Smashing Particles

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Brian Greene, professor of mathematics and physics at Columbia University and author of Icarus at the Edge of Time, talks about the Large Hadron Collider, which successfully completed its first test this morning.


Brian Greene

Comments [40]

Richard from Texas

RE: Will the religious finally concede god did not create the universe if the collision occurs?

Yes, Deb (18), If the scientists can create another earth and populate it with plants, animals and humans, I will say that God did not create the universe.

Until then, I will accept the fact that God did create the universe.

Sep. 14 2008 10:31 AM
David from NY

If millions of people magically disappear when the LHC finally starts colliding them protons. Remember, it wasn't the LHC that did it.

Sep. 10 2008 08:29 PM
Gerald Fnord from Redneckville, N.Y.

Microscopic black holes evaporate very, very, quickly; this prediction was on of the ones that made Prof. Hawking's name, and no-one has disproven it yet.

For the more general point: a physicist is supposed to have a greater standard of honesty than most. She can't say that something is supposed to be impossible unless the chance of its happening is 0. If not, then it is "possible", but it looks more like "impossible" in the context of human experience than what we generally mean by "possible".

What do we gain? We gain understanding of what we are made of, and what we can do with it. Given that we are made of matter, and our lives are determined by interactions between bits of matter, the more we know, the more we can probably do to our benefit (or ill, if we screw up badly).

In a way, I'm glad this is being done in Europe, since they generally take better care of their poor than do we "loser"-haters, "we" loosely construed here and hereafter. (The point is important: we don't inadequately help the poor and unfortunate because we're spending the money on research and space exploration; we inadequately help them because we think they're Bad and don't deserve any rachmones. Eliminate NASA, and the next day the military would do all the militarist stuff they do, and not a dollar more would go to an hungry mouth or an insane brain.)

More generally, a society without an Outside starts to feed on itself, never questions its assumptions, never grows...

Sep. 10 2008 12:30 PM
Nelson from NYC

Joe...I hear you. And I agree...but take a step back and a deep breath...every once in a while enjoy the sillyness of it all. it's a beautiful day...don't turn blue in the face yelling at the screen. You blood pressure will thank you for it.

Sep. 10 2008 11:47 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

Nelson...thats my point...and the pig wearing lipstick is the kind of BS the MSM gives us to discuss...there are real ISSUES to talk about....u want a break from the BS?...who doesn't! lets make people talk about issues...the budget deficit is now 407 billion.

Sep. 10 2008 11:07 AM
Caitlin from Brooklyn

I recommend that anyone who has trouble wrapping their brains around the concept of extra dimensions read the book "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions" by Edwin Abbott, it's a great little novella told from the pov of a 2-dimensional square that will make you go 'whoa!'

Sep. 10 2008 11:06 AM
Nelson from NYC

Joe, we can devote 20 minutes to Planet X in the year 2012. While we're at it, on December 11th of that year we can devote 20 minutes to the end of the world based on the Mayan calender. Just because WE know it, doesn't mean we should spend a few minutes discussing it for those that don't. Besides I could use a momentary break from all the "Pig wearing Lipstick" talk.

Sep. 10 2008 11:01 AM
Graham from Paris

Oscar [14] and Stephanie [19] and Erick [24] pose interesting questions.

but, in this brief program, they're not going to be answered, are they?

Sep. 10 2008 10:59 AM
Vit Libal from NY

Hi. Could you please give an intuition about how a microscopic black hole will "disintegrate within a fraction of a second". We all know that the black holes are singularities in space whose gravity is unescapable -- that there is no power that can take the matter out of it. So how come this thing can spontaneously disintegrate?

Sep. 10 2008 10:58 AM
ian from BROOKLYN

Who is to say that we are not in a damn tunnel? No wonder space is so dark.

Sep. 10 2008 10:57 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

or vise versa, what about the debris that lands in THIS dimension?? Somebody help us!! the loonatics have taken over the asylum!

Sep. 10 2008 10:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

So the LHC is online & accelerating particles to nearly the speed of light. And we shall c* what we shall c! Well, almost.

*c = lightspeed, as in e = mc^2.

Sep. 10 2008 10:56 AM

I've heard this thing was delayed because a rabbit made off with the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.


Sep. 10 2008 10:56 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

I want to live in this dimension! but I guess I have to go where the black hole takes me. *heavy sigh*

Sep. 10 2008 10:55 AM
Nicholas from nyc

Is there any way that the system they have developed to accelerate these particles might eventually be modified and used as a propulsion system for interstellar travel? I heard the phrase "speed of light" and my interest was peaked.

Sep. 10 2008 10:54 AM
Paul Keyser from ManHatTan

Regarding the supposed dangers -- isn't it true that the same experiment has been done billions of times over billions of years -- by high-energy cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere (e.g.), and thus we can be pretty darn sure there is no real danger?

Sep. 10 2008 10:54 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

Nelson...are the really talking about the destruction of the world...or is this mental masturbation?...if they wanna do a show on the destruction the planet do a show on Nibiru/Planet X.

Sep. 10 2008 10:53 AM
erick from Rochester, NY

I thought that mass simply came from acceleration as described by E=MC2.


Sep. 10 2008 10:53 AM
Graham from Paris

Yes, but, even if the Earth's Moon _is_ made of green cheese, _that_ "possibility" _wouldn't_ threaten the existence of the _entire_ Univerese, now, _would_ it?!!!

Should certain scientists consider the possibility that they exercise _obscene_ arrogance?

Sep. 10 2008 10:53 AM
Peter Ferko from Washington Heights

When the collision creates "energy" and then new particles are formed. Are these particles different from "energy" or is everything still energy, just at a different density or vibration? Some eastern thought considers everything energy always.

Sep. 10 2008 10:52 AM
Rich from Midtown, NY

How much energy does the Hadron Collider require? What about its carbon footprint? Does this have any 'real' world applications?

Sep. 10 2008 10:51 AM
steohanie from ringwood

How do you 'capture' the evidence?

Sep. 10 2008 10:51 AM
Deb A.

Will the religious finally concede god did not create the universe if the collision occurs? What else will it take - will the physicists have to recreate earth for people to cease answering a question with a question? (Why are we here/ how was the earth formed - the answer should be i don't know and not it must be god another question)

Sep. 10 2008 10:50 AM
Ryan from Manhattan

I've been disappointed with the media coverage on this issue.
Its as if the press is at a loss to understand this science, or explain it to their viewers, so they've adopted a glib tone of "thank goodness those crazy scientists didn't kill us all"
How do scientists combat the distrust in them sown by the press?

Sep. 10 2008 10:50 AM
A.R. from NYC

How does this relate to string theory?

Sep. 10 2008 10:50 AM
Sam from Manhattan

hi brian,

my question for prof. greene is not about the particle acceleration but about detection, and what current limitations exist in the tecehnology to actually detect these subatomic particles (e.g. the higgs boson).


Sep. 10 2008 10:49 AM
oscar from new york

what i would like to know is how much does it cost to carry this experiment? and what value it has for mankind

Sep. 10 2008 10:49 AM
Ardie from Westchester, NY

Is there any international organization that must provide consent/inspect/has regulations to ensure that such experiments are done in a safe & secure manner;; i.e. who ensures these projects won't get out of control and cause mass destruction?

Sep. 10 2008 10:48 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

Since you are a physics, do you have data on why these black holes would not be a problem? I mean theory is fine, but experiment is king. Maybe talk about those black holes created in the atmosphere?

And about the Higgs boson, let's not read these:

Sep. 10 2008 10:48 AM

yeah, i thought black holes always expanded by definition?

Sep. 10 2008 10:48 AM
John Eischeid from New York

And you can buy the collider now on eBay!|39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A12|240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

Sep. 10 2008 10:47 AM
Nelson from NYC

Really Joe? Some might say that the possible destruction of the earth is of some inportance. Just saying!

Sep. 10 2008 10:47 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Microscopic blackhole? I'm scared.

Sep. 10 2008 10:47 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

hey brian play more rap music on your show....i love it! btw are there any issues that are of importance to our nation that maybe u can talk about and leave the silly stuff to nov 6th

Sep. 10 2008 10:44 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

What's a "hadron" anyway?

Sep. 10 2008 10:43 AM
Nelson from NYC

Ummm...Silly rabbits. The LHC hasn't actually started smashing particles yet! It takes time properly destroy the world!

Sep. 10 2008 10:42 AM
Dennis from Manhattan

I understand that Dr Otto Rössler, the scientist who believed that the earth would be sucked into a black hole, put his infant son into a rocket ship and sent him to a distant planet. If true, would the son be vulnerable to Earthite?

Sep. 10 2008 10:36 AM
Peter from Flatbush, Brooklyn

I wonder, in the moments leading up to the big bang where there a group of scientists saying "the chances of anything catastrophic happening are infinitesimal?"

Sep. 10 2008 10:34 AM
O from Forest Hills

Isn't this stuff acidic and would have a corrosive effect if it comes in contact with human skin?

What precautions for safety are being taken?

Sep. 10 2008 10:28 AM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

I am fascinated by this - thanks for this segment. One question - what are the practical benefits of the research? Faster computers? Cheaper energy?

Sep. 10 2008 09:58 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.