What Will Future Generations Care About (If There Are Future Generations)?
Potential Answers: March Madness? No. Sandra Bullock and Jessie James? Wrong again. Healthcare legislation? Closer but no.
It's the atom-smashing experimentation going on at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (better known by its previous French acronym CERN). The atom-smashing machine, called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is massive. Straddling the border between France and Switzerland near Geneva, it's a ring covering about 30 square miles of land with a circumference of 17 miles.
The point of the experimentation is to discover the origins of the universe. Today, researchers at CERN "put the pedal to the metal," so to speak, goosing the Collider to three times the previous record, which the machine set in December.
The output today was a whopping 3.5 trillion electron volts (TeV). Sound like a lot? According to Popular Mechanics, 1 TeV "holds roughly the kinetic energy of a fast-moving ant."
But the Collider is only trying to move electrons (much smaller than ants), so this amount of energy propels them at a speed just shy of the speed of light. And when they collide two beams of electrons, racing around the ring in opposite directions, the energy output will likely be high: roughly the equivalent of the weekly energy requirements of 100 average American families.
Future generations are more likely to care about the results of CERN's experiments than with who Jessie James is sleeping with this week — assuming there will be future generations.
Some are concerned the electron collisions to be produced by the LHC will create a black hole that will suck the earth into itself and out of existence.
Putting travel plans on hold to Switzerland and France — or anywhere in this solar system — may be a good call until CERN finishes its work.
Photo credit: BBC