Nov
09
2009

Bird, bread break most complicated machine ever. Sigh. Will the world never end?

A killer agent from the future: Like the Terminator, but with bread!
A killer agent from the future: Like the Terminator, but with bread!Courtesy Hillarie
So, I’m sure y’all have heard the news by now. The Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most elaborate scientific device ever built, has broken again. And it never even got the chance to end the world.

See, many people believe that the LHC’s attempts to catch a glimpse at the forbidden knowledge of the universe could, like a nerd’s efforts to peek into a locker room of large and aggressively athletic members of the opposite sex, go terribly wrong. Earth-endingly wrong. Sure, pretty much everyone who knows anything about it says that the LHC really isn’t dangerous in that way, and the odds that it would cause a chain reaction that would destroy the world are about the same as its chances of creating an army of teenage mutant ninja turtles. (There simply aren’t enough karate-practicing teenage turtles out there to mutate!) But that doesn’t seem to matter, because every time they try to turn that sucker on, something goes wrong, and we keep getting robbed of our first row seats at the end of the world (or, alternately, our seeding in the ninja reptile tournaments).

Do you know what killed the project most recently? I think you do, if you read this post’s headline. A bird. A little bird dropped its delicious toast on a piece of outdoor equipment (most of the LHC is deep underground). Presumably it was a bird, anyway. Whatever the case, a mystery slice of baguette found its way to some important equipment that was not baguette-proof, causing the machine to rise a few important degrees in temperature.

The damage caused to the machine wasn’t catastrophic. It shut down as the temperature in the circuit increased, which is a good thing, because if the LHC had been fully operational at the time, such an increase in temperature could have caused the superconducting magnets in the particle accelerator to become less-superconducting, and then all that energy from the near-light speed particles would… crash. Boom. But that didn’t happen, and the LHC should be up and running this winter.

Or…

A month ago, the internets were alive with discussion over the theory that the Large Hadron Collider was being sabotaged… by the future!

Naturally I ignored this news, because Science Buzz doesn’t credit nonsense like this with attention, and, what’s more, I’m familiar with the concept of someone at one point in time sabotaging his self at another point in time, and I know that it only goes the other way. Trying drinking something named after a cartoon at the end of an evening, and you’ll see what I mean.

I don’t totally get the idea behind this time travel sabotage theory, but the basic premise is that the universe, or “God,” or the fundamental forces of physics, or whathaveyou, aren’t into the possibility that the LHC could create a Higgs Boson. The Higgs is an important theoretical particle that sort of… ties the room together, if we’re calling the whole universe a room. Experiments at the LHC are trying to create conditions in which a Higgs might be observed. However, say a couple of respected scientist dudes, it could be that the Higgs is so “abhorrent to nature” that its creation would send ripples back in time to prevent it from being created.

Leaving aside the exact mechanics of time ripples, let’s consider what’s happening here. As we all know, while killing your own grandfather is often temptingly within reach, going back in time to kill your own grandfather is impossible. It could just be that no one is owning up to doing it, but the situation also describes a paradox: if you were to travel back in time to kill your grandfather, he couldn’t have created your mom or dad, who, in turn, couldn’t have created you, so you couldn’t go back in time to kill him, so… you get the idea. One might think that the universe attempting to undo the creation of a Higgs boson presents a similar paradox—if the creation of the boson is what causes it to destroy the equipment before it can be created, it would never be created, and therefore couldn’t destroy the equipment that creates it. Bleh. On the other hand, the scientists say, while you can’t kill your grandpa in the past (darn!) you can, say, push him out of the way of a speeding bus. Yay! (Unless the event of your grandpa’s bus-related death was the sole inspiration for your time traveling adventures.) The setbacks in the LHC’s operations, say the theorists, could be the universe trying to push us out of the way of a speeding bus, as it were. But what about the Higgs is so abominable? They aren’t sure about that.

It seems to me that there are still some brain-twisting complications in that theory. Cause and Effect, I think, are going to have difficult time sorting out whose clothes are whose in the morning. But… come on! A bird dropped some bread on the LHC! Since when do birds drop things on things? It has to be time-traveling mischief.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I'm still not sure about this paradox thinger. Even if the universe is pushing us out of the way of the bus, us getting hit by the bus (i.e., creating the Higgs) is what causes the push (i.e., bird-bread sabotage from the future). Paradox right there.

The time travel (or time ripples, or whatever) would have to be brought about by something else. Like... the universe decided to change time to save some dinosaurs, and, oh, by the way, while we're at it, stop that Higgs boson from being discovered, because that was slightly obnoxious.

posted on Mon, 11/09/2009 - 2:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The world will most certinaly end. But i am sorry to inform you that it will not not end in 2012. The mayans were brilliant when it came to astronymy and time and they predicted that something major will happen. So what will happen you ask. Well it is predicted that a solar flare from the sun will hit us. so will that mean that we will all die. Easy NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just ask Nostradomas he says we will die because of a nuclear Bomb because of the next world war so thats how we would probuly die. But if the mayans prediction came true it might just bring us humans closer so that we will not kill are selfs in a world war. so the world will end just not in the next 1000 years at least besides there is so much to descover in the univers and who knows maby we will find intelegent aliens in the future i hope we do.

posted on Sat, 11/14/2009 - 7:02pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Hey, who said anything about 2012? This is about the Large Hadron Collider.

Keep your eye on Science Buzz in a few days, though—we'll be putting up a feature on 2012 and the Maya later this week. But here's a sneak peek: that Maya didn't predict that the world would end anytime soon, and certainly not via something so fancy as a solar flare. (Solar flares, btw, can affect Earth, but maybe not the way you think. It's not like jets of fire hitting the planet. More like blasts of invisible energy, messing with out electronics.)

posted on Mon, 11/16/2009 - 10:27am

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