Received a tour of Fermi Lab this morning from a generous friend who works on the supercollider and is part of the team trying to track down the Higgs Boson particle -- both here and over at Cern. I’ve made the mistake of posting this two glasses of wine into my evening, so I won’t try to salvage all that I learned today about the acceleration and wanton smashing of particles, one against the next, and the ways and means by which physicists detect their errant behaviors.
There were magnets involved (super ones) and attenuated copper wires. Cosmic rays figured large in the explication of the whats, the whys and the wherefores of the protons that shower the earth in the aftermath of super nova explosions, and mention was made of their baked-fresh-daily kin -- anti-protons -- that Fermi generates each day to the tune of trillions before sending them off to the slaughter in the big ring.
I learned that the big bang was infinitesimally small -- more like a quiet burp that escapes during an animated dinner party (when the laughter is raucous and no one can hear it) -- and I began to suspect, as the talk veered to stars, that for all of their elaborate plumbing these folks really are in the business of simply (simply?) emulating brilliant star bursts and then piping their meteoric messages through fiber optic wires that extend from the campus like so many pneumatic tubes conveying cylinders to far bureaucracies, as if shuttling intergalactic gossip at the speed of light.