Why the LHC?

Many moons ago, I mentioned that I’d be doing a talk about the LHC for local high schools, and offered to post the core of that talk for anyone to access. I’ve finally done so. If you’re interested in a “nutshell” discussion of the LHC aimed at high school physics students, you can find the contents here.

9 replies on “Why the LHC?”

  1. rickyjames says:

    Job Well Done
    Wow, Fiz, great job. Having said that, here’s a few comments on possible updates or mods you might make.

    I would combine sections 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 into a 1.2.1 Classroom, 1.2.2 Research and 1.2.3 Accelerator Physics. I would emphasize that the Classroom Physics is about scientists sharing the "currently known" part of physics with others, Research Physics is about scientists exploring the "currently unknown" part of physics among themselves, and putting the the Accelerator Physics section last by saying it is one of many types of Research Physics.

    What’s the reference to Chap 15 in 2.1? Confusing. I would also explicitly state that an atom bomb is just a machine to turn a little bit of matter into a LOT of energy and an accelerator is a machine to turn a LOT of energy into a little bit of matter. The incredible ratios involved in changing forms is the most amazing part of the formula, and isn’t explicitly stated in your otherwise excellent writeup. Students should not be assumed to automatically realize the formula’s incredible magnitude or implications.

    I would totally drop the reference to the Nazi bomb. If you are referring to the 2005 book Hitler’s Bomb by Rainer Karlsch, that is an extremely controversial claim that doesn’t yet rise to the level of a historically verified claim. There are similar claims about a Japanese nuke that was actually exploded after the surrender in Tokyo Bay by an isolated Imperial Navy outpost in Korea, and that the Korean War was actually started by Americans trying to wrest control of that war-prize factory site from the Russians. See Japan’s Secret war by Rober Wilcox for THAT one, which I almost believe. But in any event, I think this is a side track you’re better off not starting down for this audience.

    The wording of your last paragraph of 2.2 is a little confusing. I would especially suggest using the word "public" instead of "masses" to avoid confusion with "mass" in a physics sense. Ditto for changing "also very common" to "also very commonly DISCUSSED" to avoid the possible interpretation of "there are lots of photons in the universe" which is true but not the meaning you are trying to communicate. Your final two sentences are also confusing; I think you should explicitly state that while many hundreds of TYPES of subatomic particles besides protons and neutrons that have been discovered but not often discussed outside scientific circles, these are ALL composed of various combinations of JUST A FEW elementary particles. (Obviously you would not group "electrons and photons" with "protons and neutrons" here since the former are in face among the elementary particles you want to end the paragraph on).

    I would totally delete the 2.3.1 section on Heisenberg as irrelevant to an "introductory" LHC discussion. I see the point you are going for here, which is effectively explaining why particle accelerators produce particles with such short lifetimes, but that’s a subtle point for later discussion in other papers. Section 2.3 asks, How do particles interact? Answer: Gravity. EM. Strong. Weak. Introducing the Four Fundamental Forces here is a worthwhile goal. You did it. Forget about elaborating on Heisenberg here. On to the next topic.

    And that topic should be Higgs Boson, not Heisenberg. Just as I think you should delete detail on Werner, I think you should discuss Peter in detail. The biggest mystery of all that the LHC is seeking to answer is what causes the difference between massless elementary particles like photons and massive elementary particles like electrons. This is a mystery that DESERVES to be mentioned in an intro paper and highlighted as the main goal of what the LHC is looking for, not mentioned as two sentences in passing during your ATLAS experiment discussion. I think these two sentences should be pulled out and given their own section to replace the Heisenberg section.

    The remaining sections on different types of accelerators and different experiment detectors at LHC is all straightforward and fine. The only comment I would make is that you should further highlight that the development trend over decades has been to grow from the earliest and weakest type of accelerator (linear) to the most modern and powerful (Synchrotron) and that from a physicical and financial point of view the LHC is The Last Hurrah. Wish it luck.

    Again, good paper and good job.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Job Well Done

      Wow, Fiz, great job. Having said that, here’s a few comments on possible updates or mods you might make.

      Thanks for the feedback. That’s a little more than I can adequately cover properly in a quick Bureau check over lunch from my paying job, but I’ll look at it over the next few days.

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Job Well Done

      I would combine sections 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 into a 1.2.1 Classroom, 1.2.2 Research and 1.2.3 Accelerator Physics. I would emphasize that the Classroom Physics is about scientists sharing the "currently known" part of physics with others, Research Physics is about scientists exploring the "currently unknown" part of physics among themselves, and putting the the Accelerator Physics section last by saying it is one of many types of Research Physics.

      I’ll keep that in mind if the school invites me back again this semester.

      What’s the reference to Chap 15 in 2.1? Confusing.

      Yeah, I see now that I need to rephrase that. This was a script that I used while presenting, and at this point, I held up Einstein’s "Theory of Relativity," making it clear in context that this book had the chapter 15 I was talking about. Posting this out of context, it’s really hard to tell that was the intent.

      I would also explicitly state that an atom bomb is just a machine to turn a little bit of matter into a LOT of energy and an accelerator is a machine to turn a LOT of energy into a little bit of matter.

      Again, I see now that the PDF didn’t make this as clear as the talk.

      I would totally drop the reference to the Nazi bomb. If you are referring to the 2005 book Hitler’s Bomb by Rainer Karlsch, that is an extremely controversial claim that doesn’t yet rise to the level of a historically verified claim.

      This is something I originally heard in a class well before 2005, and the professor who presented it did so in a way that made it sound like a verified and proven claim. It’s a nice attention grabber to pull their attention back into the talk after a while (as is the portion where I electrify a pickle so it glows). I’ll probably remove it from the text version, and only leave it in the live talk if they’re waning and if I have the time to make sure it’s an unverified anecdote.

      The wording of your last paragraph of 2.2 is a little confusing.

      Noted, and scheduled for revision.

      I would totally delete the 2.3.1 section on Heisenberg as irrelevant to an "introductory" LHC discussion. I see the point you are going for here, which is effectively explaining why particle accelerators produce particles with such short lifetimes, but that’s a subtle point for later discussion in other papers.

      I had that feedback from a number of people before the talk, and it turned out to be the part that garnered the best feedback from the students after the talk. I kept it in because I figured the most bizarre stuff is the most mentally engaging stuff, and that’s the way it played out. I gave the talk to three different classes on the last day before Christmas break, and in all three this was the point where the iPod headphones came out, sleeping kids were elbowed awake by friends, Social Studies homework got put away, etc. It cut into the time spent discussing the Higgs, but the entire room was listening for the first time all block every time, and I did this after I made a pickle glow orange.

      And that topic should be Higgs Boson, not Heisenberg. Just as I think you should delete detail on Werner, I think you should discuss Peter in detail.

      This was in the first draft, but got trimmed when I learned the school had 60 minute blocks instead of the typical 80. It’s really tough to get there without the right foundation. If I get invited back, I’ll look for something to trim to spend more time here, but I’ll try to keep Heisenberg in because it played out so well.

      • rickyjames says:

        Re: Job Well Done
        Since you’ve heard of and are obviously interested in the Nazi nuke theory, I wonder if you’ve heard of the Port Chicago disaster and the nuke conspiracy theory about that one. Supposedly it was a low yield American uranium hydride bomb developed months before the much more difficult enriched uranium metal Little Boy weapon used on Hiroshima. Supposedly the Port Chicago hydride nuke had inherently limited yield intended to clear a beach like Iwo Jima for an invasion, and detonated accidentally during shipment by the US Navy. What’s really interesting is that Peter Vogel wrote and published on the internet for years an EXTREMELY detailed and convincing book that San Francisco Bay was accidentally nuked during WWII by the Port Chicago incident but later pulled his book off the internet. Now you can only find copies of it by going to the Wayback Machine and checking out http://www.portchicago.org there.

  2. y42 says:

    Question about the H in LHC
    I’ll have a looksy at your lecture later on, but I’ve been meaning to ask this to someone smarter and/or better educated than me: Why aren’t they calling this a proton collider?
    As far as I can tell, that’s what it is :-\

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Question about the H in LHC

      I’ll have a looksy at your lecture later on, but I’ve been meaning to ask this to someone smarter and/or better educated than me: Why aren’t they calling this a proton collider?
      As far as I can tell, that’s what it is :-\

      It also collides gold nucleii. "Hadron" is the general term for any particle that is essentially made out of quarks.

      • y42 says:

        Re: Question about the H in LHC

        It also collides gold nucleii.

        Ah! Well that’s good to know.

        Bonus: Makes it seem like an industrial scale, post-modern attempt at creating a philosophers’ stone.

        • rickyjames says:

          Re: Question about the H in LHC

          It also collides gold nucleii.

          Ah! Well that’s good to know.

          Bonus: Makes it seem like an industrial scale, post-modern attempt at creating a philosophers’ stone.

          Actually, smashing gold atoms together is done becasue they have the best nuclear cross section statistics to produce the elusive quark-gluon plasma. In one sentence or less, that’s the "stuff" that exploded in the big bang.

  3. Dave says:

    sadface
    This thread needs more links to Youtube videos of the presentation. Also that LHC rap video.

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