Friday, April 16, 2010


The abbreviation alone is enough to confuse anyone.

This is a valiant attempt at answering some of the general questions regarding the LHC. Still, there are quite a few errors or inaccuracies. The two glaring ones are:

Q. What does the name Large Hadron Collider mean?

A. The LHC is "large'' because it's the biggest assemblage of scientific tools ever gathered in one place. It works with "hadrons'' — physicist jargon for protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus of an atom. It's a "collider'' because it smashes protons — tiny subatomic particles — together so that scientists can peer at their shattered innards.

Hadrons are not a physicist jargon for protons and neutrons. It is essentially anything made up of quarks, which means they could be baryons and mesons.

Q. Will the LHC help explain how quarks combined to create matter?

A. That's one of the major goals of the project. Scientists hope they will find in the debris of the collisions evidence of an as yet undiscovered subatomic particle called the "Higgs boson,'' named after a Scottish physicist who predicted such a particle in 1964. Like the gluon, bosons are particles that have no mass but carry a force. Scientists think the Higgs boson, if it exists, is the particle that allows energy to turn into mass. The theory is that Higgs bosons are spread throughout the universe, like flowers in a field. Particles acquire mass — in other words become matter — by interacting with the Higgs field. That's why physicist Leon Lederman called the Higgs the "God Particle'' in a 1993 book of that name.

Bosons are particles with integer quantum spin. That's it. It happens that all our "force-carrying particles" are also boson, but all bosons are not "force-carrying particles".

While these errors are not as horrible as the one we've seen previously, one again is left to wonder why they don't have a qualified physicist go over these things before they publish it. These errors are not something that is so highly specialized or so subtle. They are often something even an undergrad can spot from 10 miles away.


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