Big Science News of the Year 2009
The LHC Tunnel
Dr. Neil Turok
It is most probable that the biggest story of the year is yet untold and will be the subject of some Nobel Prize in the future. These things remain hidden and are done by people we often have never heard of, because they are scholars. There were two stories, however, that Canada can be very proud of and they quietly made news this year. Both of them concern the Perimeter Institute (PI) in Waterloo, Ontario started by Blackberry founder Mike Lazaridis.
The Perimeter Institute is Canada's and one of the world's most prestigious Physics Think Tanks rivaling any in the US, Europe or Asia. It is now mentioned in the same breath as Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, CERN in Europe and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
Lazaridis set up PI with a 100 year charter and a group of some of the most gifted physicists in the world. The Canadian Government quietly spent big dollars on PI's new building and nothing but good things have come out of the Lazaridis venture so far.
This year a major coup was achieve by luring away Neil Turok from Cambridge University where he held the chair in mathematical physics. He has had a productive career working with many of the most famous names in Physics including Stephen Hawking of "A Brief History of Time" fame. Hawking is probably the most famous scientist in the world today, known for his great mind and wheel chair existence while being Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a chair once held by Newton.
Turok and Hawking have collaborated on seminal work about the beginnings of the Universe. So the second dramatic story of the year concerns the news that Hawking himself will spend as much as six months a year at the Perimeter Institute in the next few years. That's big news for Canada.
The third story concerns the Large Hadron Collider located on the Swiss-French border. The LHC is the largest and most complicated machine ever constructed. Its purpose is to explore the very meaning of the Universe from the Big Bang to the future of the known and unknown universe.
13/01/2009 04:11 PM
Deep in the bedrock on the spine of Europe sits the most complicated machine every conceived or built by man. It is in a giant circle of 27 km around and in some places over 500 feet deep.
As might be expected it was turned on with great fanfare on September 10, 2008. On September 19, it was turned off because of a fault in the giant magnets that bend protons around the circuit at 99.999999% of the speed of light.
It will not be operational again until the summer of 2009. At that time it will again try to control and examine the collisions of protons whirring around under the Swiss-French border. Scientists and the general public have really gotten into this thing and are eagerly awaiting the secrets that it might find.
The questions awaiting answers are many, but a few are:
So the three top stories of the year that we know about are: