The Large Hadron Collider is a machine that essentially smashes subatomic particles together so scientists can study the outcome. The 15-year-old project has a total cost of $10 billion and has been plagued with problems that have prevented it from operating as intended.
As of March 30, 2010, scientists working on the project had something to rejoice about as the machine was able to make subatomic particles collide head-on at energies far greater than have ever been achieved before.
And rejoice they did, very excitedly and in a few different languages as anyone who was watching the live stream provided by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN.
Personally I understood about 15 percent of what was being said during this stream, but that’s probably a generous overstatement on my part. Still, there are others who would either be bored to tears with the thought of watching it or (if forced to watch) comprehend even less than I.
To be clear, this is the machine that can generate black holes, which is usually pointed out in “casual” science feature articles. So unfortunately “black hole doomsday device” is usually associated with the “Large Hadron Collider” by the majority of ill-informed people.
Rather than dismiss this observation as blown out of proportion, NPR decided to touch on the black hole fears in their own report:
“…researchers say there is a small chance that the collider could produce black holes, but if it did, they would likely be extremely tiny, and last only a fraction of a second â€” they would essentially evaporate. Physicists say there is essentially no chance that a black hole would form and start gobbling up the matter around it.”
I would normally give zero weight to the argument that this experiment is bad based on the acknowledgment that the machine does have the ability to create black holes, which is just enough ammunition to fuel a negative opinion and protests led by Bubba the slack-jawed redneck with 3.2 front teeth.
However, I’m inclined to at least give a nod to Bubba’s fears because days before the recent collider experiments I discovered the short film Rift — a frightening piece of Science Fiction described by the producers as “A surreal interpretation of Pandora’s Box about a scientist whose failed experiment results in the formation of a black hole that alters time and space, creating a chaotic Twilight-Zonesque nightmare.”
After viewing this short, it was extremely eerie to hear very similar dialog on the NPR broadcast just days later as I made my morning commute. I couldn’t get the imagery of a time-dimensional vortex sucking our world in and warping us into slightly different versions of our version of reality. The scientist within the short film is just dead on when talking to the the reporters just moments before the experiment begins:
“Yes we are creating black holes, but they evaporate within a trillionth of a second before posing a risk to any significant amount of matter. I promise you all, the sun will come up tomorrow.”
I am by no means taking the moronic stance that science is scary and therefore shouldn’t be tampered with, but Rift is one of the rare occasions I’ve found that takes a present day scientific study and fits it into the genre of Sci-Fi wonderfully — thus enhancing both my interest and understanding of the subject matter.
Quite frankly I’m shocked it hasn’t even broken 6,000 views on YouTube given the renewed talk of subatomic particle collisions in the news.
Rift was directed and co-written by Andrew Huang, who has produced a previous super successful short Doll Face in 2007, which has been viewed 3.6 million times on YouTube. More recently he was hired by Google to produce a video for their Nexus One smart phone device.
Check out the short below, which is just under 10 minutes in length.