Best of 2008 Scientific Discovery

The most significant discovery of 2008 might have been more of a non-discovery, if you will. Most people have probably heard all the talk ignited over the operations of CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research. CERN has been in operation since 1954. America even has it’s own version in the Fermilab of Illinois. The similarity is that both Fermilab and CERN have particle accelerators. The idea is to discover and witness a vital and, to this point, elusive part of the Standard Model. The Higgs Boson. The Higgs has never been observed, so it is essentially, what is believed to be the last link in the standard model. And even if it isn’t, the LHC will prove that it isn’t and physicist can go back to the drawing board to do some more thinking. To produce the Higgs Boson, or produce results that prove we are wrong, the LHC will collide opposing beams of protons or lead ions at speeds as close to that of light as possible. In most technologies, the hardware gets smaller and smaller as progress is made. The opposite is true when speaking of particle accelerators. CERN unveiled the LHC, or Large Hadron Collider, on September 10, 2008. The LHC takes up the area of a circle that is 17 miles in circumference, underneath the ground on the border between France and Switzerland. It is now the world’s largest and highest energy accelerator. When the world’s public first heard of the LHC it was because stories had begun to surface on the subject of the possibility of creating an artificial black hole. Which scientists had admitted was, technically, a possibility though never expressed any concern. Lesser minds began to spread panic about something they had no way of understanding. Typical function of the media. Well on September 10, 2008, the LHC was fired up and guess what, their non-discovery was that of a black hole. They didn’t demolish the earth, no black hole was produced. The LHC ran for about 9 days before malfunctions forced them to shut down and start repairs, but that minor setback hasn’t dampened anyone’s hope of materializing one of the most significant experiments in the history of science. They are carrying on Albert Einstein’s legacy. The operations at CERN and of the LHC is groundbreaking. Stephen Hawking said that, “Whatever the LHC finds, or fails to find, the results will tell us a lot about the structure of the universe.” And whether you are a religious person or not, or interested in science or not, this should be very exciting. Einstein once said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”