Will the Large Hadron Collider destroy the Earth?


Chuck Bryant

You can just call me Boson, Higgs Boson.

Josh Clark

No one's gonna call you that.

Chuck Bryant

That would be a great name, though.

Josh Clark

Uh, yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Higgs Boson. What up, Higgs?

Josh Clark

I wonder if that thing is discovered if somebody will name their kid, Higgs Boson, you know Machowicz, or whatever.

Chuck Bryant

Well, if someone names their kid, Yeah Detroit, I think someone could potentially name their kid Higgs Boson.

Josh Clark

There's - there's even a comma, I think, in there, isn't there?

Chuck Bryant

In Yeah Detroit?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

I don't - isn't a exclamation point?

Josh Clark

Yeah. There's some sort of punctuation. When you get into your name, your parents were messed up.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Chuck's talking about a theoretical particle, called the Higgs Boson. And we'll talk about it in a minute, but first we're gonna talk about the place where they're hoping to find proof, positive, that the Higgs Boson particle exists.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, Josh. And this is very science heavy.

Josh Clark

Super science heavy.

Chuck Bryant

Because it's about science.

Josh Clark

So science heavy that Chuck and I are a little nervous about this one, I'm not afraid to admit.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I have dark matter oozing out of my ears.

Josh Clark

Yeah, you do.

Chuck Bryant

Both ears, which is proof that it exists, at least.

Josh Clark

Exactly. You just - you just amended the standard model, Chuck. All right. Let's talk about this, dude. What - what - what is this? We're talking about the Large Hadron Collider. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Which you may have heard about, you may know a lot about, and if you do, I imagine we'll probably get some angry emails from you.

Chuck Bryant

When we mess it up, inevitably.

Josh Clark

Right. Right. But on the border between Switzerland and France -

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

- 100 meters underground.

Chuck Bryant

Beautiful country.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

There is a facility with a track that's what, 17 miles long, I think 17.7?

Chuck Bryant

16 point something, give or take. We'll just call it 17.

Josh Clark

17. And around this track, they shoot beams of light.

Chuck Bryant

Pretty simple.

Josh Clark

It is pretty simple.

Chuck Bryant

Can we stop now?

Josh Clark

Yes, we can. There - there is a Large Hadron Collider, everybody. That's what it's called. It's called the Large Hadron Collider.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

It's been built, I think they started in the 21st century and it finally went online for the first time in 2008. So far, it's cost $6 billion to construct.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I've heard up to 10, even, depending on who you ask.

Josh Clark

Well, yeah, and there's a lot of countries involved. There's thousands of scientists who are going back to their home countries and saying, "We need more money. We need more money."

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

and the - the - but yeah, France and Switzerland are running the show there.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. CERN is the name of the company, we should point out.

Josh Clark

Right. Well, it - the organizations, the European Organization for Nuclear Research -

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

- abbreviated, a France, CERN.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. I was about to say those letters don't match up, man.

Josh Clark

Right. Hey, there's something hanky around here.

Chuck Bryant

That's weird.

Josh Clark

So what is it, Chuck? It - they shoot beams of light around.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's a particle accelerator, and it is the largest and most badass particle accelerator in the history of particle accelerators.

Josh Clark

True that.

Chuck Bryant

That's the easiest way to say it.

Josh Clark

We've got particle accelerators that look like old donkeys pulling carts with square wheels compared to this thing.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, seriously.

Josh Clark

This is as big as it gets. It's as ambitious as it gets. And basically, what they're trying to do are several fold. They're trying to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson particle.

Chuck Bryant

A.k.a., the god particle.

Josh Clark

Well, let's talk about this. Why - why would anyone want to prove the existence of a theoretical particle?

Chuck Bryant

Should we go back to the standard model?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Should we back into this?

Josh Clark

Let's do it.

Chuck Bryant

Basically, it tries to define the fundamental particles that make the universe.

Josh Clark

The forces.

Chuck Bryant

The forces.

Josh Clark

Right. You've got strong nuclear force, strong like bull, weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force, so the standard model, which combines Einstein's Theory of Relativity with quantum physics, I believe -

Chuck Bryant

Quantum theory and all that other stuff you just said.

Josh Clark

Right. It - it combines those two, and it proves the existence. It accounts for those three forces. The problem is gravity still remains unaccounted for.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's the fourth fundamental force.

Josh Clark

Like we can account for it, theoretically, but we can't say, "Yes, this is why gravity exists, and this is all the stuff gravity does."

Chuck Bryant

Right. Sure.

Josh Clark

We're still - with - with strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, and electromagnetic force, we've advanced leaps and bounds beyond classical physics, nutonium physics, but we're still at the apple falling off the tree level as far as this goes when it comes to gravity.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

So the Higgs Boson particle, if we find it, if we detect it, it will fill out the standard model, hopefully.

Chuck Bryant

Exactly. And it's a theoretical particle at this point that we're looking for.

Josh Clark

Right. And they think that it exists and that basically it's responsible for giving mass - or matter mass.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Right?

Chuck Bryant

Which is important, they say, because not all matter has mass.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

Things called neutrinos.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

Delicious and nutritious neutrinos do not have mass.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

I practiced that one.

Josh Clark

Did you?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

It was actually written down. How lame is that.

Josh Clark

Oh, my goodness.

Chuck Bryant

So not everything has mass and the idea is that if you explain the existence of mass using the Higgs mechanism, we'll all be better for it and understand our origins and all that stuff.

Josh Clark

We are. Ultimately, that's what it comes down to is we're like - theory is not good enough. We have to know.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

You know? So the Higgs Boson particle is one of the bigger ones named after Peter Higgs, by the way, a physicist who theorized it.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

How do you - how do you know a theoretical particle when you see it?

Chuck Bryant

That's a good question. Do you know?

Josh Clark

I - this is what I understand, that you can't just say, "Oh, there must be this particle out there and name it after me, by the way."

Chuck Bryant

Sure. Right. Right.

Josh Clark

I think Peter Higgs went a little further and said, "This particle must exist, and if it does exist, this is - basically, this is - it's energy, it's mass."

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

"So find this."

Chuck Bryant

Right. And name it after me.

Josh Clark

Right. Exactly! And so if they - what's going to happen when they - when they turn the Large Hadron Collider on, what, this Christmas, right?

Chuck Bryant

I think it begins the process, which will take several months after that to - to collide. Isn't that right?

Josh Clark

Yeah. They'll - they'll have their sensors looking for a particle that's created that has that, I guess, mass, that energy, that whatever - however it's described mathematically.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, which is the dark matter -?

Josh Clark

Which is way beyond my stuff?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's coming out of my ears right now.

Josh Clark

Yeah. So dark matter is another one that they're hoping to find! Right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

You've got it coming out your ears. Tell us about it, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Well, here's the deal with dark matter is right now humans can observe about 4 percent of all the matter that must exist in the universe.

Josh Clark

We - that's all we can account for.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's not very much.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

There's a theory that dark matter is this undetectable matter and that coupled with the matter that we can detect makes up only about 25 percent.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Which is still not much?

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

And the other three-quarters is what they think might be a force, called dark energy.

Josh Clark

Right. Which scientists have become alarmed over the last few decades when they've detected that the universe is actually expanding.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And they don't know why.

Chuck Bryant

Well, and they think that dark energy may be the reason.

Josh Clark

Right. So they're looking for that, too. A lot of - once you - again, once you theorize something, you kinda have to back it up with and this is what it's going to look like.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And so, you sense for it, right?

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

They're also looking for antimatter, which is matter's hated foe.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And they like to cancel each other out.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's how it supposedly worked is there was more antimatter -

Josh Clark

More matter.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, I'm sorry, more matter than antimatter when the big bang happened.

Josh Clark

Which is how we're here?

Chuck Bryant

Exactly.

Josh Clark

But they don't know why and they're hoping -

Chuck Bryant

To recreate that.

Josh Clark

Yes.

Chuck Bryant

Simulate it.

Josh Clark

And that is - that is the hook, Chuck. What they're going to do - they want to find all this stuff and more by recreating the big bang, that the - what the universe looked like a trillionth of a second after the big bang.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Right?

Chuck Bryant

Because we think what happened was the universe expands and cools and all these particles floating around join up together and form larger particles and then -

Josh Clark

Protons.

Chuck Bryant

- all of a sudden, what do you - what - what's the word, evolution?

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Starts rolling.

Josh Clark

Right. If you believe in that kinda thing!

Chuck Bryant

Pretty cool. Right.

Josh Clark

They're also looking for some other stuff, slightly stranger stuff than, you know, dark matter and antimatter.

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

They're looking for evidence - well adherents of string theory are looking for evidence of string theory.

Chuck Bryant

Which would mean another dimension?

Josh Clark

Several, up to 11, I believe.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's true.

Josh Clark

Igio Kaku, I think, theorized 11. I don't buy string theory.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. You've always pooh-poohed that.

Josh Clark

I have a - I have a real problem - and it's most likely I just don't understand it, but from what I understand, very, very smart people don't understand it either.

Chuck Bryant

Well, there's no proof.

Josh Clark

I get the impression that Kaku is like this is what - he didn't come up with the measurements to back it up.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Right.

Josh Clark

You know? But -

Chuck Bryant

You're - you're on the same page as a lot of scientists, though. They also say that it's - it's a philosophy. It's not a science.

Josh Clark

Right. Under his theory - or under his philosophy, however you wanna say it, there is up to 11 different dimensions. We're currently aware of four: height, width, depth, and time.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

Those are our four dimensions that we exist in. Under Kaku, there's 11 total, so there's another eight that are unaccounted for.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And that all matter in the universe is made up of tiny vibrating strings. Some are closed, like little rubber bands. Some are open like little - oh, I don't know - tapeworms.

Chuck Bryant

Like a cut rubber band.

Josh Clark

Right. Sure. Nice one, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. And these strings can vibrate.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

And like a guitar string and one vibration might make it look like an electron. One might make it look like a neutrino, a delicious and nutritious neutrino.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

And that's string theory in its most simplest form.

Josh Clark

But even still, the strings are highly hypothetical.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark

And even if they were created, we apparently wouldn't be able to sense them. What they're looking for, the string theorists, is evidence of super symmetry.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And super symmetry is you have a particle and it has an opposite particle, like a neutron and a positron, positively and negatively charged, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yes. Right an antiparticle. Sure.

Josh Clark

Right. Even further, those are super partners. Even further into super symmetry - and this will somehow, I guess, prove string theory - I don't understand how it will, but - and oh, my god, can you imagine the length of the emails we're gonna get from people who explain how this proves string theory?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I'm - I'm already suffering from brain melt. I can't imagine anymore.

Josh Clark

So you've got the neutron and the positron.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.Josh Clark: And those are super partners, but each of those have a positive partner, too. Rather than an opposite, they have one that's like them as well.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Each one has their own partner.

Josh Clark

So each particle will have three partner particles.

Chuck Bryant

Three counter particles.

Josh Clark

Counter particles, perfect, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

So that would be super symmetry, and apparently, if they find evidence of super symmetry, then bada boom, bada bing, string theory is right.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And it also helps to explain dark matter.

Josh Clark

Yes, it does.

Chuck Bryant

So wow. Is anyone still out there?

Josh Clark

Yeah. Stick with us, everybody. We're muddling through this part, but it's about to get a little more interesting.

Chuck Bryant

There's like ten nerds that are like, "This is the best thing ever."

Josh Clark

No. They're like carving their knives.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Ready to slice us up!

Josh Clark

Yeah. Yes. So that's what they're looking for, and also, I think this is what I find most fascinating about it. Most of the scientists out there, I think, there are very few who are looking for evidence to back up their theories. Most of them are actually hoping to learn like everything they know is wrong. And there's all this new stuff so they can go out there and figure out what - how this fits here and all that. I find that very interesting.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Me, too!

Josh Clark

It's a very ambitious project. And as Strickland points out in his article, a very comprehensive article, by the way, there is no practical application for this.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's all just to see what happens.

Josh Clark

Yeah, which is pretty cool to sink six to ten billion into, you know?

Chuck Bryant

And go from there. Yeah. Well, and if you've ever seen the thing, the pictures of this - the Hadron Collider - is just unbelievable.

Josh Clark

It's ginormous.

Chuck Bryant

It's ginormous.

Josh Clark

So what are they gonna be doing, Chuck? How does this thing work?

Chuck Bryant

Well, Josh, there are eight sectors at the Hadron Collider.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

And they basically use magnets to steer these beams of light, these protons -

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

- in a circle.

Josh Clark

Right. [Inaudible]

Chuck Bryant

Because otherwise it will just go straight.

Josh Clark

Right. You love that part.

Chuck Bryant

Well, yeah, because that's the only part that makes sense.

Josh Clark

Right. The - the magnets are actually super cool. Right, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Well, there's 9,600 magnets, if you want a little stats.

Josh Clark

This one's stat heavy. This is -

Chuck Bryant

Big time.

Josh Clark

This is your show.

Chuck Bryant

So 9,600 magnets. Many of them weigh several tons, which is pretty -

Josh Clark

Pretty big.

Chuck Bryant

Pretty big. And they are cooled, Josh, to 1.9 degrees Kelvin, which is negative 271 Celsius or negative 456 Fahrenheit.

Josh Clark

Which is just above absolute zero.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

And the reason why they would want to cool an electromagnet to just above absolute zero is there's very little electrical resistance when you turn that thing on.

Chuck Bryant

So it can operate smoothly.

Josh Clark

Exactly.

Chuck Bryant

Ideally.

Josh Clark

Right. Because it's - it's - it's purpose isn't to, like you know, [inaudible] attract all of the pots and pans at the CERN facility to it. I mean, it has a purpose. It's steering beams of light, which is much more difficult. You go out there and try to steer a beam of light.

Chuck Bryant

I know, dude. I've tried.

Josh Clark

Yeah. It's tough.

Chuck Bryant

It is tough.

Josh Clark

Okay. So -

Chuck Bryant

Well, how do they cool it, though? That's a pretty cool stat.

Josh Clark

They cool it using liquid hydrogen and helium. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Liquid nitrogen, yeah.

Josh Clark

Woo, that stuff burns.

Chuck Bryant

10,800 tons of liquid nitrogen and 60 tons of liquid helium to finish up.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

That's pretty hard-core.

Josh Clark

Okay. So you've got these magnets, and actually, inside the magnets are pipes, which are vacuumed.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Yeah. You've gotta have a vacuum.

Josh Clark

So basically, if you hear - you've heard vacuum and almost absolute zero.

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

This sounds an awful lot like outer space.

Chuck Bryant

Like deep space.

Josh Clark

Exactly.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

So they're - they're creating a vacuum to keep any particle out.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Any particle could screw this whole thing up.

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

So imagine that. They're inside this almost 17-mile track. There's nothing.

Chuck Bryant

They're creating deep space 328 feet below the earth's crust.

Josh Clark

Without the space junk.

Chuck Bryant

That's nuts, dude. It is.

Josh Clark

Okay. So Chuck, along this - and also there's the eight sectors. Each one is an arc, like you said, so it's basically one big circle.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

And along - along this big circle are six stations, basically.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And each one of these is outfitted with tons of sensors. There's 150 million sensors, I think, throughout the whole Collider.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And so, each station is basically working to measure one thing or another. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's - and we could go into detail here, but this is really when people would tune out.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

But just suffice to say there are eight main stations where they're looking for - six of them? Six main stations!

Josh Clark

Six, yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Four of which are really ginormous collecting lots of info and then two kinda smaller ones.

Josh Clark

Right. And remember, these - they're - they're collecting things like information about radiation, sudden changes in mass, gravitational fields, electromagnetic fields, that kinda stuff.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

And then, it's gonna sort through, and actually, another interesting thing about CERN is that it's getting something like 15 petabytes of data gathered every year, which is 15 million gigabytes.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

That's - and they're constantly - the sensors are constantly feeding back information.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. What did that say? That was enough information to fill 100,000 DVDs?

Josh Clark

Which is not as impressive as I would have thought?

Chuck Bryant

I'm pretty impressed.

Josh Clark

Okay. And they're actually using grid computing, using off the shelf computers, which is pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. They just linked them together.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

Why did they do that?

Josh Clark

It's more efficient, from what I understand.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I think so.

Josh Clark

And it's cheaper.

Chuck Bryant

Right. They're saving - speaking of cheap; you know what's not cheap? Their power bill!

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

Did you see that?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Unbelievable. $30 million per year just to power this thing, after they've already sunk between 6 and 10 billion into it!

Josh Clark

Right. And once this - once this thing gets revved up, what they're going to do - first - the first step, Chuck - and this is like the big experiment. Basically, they're just shooting beams of light and then smashing them into each other.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Okay. So what - what they're gonna do first is they're going to take hydrogen atoms, they're gonna strip them of their electrons. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That makes protons.

Josh Clark

Which produces protons? They're gonna take the protons and they're going to send them through a machine that fires them as beams.

Chuck Bryant

The PS booster.

Josh Clark

That's the accelerator. Right?

Chuck Bryant

I think that's what gets - there's a bunch of them, but that's what gets it going.

Josh Clark

Right. So it's just a beam, and then, it's a beam.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Right? Okay, Chuck, so when they get these beams ready, right, when the - when the whole thing's ready to go online for the big experiment, sometime early next year -

Chuck Bryant

Hopefully.

Josh Clark

So the first step is to take hydrogen atoms and strip them of their electrons.

Chuck Bryant

Poor guys.

Josh Clark

Which makes protons, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

And there we have our protons because this ultimately is a proton accelerator, right?

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

What they do is they feed these into a machine called the Linack II, which fires the beams of protons into the accelerator, which is the PS booster.

Chuck Bryant

Yes. And dude, that uses radio frequency electric field to push the protons along and kinda get them started on their journey to just below light speed.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Right. It's like get along little protons.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And you're gonna meet some other guys later that are gonna whip you even harder.

Josh Clark

Right. Yeah. That PS booster makes them go from, you know, a beam of light to a beam of light. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

That's a good way to say it.

Josh Clark

Thank you very much. And the - the magnets are going to come in now. They're keeping these proton beams on track.

Chuck Bryant

Sure. Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark

And the thing's going along pretty quick, pretty quick, and then the PS booster injects it into another accelerator called?

Chuck Bryant

The super proton synchrotron [inaudible].

Josh Clark

It sounds like a - a children's toy.

Chuck Bryant

It does.

Josh Clark

It does, doesn't it?

Chuck Bryant

A very expensive one.

Josh Clark

So the beams are now really picking up speed and they're divided into bunches.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Okay. So you have - just imagine one beam and it's divided into, I think, 2,800 bunches?

Chuck Bryant

2,808.

Josh Clark

Per beam.

Chuck Bryant

Per beam.

Josh Clark

And each bunch has 1.1 times ten to the 11th power protons.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And this is important to say that they shoot one counter clockwise and one clockwise.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

Because they need to be headed at each other.

Josh Clark

And they're in two different - two different tunnels.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

So yeah, they're going different directions, but they're getting faster and faster. And they're actually coming very, very close to the speed of light. At one point - and remember, this is a 17-mile track.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

At one point -

Chuck Bryant

This is crazy.

Josh Clark

- that these beams are getting to their - their top speed, they make 11,245 trips around the track per second.

Chuck Bryant

Stat of the year.

Josh Clark

That - it may be.

Chuck Bryant

Dude, it's - what is this, mid-November, and that's the stat of the year.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

More than 11,000 trips around a 16-mile track per second. Yeah. If you ever wondered how fast the speed of light is, that's 99.9 percent there.

Josh Clark

Yeah. But you gotta - you gotta admit that 100th of a percent is pretty substantial.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

I wonder how many trips they'd make at the speed of light.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. The fact that we have figured out how to do this - not you and I, obviously, but humans have figured out how to do this is pretty amazing!

Josh Clark

I agree.

Chuck Bryant

If it works.

Josh Clark

Amazing or terrifying, which we'll get to in a minute.

Chuck Bryant

Yes. And then, Josh, you know what happens then? They converge.

Josh Clark

Yeah. They - they direct these bunches of beams of protons to each other and -

Chuck Bryant

Boom.

Josh Clark

- kaboom.

Chuck Bryant

600 million collisions per second at that point.

Josh Clark

And I get the impression also that - it wasn't clear, but the beams can be directed toward one another at each of the six sensor stations.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, okay. Really?

Josh Clark

I think so.

Chuck Bryant

Oh.

Josh Clark

Because I think you have to have your sensors right there.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Right.

Josh Clark

We'll see.

Chuck Bryant

That makes sense.

Josh Clark

We'll find out. We're going, by the way. I already booked us a trip.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, really?

Josh Clark

We'll be there.

Chuck Bryant

Sweet. So what happens, Josh, is they, theoretically, they're gonna collide. And they're gonna break up into small particles, like quarks.

Josh Clark

And they're accompanying energy, called gluon.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. You know, gluon keeps it all together.

Josh Clark

Which is why it's called gluon?

Chuck Bryant

Is it really?

Josh Clark

I don't know.

Chuck Bryant

Of course not. But quarks are really unstable and they will decay in just like a fraction of a second, but we have all these sensors to pick up [inaudible] in the meantime.

Josh Clark

Exactly. Exactly. I think that's - that's part of the problem with why we can't detect this stuff in the universe is it's already happened. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And we're witnessing its effects. We're part of its effects. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

So they want to recreate the beginning of the universe to see if these things really exist and what their effects are, etc., etc.

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

There's possible going to be some other things that are created, inadvertently.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, photons and muons.

Josh Clark

And black holes, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. That's possible.

Josh Clark

It's very possible, actually.

Chuck Bryant

Even CERN said it was possible.

Josh Clark

Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant

That's one of the critics - one of the things the critics point out is you may create a black hole and you may destroythe earth, so much so that sue dudes sued them, basically, to try and stop it.

Josh Clark

And not just who dudes, a guy named Walter Wagner and Louise Sancho. Walter Wagner was the former nuclear safety officer for the Large Hadron Collider.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

He was like the guy who was in charge of safety, and he filed a lawsuit in a US district court in Hawaii to file an injunction - or to create an injunction to stop that thing from being turned on.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Because you know what a black hole is?

Josh Clark

It's a bad mama jama is what it is.

Chuck Bryant

It is - I love how Strickland puts it, "Black holes are regions in which matter collapses into a point of infinite density." Not good.

Josh Clark

No, it's not. And again, as Chuck said, CERN has said, "Yeah. Maybe! They may create some black holes."

Chuck Bryant

But really teeny ones.

Josh Clark

Well, that's what they're saying. They're saying, "Yeah. The black hole you know and love is a star collapsing on itself." We're talking about subatomic particles collapsing on themselves.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

So it's [inaudible] create a black hole, but it's gonna be tiny.

Chuck Bryant

[Inaudible]

Josh Clark

One of the - the concerns that Wagner and Sancho have is that, sure, it may be tiny but no one's ever done this before. And you guys have no idea whether this is safe or not.

Chuck Bryant

There's just too much unknown.

Josh Clark

Right. And they're like, "No, no. Our magnets are safe. They've been tested." They're like, "We're not talking about the magnets. We're talking about all the stuff. You have no idea what's gonna happen."

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. And they also said - I love the response. One of CERN's response was, "And there's no one allowed down in there while it's going on."

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

And they're like, "Dude, what about the earth being swallowed up into a black hole?"

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Forget the one scientist that's - you know, wants to watch the explosion.

Josh Clark

Sure. Forget him.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

He can write out of the black hole what's going on down there.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, Josh, and you know what? You know what else I think they might produce?

Josh Clark

The strangelets?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Those things are a little scary.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Could be worrisome! Strangelets could possess a gravitational field that could convert them and the entire planet earth into a lifeless hulk.

Josh Clark

Right. They think that strangelets have this - they're very dense. I think they're theoretical as well. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. They're hypothetical.

Josh Clark

They - they apparently have the property of lending their incredible density to any other particle it touches and setting off a chain reaction.

Chuck Bryant

Kinda like Rogue from X Men.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Maybe.

Josh Clark

Kind of. I think there's a lot of quantum physics in the X Men.

Chuck Bryant

In my pea brain, that's what I'm gonna think.

Josh Clark

So they're worried that if a strangelet is created it could set off a chain reaction that turns all matter on earth into this ultra dense dead like lifeless hulk, including us on earth because we're on earth.

Chuck Bryant

Yes. But CERN dismisses that for a few reasons. They say first of all that it's hypothetical so we don't even know that.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

So don't get your panties in a wad yet.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

I believe that's what the memo said, actually. And then they said that actually there's an electromagnetic field that would really repel normal matter instead do changing it.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

So don't sweat it.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

Then they say even if it does exist it would be really unstable and would probably just decay like instantaneously.

Josh Clark

Like those black holes.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And then the final thing they say is that high energy cosmic rays would produce this stuff naturally anyway and -

Josh Clark

And it should be hitting the earth already.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. And we're still here, so don't worry about it.

Josh Clark

The one that I have the real problem with was the third one that it should decay almost instantaneously.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Words like should are comforting.

Josh Clark

Does it really - well, no, I mean, does it really take a very long time for a strangelet to transfer that to set off a chain reaction?

Chuck Bryant

Oh, yeah. That's true.

Josh Clark

We'll find out if the world's a lifeless hulk this - this February.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Sweet.

Josh Clark

There's a couple of guys - remember that Higgs Boson particle that we talked about at the beginning, right?

Chuck Bryant

Uh-huh.

Josh Clark

There are a couple of guys who are actually very well respected physicists. Right, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

That's what I'm told.

Josh Clark

Who have come up with a couple of papers that basically say - and these are real physicists? These are real respected physicists, and they're not joking.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

They're saying that the Higgs Boson has already been created in the future at CERN, at the Large Hadron Collider. And it was so abhorrent that it rippled back in time and sabotaged itself so that it could never be created, sabotaged the LHC so it could never be created.

Chuck Bryant

So what's - what's the analogy? Are they liking it to coming back from the future to kill your father so you will never be born?

Josh Clark

Grandfather, whatever.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

That's actually a paradox. You can't do that or else you never would have been born in the first place.

Chuck Bryant

Exactly.

Josh Clark

But they make the case that it's not a paradox to travel back in time to push your grandfather out of the path of an oncoming bus.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Which is what they're saying the Higgs Boson's doing.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And the reason they say this is because it has failed on a spectacular level so far.

Josh Clark

It has. There's things that have happened, strange things you could say.

Chuck Bryant

[Inaudible] to crank this up and get [inaudible]. Well, there have been some strange ones. The first one wasn't that strange. It was a coolant leak, and it destroyed a lot of the magnets, which was pretty expensive to fix.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

So that knocked it off track for quite a while, off track literally.

Josh Clark

For a good year.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. And then, Josh, you know what happened last week?

Josh Clark

Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant

A bird dropped a baguette, a piece of bread, into this thing.

Josh Clark

Yeah, into one of the magnets.

Chuck Bryant

This is really what happened.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Can you believe that?Josh Clark: I can because I'm kinda with the two physicists who think that the Boson has been created and traveled back in time.Chuck Bryant: Yeah. So this bird drops this into a piece of the outdoor machinery and overheated parts of it. And it was not operational at the time, but they said that it produced such a spike that if it had been turned on that dropping this bread would have enabled the automatic fail-safes and it would have shut it down.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

A piece of bread.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

From a bird.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

That's a little hanky.

Josh Clark

It is, but at the same time, if you think about it, it's not really that hanky. But this - everyone is so - everyone paying attention is so like this could be really great or it could conceivably end life as we know it.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Let's see what happens. So anything that happens to it is just hugely -

Chuck Bryant

Under the microscope.

Josh Clark

Yes.

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

And I just realized that I was agreeing with the string theorists. One of the physicists is Holger Beck Nealson, and his compatriot, Japanese physicist, Musao Ninomia - and these are the two that are saying that the Higgs Boson was created and traveled back in time - they have a very easy way of solving whether or not the LHC should be put on line.

Chuck Bryant

How's that?

Josh Clark

A card game.

Chuck Bryant

Really?

Josh Clark

Yeah. They want to come up with, basically, let's say 100 million cards, and 99,999,099 of these cards say go ahead.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

And then one card says shut it down. And obviously, this is all software, not actual cards.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark

And then, you ask the LHC to pick one. And if the LHC picks the one that says shut it down, then we should shut it down, and if not, then it's fine.

Chuck Bryant

Wow.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Are they actually gonna do this?

Josh Clark

I don't think - I don't think so. [Inaudible]

Chuck Bryant

[Inaudible] have no sway over CERN anyway. Do they?

Josh Clark

No, they don't. They're not related to CERN, but like I said, they are both respected physicists. And the - the physics community when they first heard about this were like, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha." And then, they read it and they were like, "Ha. Ha. Ha." Yeah. But yeah because it is possible, hypothetically, and if the LHC is involved in anything it's hypothesis and theory.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. Big time.

Josh Clark

Until it proves everything or it destroys the universe.

Chuck Bryant

We should say, too, that this baguette in the works has not thrown it off schedule, apparently, this time.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

It's just shut it down for the time being. It's on schedule. And like you said, I think they're gonna start cranking it up sometime this winter.

Josh Clark

And then, they're gonna break for Christmas and come back and then boom.

Chuck Bryant

Right. And see what happens.

Josh Clark

Chuck, I propose - and I also propose this to all of our listeners - having a big ole party on the day that they do this.

Chuck Bryant

Because it could be our last.

Josh Clark

It could be.

Chuck Bryant

I also wanna point out that - I just saw this in the news today - one of the scientists was arrested in France as an Al Qaeda suspect.

Josh Clark

Uh-huh.

Chuck Bryant

Isn't that weird?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

And of course, they're saying that this has nothing to do with Al Qaeda trying to get their hands on the LHC or anything like that. It was just kinda one of those things, and there's, I think, 7,000 scientists working on it.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

So yeah, it's not that big of a deal.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

Well, I guess it is for him.

Josh Clark

Yeah. He's in big trouble.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

So that's the LHC, the Large Hadron Collider.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

We'll probably talk about it again at some point in time. Don't you think?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. We should follow up when it happens, if it happens.

Josh Clark

And we'll probably read one of the emails from one of the physicists that write in and let us know how super symmetry can prove string theory.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

Yeah?

Chuck Bryant

I look forward to that.

Josh Clark

Yeah. So if you want to read this article, I strongly recommend it. We didn't cover all of it. It's a good - good article written by Strickland.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

You can type in Large Hadron Collider in the search bar at howstuffworks.com.

Chuck Bryant

And bring your drip pan to catch the melting brain.

Josh Clark

The antimatter that you're [inaudible].

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It's dense.

Josh Clark

And I guess now, Chuck, it's time for listener mail. Right?

Chuck Bryant

Yes, it is, Josh. [Inaudible] We're gonna call this a response to my - my admission that Emily and I fight before every plane trip.

Josh Clark

Okay.

Chuck Bryant

Remember when I said that?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

So we have someone out there that agrees that - or not agrees - but it happens to her and her husband as well. They've been married for 16 years, and, "Every time before we take a trip, my husband has a major anxiety attack and acts like atotal A-hole. I know that's what it is, and I am pretty tolerant, but until he's on the plane or in the car he refuses to acknowledge the reason for his tension or even that he's particularly grouchy," which is what I do."So the few days before we travel are always fraught and we always end up fighting, about the only time we do fight. Once we're on our way, he's fine. I'm still totally aggravated, though, from him being such a jerk. Earlier this - they've been married 16 years and this is how she's talking - earlier this year, we went to Chile for a month. And when I booked the flights I seriously considered getting separate seats. I threatened the next time I'm booking my flight a few days earlier than his. Anyway, just wanted to share this so you know you're not alone."

Josh Clark

That was nice.

Chuck Bryant

"As always, thanks for the great podcast. The site is great, in general. Searching for unicorns linked me to some information on hardy roses, which I'd actually recently been looking for."

Josh Clark

Awesome.

Chuck Bryant

So there you have it.

Josh Clark

Wow.

Chuck Bryant

And that is from Ann in New York City, and Ann says as a P.S., "I could not find your team on kiva. How do I find it?"

Josh Clark

Well, Ann, you can find it -

Chuck Bryant

It's funny you should ask.

Josh Clark

- by going into the url bar of your web browser and typing www.kiva.org/team/stuffyoushouldknow. And Chuck, there's all the more reason - by the way, I wanted to say I could not be prouder of our team, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

The stuffyoushouldknow army is awesome.

Josh Clark

We're at straight up 100 percent loans.

Chuck Bryant

More.

Josh Clark

Are we really?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. It was something like 750 members and 780 loans. We're above one loan per member.

Josh Clark

Wow. That's great. In four weeks, everybody, we donated $20,000.00. That's phenomenal. And Colbert has already been left in the dust. His - his - his leaky team is donating like 8 grand and I think they might be at 9 grand so far. Chuck and I actually issued a video challenge to Mr. Colbert.

Chuck Bryant

We did.

Josh Clark

We wanna see who can be the first to - what did we decide on?

Chuck Bryant

$100,000.00, I think.

Josh Clark

That's a pretty - pretty big undertaking, I would say.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

But I think we can do it, so everybody, we have challenged Colbert's team to see who can get to 100,000.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. And you know, he's ignored us so far, so if anyone knows Mr. Colbert, or if anyone has any connection with his show or you're a fan, go smack him on his big, fat head and tell him - tell him about the little challenge.

Josh Clark

Damn right.

Chuck Bryant

That's what I say.

Josh Clark

So again, that's www.kiva.org/team/stuffyoushouldknow. And if you have an email for Chuck or me or Geri or the Large Hadron Collider, you can send it to stuffpodcast@howstuffworks.com.

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