Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ode to the LHC

Joel Achenbach has a great write-up in National Geographic on the Large Hadron Collider, the particle accelerator which scientists hope will uncover the Higgs Boson, the so called "God particle". The photos taken by Peter Ginter, which accompany the article, are truly stunning.

If you were to dig a hole 300 feet straight down from the center of the charming French village of Crozet, you'd pop into a setting that calls to mind the subterranean lair of one of those James Bond villains. A garishly lit tunnel ten feet in diameter curves away into the distance, interrupted every few miles by lofty chambers crammed with heavy steel structures, cables, pipes, wires, magnets, tubes, shafts, catwalks, and enigmatic gizmos.

This technological netherworld is one very big scientific instrument, specifically, a particle accelerator-an atomic peashooter more powerful than any ever built. It's called the Large Hadron Collider, and its purpose is simple but ambitious: to crack the code of the physical world; to figure out what the universe is made of; in other words, to get to the very bottom of things.