Ring a Ring of Hadrons... We all Fall Down
If it is after 8.31am (BST) on September 10th 2008 and you are reading this, then the particle physicists at CERN on the border of France and Switzerland have avoided creating a black hole in their large hadron collider that will suck us all into oblivion.
It's a salutory thought that the last sight I may get of this world is the view from the top of the Holywood Hills overlooking Belfast Lough as I do my usual dash to take Owain to school... But as final views go that's not bad.
Of course it won't be my last view, at least not unless I have an apoplectic fit at the idiot reporters covering the story on radio who trot out the same old rubbish time after time without realising the immensity of what the scientists are actually doing. But immense though it is it won't create a black hole (you can say I was wrong if they do... but then we'll be dead and you'll not have read this in the first place), and it isn't recreating the big bang...
But let's just use it as a pretext (as every TV and radio programme, newspaper and blog known to man is also doing) and ask, if the world really were to have been sucked into a black hole this morning, how would you have spend your last night (keep it clean!)...
And, are you ready?
ps. It's now 9.31 am (BST... though I'm not convinced about this "summer" thing given the weather) and we're still here. But that is because I, like everyone else have bought into the hype. The only big bang this morning was at 8.35 am (BST) when, after a few technical glitches, they managed to get the accelerated proton beam 3km around the loop and someone popped the obligatory bottle of champagne. They probably won't actually collide two particle streams until tomorrow at the earliest.
One person who will probably pop a champagne cork or two if all their hopes are fulfilled is Peter Higgs, the man who proposed the Higgs Mechanism, and the Higgs Boson, or so called "God Particle" by which energy develops mass. Having posited this as a young whippersnapper in the 1960s (and ironically having the paper proposing it rejected by scientists at CERN... Ooops!) Professor Higgs has been waiting around over the last 40 years waiting for someone to find one of these particles among the wreckage caused by various particle collision experiments. When I was in Edinburgh University in the 1980s, my flatmates, who were both physicists, almost revered him, as he was still on the staff there... But no-one was quite sure what he did anymore... Interest outside of Edinburgh was raised again when Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time" came out... Although Hawking has placed a £100 bet that the particle cannot be found... While Higgs believes that Hawking doesn't actually understand the physics well enough to make that assertion... That is the intellectual stature of the man... Believing that Hawking doesn't know as much as himself!
Anyway, I hope that Peter Higgs is vindicated in these experiments, and that the scientists find his "God boson". If they do, he will undoubtedly get his long expected Nobel Prize, we will not, however, as Hawking asserts, know the mind of God...
My only hope is that the scientists are right and that their particle collisions will not cause us to meet with God prematurely!