Saturday, July 21, 2007

The LHC at Nature Insight

With less than a year to go before the start of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, there has been a lot of media coverage about this huge collider lately - see e.g. at NYT, The New Yorker, and of course Bee's post The World's Largest Microscope.

Much more in-depth information on the physics, the history, and the engineering aspects of the LHC can be found in this week's Nature Insight: The Large Hadron Collider. Unfortunately, a subscription is required for the full content, but two interesting articles are freely available:

How the LHC came to be, by former CERN Director-General Chris Llewellyn Smith, on the political and organisational struggles involved with the building such an international, multi-billion euro machine, and Beyond the standard model with the LHC, by CERN theorist John Ellis (the guy with the penguins - see page 5), on the different options on possible new physics that might be discovered at the LHC.

Have a nice weekend!



  1. Haven't yet had the time to read the Nature article, but I read the one in New Yorker, which is indeed informative and very nicely written. I especially like the Wilson quotation on page 6:

    Senator John Pastore, of Rhode Island, wanted to know the rationale behind a government expenditure of that size [for Fermilab to build a new collider]. Did the collider have anything to do with promoting “the security of the country”?

    WILSON: No sir, I don’t believe so.

    PASTORE: Nothing at all?

    WILSON: Nothing at all.

    PASTORE: It has no value in that respect?

    WILSON: It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. . . . It has to do with are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about.

    Though when I read the article first, and now again, I find the random comics in the middle of the page somewhat disturbing.

  2. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Anybody know the story of how Ellis came up with the name 'penguin' diagram?

  4. The origin of penguins
    Told by John Ellis:

    “Mary K. [Gaillard], Dimitri [Nanopoulos], and I first got interested in what are now called penguin diagrams while we were studying CP violation in the Standard Model in 1976… The penguin name came in 1977, as follows.

    In the spring of 1977, Mike Chanowitz, Mary K. and I wrote a paper on GUTs [Grand Unified Theories] predicting the b quark mass before it was found. When it was found a few weeks later, Mary K., Dimitri, Serge Rudaz and I immediately started working on its phenomenology.

    That summer, there was a student at CERN, Melissa Franklin, who is now an experimentalist at Harvard. One evening, she, I, and Serge went to a pub, and she and I started a game of darts. We made a bet that if I lost I had to put the word penguin into my next paper. She actually left the darts game before the end, and was replaced by Serge, who beat me. Nevertheless, I felt obligated to carry out the conditions of the bet.

    For some time, it was not clear to me how to get the word into this b quark paper that we were writing at the time…. Later…I had a sudden flash that the famous diagrams look like penguins. So we put the name into our paper, and the rest, as they say, is history.”

    John Ellis in Mikhail Shifman’s “ITEP Lectures in Particle Physics and Field Theory”, hep-ph/9510397

  5. Hi Plato: Thanks! Haven't heard from you for a while, nice to see you around. You left out the part with the illegal substances... ;-) Best,


  6. This is a nice little ditty in line with the hype and glory of this magnificent multinational cooperative project. Aren't we humans so very smart? To think, we're about to open the box that will explain the mysteries of the universe... or is it Pandora's box?

    From your rah-rah slant, you forgot to mention the concerns. Little things are the fact that a stable black-hole would be an insatiable mini trash compactor that could squish a person smaller that a virus. Maybe that could be overlooked...we all die anyway, right.

    There is a new model that is being advanced that suggests that mini black-holes will be stable. That would be very bad new. Check out the contraversy at my Scientific American blog (Go to and search for my name.)

  7. hi hasanuddin,

    went to, searched for your name, the search "resulted in 0 documents. Did you mean "Handing"? "

    that said, you might want to read this or one or the other of my papers before you keep going on with the rah-rah. which new model suggests mini-black-holes will be stable? would be kind of interesting, I believe I've published a paper about the possible signatures such a scenario could have.

  8. I guess Hasanuddin refers to this blog post, which is a about an idea described in this book. I strongly suggest that any discussion is run, if at all, at the SciAm Community Blog.

    And please, do not use the comments to promote your own pet theories about everything.

    Thanks, Stefan

  9. thanks. what really pisses me off about all of this bullshit catastrophe scenarios is that people just produce this pseudo scary crap to make money from others who can't tell whether it's nonsense or not. every fucking blogpost who declares the world is going to be sucked in by the lhc produced mini black hole and btw, every nth visitor clicks on the ad banner falls into this category. i've recently had an argument with an advertisement manager from Discover because they plastered a banner for a crackpot book in the middle of an article about Einstein's family! Besides this being annoying enough, the advertisement was an insult for every physicist who takes his job seriously - the ad is still there, I doubt the guy even cared about a single word I said. his whole argumentation was what you'd expect, but it still makes me sick. can't anybody see that we're selling truth for cheap entertainment?


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