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Warning: Scientific Content Ahead (sort of)

September 16, 2008

The other day, several blogs were abuzz about the possibility of reality coming to an end in the blink of an eye. Or faster. Unlike the last time, the Catholic Church was not involved. Hooray for us. At the same time, while people were taking to the streets, gnashing their teeth, tugging at their hair and fondling beating their breasts, there was a lot of "Wait, how does this thing work? What's it looking for again?"

Enter the scientist to answer these questions.

What the Large Hadron Accelerator was looking to do was to recreate the conditions that occured shortly after the Big Bang. Now, we are fairly sure we have an idea--sort of--of how things were right before the Event that Inspired Creation, however, there's a lot of things that we don't understand yet, like, how did gravity form. It's something we take advantage of every day, and yet, we have very little idea how or even why gravity is here. We know how it works, we know how to overcome it, we even have all sorts of equations to describe its interaction--the equation even has it's own constant...you know we're dealing with serious science here if a constant is involved.

So, here's the deal. At the Beginning of It All, everything in the universe--you, me, horses, Saturn, the Crab Nebula, Boba Fett--we were all crushed into a tiny little space in the middle of nowhere. Except, you and me, we weren't. In fact, our atoms and molecules even weren't. We were just energy. And the space we were moving around in? Take a pencil, sharpen it as sharp as you can get it, and barely touch it to a piece of paper. See that dot? Shrink by about a thousand. That's how big all the matter in the entire universe was when it was crammed together.

I made this allegory over at Falwless' blog, and I'll repeat it here and expand upon it. Think back to college. Think back to your typical dorm party. Everyone in the dorm is there, right? Plus, lots of others. You've got people from the next dorm, from across the quad, townies, professors who refuse to acknowledge they're not young anymore, and a keg. Everyone is crammed next to one another, hardly anyone else can fit in the room, the music is blaring, and basically all you can do is wiggle around in a sort of "dance". That's what the Universe was like prior to the Big Bang, except with a lot less egregious ass-grabbing.

Now think of the Big Bang as security showing up, busting the keg. When that happens, everyone disperses. As people are stumbling out of the room, they're drunk, lonely, horney, still looking for a good time...everything. Some people head off to couple up. Some people head back to their dorm room with some friends to keep the party going. Some people fly off by themselves, some people couple up and then get real kinky and pair off with another couple. Some people go for a walk to clear their head. Some people run around Halas Hall with "Styx Rules" scrawled across their chest in black marker. Some people get together and bang a townie named Joyce.

But, everyone goes somewhere and does something. The couples who go off and bang are akin to interstellar hydrogen. It just hangs out, doing its own thing, glowing afterwards. The people heading off to their room to start the party back up are kind of like stars forming. The people who wander off alone are sort of like dark matter--nobody knows what's up with them, but they know they're out there. The guy dashing around the dorm with Styx Rules? Yeah, he's an interstellar body, orbiting a larger body. The guys riding the train called Joyce? A planetary system.

The thing is, all of these interactions have a reason. It might be that the people (particles) are in love, or are stupid, or are brooding, or what have you. We don't know. Every person (or particle) goes off and does its own thing. Some are needy, some are Emo. The thing is, all of these interactions took place millionths or billionths of a second after the Event occured. Talk about a lack of staying power...

What the Large Hadron Collider is trying to simulate is that millionths or billionths of a second, post-Event. They're taking sub-atomic particles and accelerating them at speeds pretty close to the speed of light and letting them smash into each other, hoping that, when they do, they'll catch a glimpse of the dorm party energy that was pulsing prior to the Big Bang. With luck and further experiments, they'll be able to see how that energy interacts with itself to form the very basic foundation for matter creation (remember, matter is stuff with mass...again with the Catholic Church).

Unfortunately, some folks were worried that a black hole would open up under the French/Swiss border and swallow us whole. There was a (approximately) one-in-fifty million chance of that happening, but there was a chance nonetheless. When the media got ahold of it, they tried to incite riots. Obviously, we're safe, but I know some people are still worried that creation could be destroyed, plenary indulgence-style.

Again, enter the scientist, this time to allay your fears.

If you are one of those worried people, you can always ask the question: Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed The World Yet? Keep checking the site to allay your fears.

15 comments:

Rider said...

There needs to be more web sites like the one you link to at the end.

Have the Four Horsemen arrived yet?

Is Jay Leno funny yet?

Stuff like that.

Chemgeek said...

Actually Rider, these two link to the same website.

I'm going to steal this idea....

Ψ*Ψ said...

Your analogy pretty much rocked my world. Though...I lived in the dorms on a dry campus. Took most of the fun out of it, I think. (Except for the night the RA came up to our room and started drinking with us.)

Gwen said...

Gosh, jenks, you make science fun! Thanks for the explanation.

The worry wart who lives in my brain is still a little worried, though, about that one tiny chance that they will break the universe. I guess if we blink out of existence I won't have to pay my mortgage anymore.

Dr Zibbs said...

When can I meet that living doll in the yellow?

Noel said...

BEST EXPLAMATION EVAR! YOU WIN TEH INTERWEBS!

Ok, that was painful to type, but that was a great analogy.

Tee hee. Anal.

I'm forwarding this entry to every geek I know.

All three of them.

Frank said...

I really don't mind if the world ended. I mean, since a black hole is so massive, we would all disappear instantaneously without ever knowing what happened. So if you don't actually "see" the end coming, what's the point?


I would prefer if the world stuck around a bit longer, though. I still have a lot of shit to do.

Will Shannon said...

Well said and well explained as always, sir.

Say, have you ever given thought to becoming a popularizer of science yourself?

I mean, you will be alienated from the academic community, but who wants to hang with those nerds anyway?

I may try and do the same over at COTL with this (seeming) apocalypse in the economy.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

Holy Crap, the world is coming to an end? Does this mean I don't have to pay my Merill Lynch bill?

I giggled at the kegger big bang theory. I know of a few big bangs that happened after keggers :-) I think I am going to share this with my mad scientist friends.

BeckEye said...

So, you're trying to say that God is a Styx fan?

Wait. What? That can't be right. I'm sorry, I have a hard time following scienc-y stuff.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Absolutely, Beckeye. Many people think that God uttered the famous "Let there be light", and *poof*, here we were.

Actually, what he said was "Babe, I love you." And it all started from there.

BeckEye said...

So I suppose every prayer should finish with "Don't let it end" instead of "Amen?"

Hap said...

I thought the Apocalypse was scheduled for the first Tuesday in November, when I seriously reconsider why I don't drink. I thought our federal government had been trying to force the big A to happen before, but like so many plans, reality was not listening.

An alternative date is sometime around Thanksgiving.

To continue my bashing of BM, if Mr. Musburger actually sounds intelligent and rational, consider praying. It won't be long (before the world ends, not for BM to sound reasonable and nonirritating). [I'm thinking Erin Michaels uses noise-canceling earphones and a dentata for her gigs with BM.]

Will Shannon said...

So, if Styx (collectively, I assume) is the Divinity, then I knew a guy in high school who lawn-jobbed God.

Top that.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

There's only one person who could top that, Will, and he's the one referenced in the post and likened to a planetoid. But then, it takes a special person to proclaim their love for the "Divinity" on their chest in black ink.