reason for the girl to take those death pills, and that this story provided a way for all to save face in the Indian culture in Indian subcontinent. If the girl had been promised by her parents to another and she has chosen her own future spouse, than this is the exit. Romeo and Juliet drama. It’s too convenient for the girl to have access to such potent pills. At 16 and having such knowledge of such pills that can be fatal. Its just a coincidence and a saving face exit.

    Janus, your presentation if I take it as scientific assessment, would lead me to agree with those who presented their cases , is it in Hawaii and EU Court of Human Rights to stop the LHC turn on to avoid the risk of catastrophe. It’s one thing to say the risk is big but the magnitude of harm is negligible like mosquito slapping in one’s face, versus the risk is small or negligible (like your suggested hypothetical 0.0001%) but the magnitude is large or catastrophic, unless I misunderstood the extent of the catastrophe you attributed to your 0.0001% risk.

    I do not do science, but in my area of work, do also some risk management, and by that, I would side with those who wish to stop the LHC if the risk is small but the magnitude of harm is catastrophic. On the other hand if the risk is small/big/huge but the magnitude of harm is at worst like a mosquito slapping into our face, then I would agree with the court decision to allow the LHC to proceed. I do not know whether that issue was determined by the court/s or whether it was disposed off by some other preliminary grounds on jurisdiction or other relevant issue.

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  • christinajade

    Just a simple question. Does anyone here acknowledge the fact that there have been 6 significant earthquakes since the LHC started?

  • Interested

    christinajade, I can’t answer that as I do not follow the earthquakes. Living in the bay area, we experience earthquakes off and on. … like I suddenly feel the ground rolling slightly or the floor shake slightly. Not without reason, neighborhoods often have earthquake preparedness class. On the same issue, there is an urban legend that I have seen twice emailed around on how to prepare for earthquakes. In contrast the advice from American Red Cross and FEMA is,1082,0_583_,00.html and

  • chris

    oh my, if this mess is how a non-event looks like, i’d probably be horrified when they actually have bemas crossing at the full luminosity. it is really amazing to think how they can extract valuable data out of such a deep see of junk.

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  • Neil B. ?

    Following up on chris, and the LHC first day described as a “test” – they didn’t really have full power proton collisions, or did they even have collisions at all yet? I don’t buy the EOTW/EOTU scenarios, but isn’t it disingenuous in principle (which should matter) that the media and science bloggers even say, “See, it didn’t end the world …” etc? Also, one physicist says it would take about four years for mini BHs or etc. to ruin the Earth (and extra buzz value from that being in 2012, the EOTW according to the Mayan Calendar!)

    Here is an interesting post from sci.physics.research, a fascinating and often worthwhile moderated NG:

    “Raphanus” wrote in message…
    > On Sep 8, 9:45 pm, Zach wrote:
    >> Are there legitimate cause for concern regarding CERN’s Large Hadron
    >> Collider?
    >> I saw these two websites mentioned in the newspaper:
    >> Zach
    > No. There are cosmic rays impacting atmospheric nuclei with far more
    > center-of-mass energy that LHC can produce. The people who showed
    > real “guts” were the ones who set off the explosion at “Trinity Site”
    > in NM. They had done the calculations indicating that a chain
    > reaction in the atmosphere was impossible – but…

  • Neil B. ?

    If I could follow up briefly, being careful not to overpost in general – this is an excerpt from my comment submission to

    I remember reading that some physicists were worried, the first atom bomb test would start a weird chemical (not nuclear) chain reaction in the atmosphere, about oxygen and nitrogen I think, that would end all life. Well, it didn’t, but just remember that the chance of that happening could have been 99% or whatever, and we are just in a multiverse branch that survived! Same issue for the LHC – it may have already destroyed most Earths and “we” can’t tell the difference! (Look up “quantum suicide” on Wikipedia and Google …)
    Heh …

  • Mark

    Neil B. What part of

    Crackpots not welcome. And seriously, folks — black-hole/world-ending jokes are only funny the first million times.

    is confusing?

  • Neil B. ?

    Mark –

    First, I’m neither a crackpot nor AFAIK was I presenting a joke I think people have heard very much, and I didn’t see it here at all. I directly said I don’t think EOTW theories were right, just commenting on the presentation of the issue vis-à-vis media and blog discussion combined with the most powerful collisions not having been done yet. The one physicist’s remarks about “four years” were perhaps culturally interesting due to connection to new age mythology, and I would add now: maybe the US Presidential election as well, heh. BTW one of your commenters came up with or repeated a cute term, “con-CERN troll” for those worried about such things. I certainly think most readers here could be interested in my link to comparing with the earlier controversy about the first atomic explosion on earth. I believe that was a real worry at the time.

    I haven’t seen hardly any jokes about us really surviving the LHC despite most multiple universes being destroyed, and Google provides a very few hits – but maybe I missed something. It certainly is a cute (?) dig at the glib acceptance of the quantum multiverse concept, perhaps worth doubting it in serious terms as a problem for how to engage scientific method etc. if we aren’t continuing along a unique track of events, as I have noted elsewhere.

    Finally, I did ask some real questions here (strangeness, ion collisions) and heard nothing, so I figured I might as well have some fun if that’s the best I can get from being serious … Folks, must you be so neurotic about comment conformity? Nevertheless I will follow a more reserved practice in the future.

  • Interested

    I am reluctant to write this. I think it is the scientists’ duty to ensure that in our pursuit for frontiers of knowledge, our safety is not jeopardized. Some here who have expressed their reservations concerns and percentages of risk of big harm, have discharged their duty to all of us, just as the maverick Wagner and Luis who brought the case to Hawaii court, and made sworn statements found here
    (Attachments: Complaint itself then # 1 Affidavit of Luis Sancho, # 2 Affidavit of Richard J. Wagner, # 3 Affidavit of Walter L. Wagner, # 4 Affidavit of Mark Leggett, # 5 Affidavit of Rodney J. Skinner, # 6 Affidavit Paul W. Dixon, # 7 Affidavit of James R. Blodgett, )

    Walter Wagner’s

    Those who allowed the discussion too have discharged that duty. Those who are enthused and happy with the long wait of two decades to see the first trial run of the beam as well as those who shun the concerns may hold dear to their hearts the quest for the holy grail of science in LHC and seek to benefit us with the future findings of science, discharging their duty as scientists to push further the frontiers of unknown to known. Each have their place, and collectively as one we have come that long journey from thousands of years to now, and from now to our future.

    (It takes a scientist to read those views expressed by other scientists. I am no scientist. Peace. )

  • Bruce R

    I would doubt if they would have built this thing without the idea of seeing SOMETHING. If they don’t see the Higgs Particle then the explanation might be that it didn’t quite reproduce the conditions of the big bang. So nothing lost, nothing gained. We know, however, that the scientists will come up with a plausible explanation–whatever happens. I have published my own pausible explanation of how the cosmos developed in my book “Connect with Planet Earth” at (search:connect).

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  • graviton383

    What exactly has to be done to convince the fear mongers that the LHC is safe?? There are already detailed, peer reviewed studies and hundreds (thousands?) of published
    papers on black holes at the LHC by reputable scientists from all over the world, none of which indicate any danger whatsoever. So what do you guys want? What will it take? The LHC is a billion trillion times safer (for you) than driving to the grocery store….I’m off to shop for food now.

  • Interested

    “Pro se” means the plaintiff /s file/s without an attorney on record/ without an attorney acting for him/them.

    A suggestion ( seems reasonable and sensible to me at least) , to answer your question “What exactly has to be done to convince the fear mongers that the LHC is safe?? There are already detailed, peer reviewed studies and hundreds (thousands?) of published papers on black holes at the LHC by reputable scientists from all over the world, none of which indicate any danger whatsoever.” is you write your views to the address of service on the filing documents and advice the plaintiffs in US District Court in Hawaii. The address seen is Luis Sancho , PO Box 411, Honomu , HI 96728 or call 808 – 964- 5535 . You could even persuade the peers you mentioned to put in an amicus curia brief to support the DOE and other defendants and oppose the plaintiff. A sample of an amicus curia brief was when many Nobel Laureates put in their views on the creation science issue in Edward v Anguillard US Supreme Court some 20 years ago.

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  • MedallionOfFerret

    I, perhaps the sole survivor of the extraordinary display of physics during the LHC test, would like to objectively note that the doomsayers were correct this time. Just read the financial news if you don’t believe me.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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