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The Search for the Demigod Particle

Because you want more physics!

The Large Hadron Collider continues to have problems and now CERN says it will have to run on half power for the time being. It's only going to be able to find the Demigod Particle, in other words.

Here's a piece in the Times by the excellent Dennis Overbye. There are thousands of electrical connections on the blink. Worse, there are 49 magnets -- and these are really huge magnets -- that are underperforming.

"He said the magnets in question had all met specifications and that the problem might stem from having sat outside for a year before they could be installed."

Don't leave those magnets out in the rain, folks!

In my Nat Geo story, I described the magnets down in the tunnel at CERN:

Workers were installing magnets. They've since completed the process, having installed more than 1,600 magnets, most half the length of a basketball court and weighing more than 30 tons.

Oddly enough, none of those magnets will accelerate particles. The acceleration will come from electrical waves in a separate apparatus that boosts particles around the ring. The job of the magnets is to nudge the beams of particles to bend ever so slightly around the ring. Lots of particles moving at nearly the speed of light have only one desire in life: to keep moving straight ahead. So the bend needs to be gradual--thus the 17-mile circumference of the ring.

The problems at LHC mean that, for the near term, the cutting edge of particle physics will still be at Fermilab, which just got $62 million in Obama stimulus money "to support research toward next generation particle accelerators and preliminary design for a future neutrino experiment."

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 6, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
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Stupid magnets.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Wise to move away from your last blog. Many folks apparently still don't get your humor. Or maybe it's just crabby season.

Posted by: Windy3 | August 6, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I really do want more physics!

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather listen to physics talk than health care, at the moment. And yay, looks like Obama's secret plan for Fermilab worked!

Posted by: seasea1 | August 6, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Director John Hughes died - only 59:

Posted by: seasea1 | August 6, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Will we ever be able to cook food faster than in a microwave? That technology just stopped getting better.

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh darn, the caterers just called. They didn't get the steak and lobster they ordered, so the bunker is out of luck tonight. Sorry, folks. Mudge, you're in the clear.

Oh, and I had only TWO glasses of Moet. That's my limit.

Man, it's a real shame about those magnets. I wonder if they can juice them up somehow, to increase the magnetism. Those Swiss winters play havoc with that kind of equipment.

Posted by: slyness | August 6, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Those Swiss Chalk a lot.

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Very sad about John Hughes, so young and involved with many of the movies I loved when I was young - some I still do.

I do not have anything to add about particle physics, lest I look like a complete idiot I shall remain quiet.

Posted by: dmd3 | August 6, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Nat Geo, I watched the promo for Ed in the wild... watched a couple of the online videos. I think it would be pretty funny for Joel to do Joel in the wild.

Joel spends 30 days in someplace like Iowa with only the belongings that he has in his sports utility vehicle. No support or film crew to help him if things go wrong.

Posted by: russianthistle | August 6, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

EYE want more physics too, Yoki, just less mass and greater velocity.

I finally saw JA in the PBS Appalachia production the other night. Very interesting. They were also starting Burns' Civil War series again.

Posted by: engelmann | August 6, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Too bad about the steak and lobster and champagne, but wise to save it in reserve until we really needed. Glad as I am to see a physics kit, I thought the manufactured outrage over the "insults" in the previous kit was *hilarious.*

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know whether Fermilab is an incubator of decadence?

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | August 6, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Of course not! They're physicists, for pity's sake. Now, chemists you need to watch out for...

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Even though magnets seem like a very familiar technology, I am led to believe that the ones used in the Large Hadron Collider are tricky. For these aren't the kind of magnets that you stick onto your fridge. These magnets, or so I have read, weigh many tons and require vast quantities of liquid helium to operate. So I am not surprised that the problems continue. I mean, have you tried to work with liquid helium lately?

Posted by: RD_Padouk | August 6, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey, as someone who's been called "the closest thing we have that resembles a chemist" I resent that. But then I hate chemists so I am of two minds, at least. That leaves just a few grey cells per mind however.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 6, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

SCC gray

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 6, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I mourn the loss of John Hughes. For however uneven might have been his films, especially his later work, I am forever grateful to him. For he brought us....Her.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | August 6, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

This being Canada, shriek, grey is accepted. No need for an SCC.

So, you have a complicated relationship with your own qualifications? Me too. Sad, reely.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure I don't even have to look at RD's link to know who she is.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I wonder whether the incomplete tunnels for the cancelled Superconducting Supercollider near Waxahatchee, Texas are being used for anything. I doubt that a segment would be housing a mushroom farm serving the demanding Plano market.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | August 6, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse


Maybe they could be converted to test for the now-defunct strings?

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Englemann, which feed of PBS do you get?

The Civil War series was the my first brush with the voice shortly after we got the dish installed. And Shelby Foote. Marvelous storyteller. Simply marvelous. I crocheted a complete blanket and sat and watched the whole thing in one sitting. It bears watching again, but this time, I think I'll knit a Civil War sock.

Posted by: --dr-- | August 6, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

i always enjoy more physics, mr. joel, but you went and spelled 'demigod' with a lower case 'g', thereby committing some form of blasphemy for which some recent interlopers to the blog will have to persecute you. probably best to lay low for awhile. you have my approval to take a three week vacation. cape may is a very fine place to go this time of year, and if you go there, be sure to check out ellie's bakery on broadway--bestest cinnamon rolls on the planet.

Posted by: butlerguy | August 6, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Home from the BPH and watching SYTYCD. It was a pleasure to meet Southwester (but sad that it was probably the one and only time). Also there were (ohplease don't let me forget anyone!) Don, Maggie, Scotty, bc, ftb, yello, and Mrs. yello. It was great to see everyone!

Posted by: Raysmom | August 6, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

That sounds like a great, great BPH! Glad a good time was had.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Raysmom -- Jeanine won!!!! I think part of me is disappointed that Brandon didn't eke it out, but Jeanine certainly deserved to win just as much as he did.

I'm already looking forward to the next go-around starting in September.

And, Viva Sotomayor! Woo-hoo!

Great to see all who came to the BPH. Southwester, it was especially good to see you if only to bid you adieu. And, yes, we'll have to come to some kind of accommodation about our respective hockey team loyalties.

Posted by: -ftb- | August 6, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

You just know that is *never* going to happen, ftb. Hockey affiliations are unalterable, immutable, fixed. But can't we all just get along?

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey DofC, my youngest brother, bless his soul, lived in Plano. He didn't eat mushrooms.
Very unusual weather here in the banana belt for August. 7:00 pm and it's only 65 degrees.
My tomatoes may never turn red.

Posted by: bh72 | August 6, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

maybe it's dem dang mangnets

Posted by: bh72 | August 6, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

durned magnets

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

I have watched that Ken Burns Civil War series about three times now. This is the first I've gotten around to naming that tune. I'm glad I did.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I know, Yoki. But I'm all for trying.

Time to go to bed with a book. I'm now halfway through the letters of the Mitford sisters. I am of conflicted feelings about Diana. I abhor her politics, but there's something somewhat appealing about her. But it makes me want to wash my hands a lot, you know? One of her grandsons apparently took his life a few years ago, as he didn't want to be a "Mosley" -- I wonder if going to a court to officially change his name might have been a better choice.

Posted by: -ftb- | August 6, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm a demigod, Jim, not a demitasse!

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Hey 2hess, I was born in northern Kansas, Salina. I don't remember any reference to getting smarts from your state. 'course I was moved to California when I was three.

Posted by: bh72 | August 6, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Jaysus God! man.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

I feel that ambivalent, conflicted way about all the Mitfords and Mitford descendents, ftb. But still, in a small part of my mind and heart, I can't but be grateful for their wit and articulate speech and beautiful written words. Reading them is better than knowing them, is MYE conclusion.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Glad the BPH was fun and that Southwester got to meet a few imaginary friends. I guess I'll have to start watching SYTYCD in the fall.

I just noticed something odd here. No crickets. Usually on August 1st, like clockwork, they start singing every night. This year, nothing. I assume the unusually cold June and July have delayed their development, as it has the corn & tomatoes. I miss falling asleep to the sound tho' so I hope they find their little voices soon.

Posted by: badsneakers | August 6, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Tomatoes need heat to turn red? I better break out the hair dryer and extension cord, then.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | August 6, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

OK, I'm really going to go to bed and stop Boodlehogging. But here is a funny true thing for you'all.

Many of my liberal (not card-carrying Federal and Provincial Liberal Party of Canada-members, as I am) friends are celebrating the confirmation of Sotomayor today. But they (the Albertans) pronounce it Soto-mayor. As though it were frostbitten in a new guise. Sotomaire. The inhabitant of the Mairie. Hmmm.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

It was a great BPH and was I delighted to meet Uncle Jesse, er, southwester.

Since I missed the entire last boodle, I must say that I spent my vacation this year in half of those Gang of Six states. For giggles, my son and I would search the AAA guide for 'cities' with populations in the six figures. Sleepy little HoCo is nearly triple the size of Fargo (which is really western Moorhead).

The small towns we did see were quaint and colorful. I will always remember the fine meals I had in Shell, Hill City, Red Lodge, DeSmet, and Park Rapids. Good food, friendly people, convenient parking.

These are also astoundingly pale states. We are talking polar-bear-in-a-blizzard white. I'm pretty sure we saw more antelope than we did people of non-European ancestry. I don't know what my point is except that travel is very expanding. At least of the waistline.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 6, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

@yello: you should have seen me back when I had hair halfway down my back.

Had great time with my inaugural BPH. Now I feel like such a part of the family. I have no idea when it will be, but hopefully our first visit back East once we're settled in Chi-town can coincide with another so I can keep ticking off my boodle bucket list.

Thanks again everyone.

Posted by: Southwester | August 6, 2009 11:10 PM | Report abuse

SWer... so sorry I missed meeting you tonight. I'm glad you figured out why we've all become such good friends. I'm glad you've joined "the family" here.

Next year, in Chicago.

Posted by: -TBG- | August 6, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Next year, in Chicago.

Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

I'll leave this for the late-night crowd. Hi, Rainforest! I gotta go sleep.

p.s. no need to watch the ultraviolent Deer Hunter segment. ouch.

Posted by: Jumper1 | August 6, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

That would have been your Blackie phase. For the record, I have seen John Stamos's buns. Bonus points to someone who can guess under what circumstances.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 6, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Southwester, let the Boodle know when you're in town and there will be a BPH. That's how it works. Very cool that Mrs yellojkt attended!

Thanks for that, Jumper.

Steven Pearlstein is mad:
(in the angry sense, and good for him)

Posted by: seasea1 | August 6, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: Yoki | August 6, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

If you have a penchant for Otis Redding, this is an awesome cover of Hard to Handle. Pigpen belts it out.

Posted by: -jack- | August 7, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I have a question on religious etiquette for the boodle.

A few days ago, a few hours before leaving Bucharest, DNAGuy and I went to Boyana to see a teeny (11th etc. century) church. Outside, in a depression in a column, were a bunch of coins. I saw a shiny new ban (1/100 leu) and took it for my coin collection. I replaced it with 20 bani.

So the question is whether I violated someone's prayer to God or multiplied it by 20? I reckoned the latter, since in all my encounters with religious practices no God has ever refused money...but now I feel uncertain.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | August 7, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

And last night we scored like the last two tickets for the Hungarian State Opera House (summer music festival; farewell performance of Gilda by Andrea Rost). Although, calling them "tickets" is a bit pretentious; they were $5 passes to try and stand on tippy toes at a 45o angle in the nosebleed section and see whatever square inch of the stage possible. We sat on the floor in a corner and heard the first half of Rigoletto. In the second half, we managed to claim standing room with 90% view of the stage. We must have done some really good deeds in a past life.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | August 7, 2009 2:24 AM | Report abuse

I heart you, DNA_Girl. Always.

But never, never, take the last good thing someone has to give.

The gods don't calculate. They accept.

Posted by: Yoki | August 7, 2009 2:38 AM | Report abuse

I would go the opposite direction from Yoki.

The person who gave that coin, gave it. The act of giving is what's critical. Only if that person saw his coin being replaced is his gift actually cheapened for him/her, and that is pretty unlikely.

Meanwhile, the church was recompensed for the modest impropriety of changing their money for them by increasing the monetary value.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 7, 2009 4:06 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link, Jumper. My experience with insurance companies and bankers is that you have to be very very careful with them. They are both legalized robbers.

Posted by: rainforest1 | August 7, 2009 4:23 AM | Report abuse

DNA Girl, if it is a Chinese temple, it you mean you gave 20 bani, not replaced with 20 bani.

Posted by: rainforest1 | August 7, 2009 4:30 AM | Report abuse

SCC : it WOULD mean...

Posted by: rainforest1 | August 7, 2009 5:12 AM | Report abuse

I swear I’ll stop boodlehogging after this….

…blue M&Ms could help relieve migraine…

Posted by: rainforest1 | August 7, 2009 5:19 AM | Report abuse


Having trouble getting used to this up-all-night jazz. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I was 12 timezones away just Sunday morning.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 7, 2009 5:27 AM | Report abuse

Fortunately, I don't *really* have to be up all night until Saturday. Still, it's a sleepy midnight here, tonight.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 7, 2009 5:35 AM | Report abuse

....faxing Tim a cup of 1st grade Brazilian coffee...

Posted by: rainforest1 | August 7, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle, Tim.

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

Aug. 7, 1942: U.S. Marines land on Guadalcanal and Tulagi on the first day of what became the six-month-long Guadalcanal Campaign, the decisive turning point in the Pacific. Subsequent fighting included six major sea battles (we lost several of them, decisively) and dozens of major land actions as well as major air combat.
1947: Explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa-wood raft Kon-Tiki reaches Raroia Reef in the Tuamoto Islands after a 101-day, 4,300-mile Pacific crossing that Heyerdahl made to prove his theories about early trans-Pacific migration.
1959: Explorer VI, NASA’s first satellite in space, becomes the first satellite to send back pictures of earth.
1964: Congress overwhelming approves the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, escalating (and effectively launching) the Vietnam War.
1980: Jacqueline Cochran, arguably America’s greatest woman aviator and the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound, among many other achievements, dies at age 72.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | August 7, 2009 6:16 AM | Report abuse

Here's a topic for the day: Is 'Weird Science' John Hughes's mulligan or was everything he made great?

Posted by: yellojkt | August 7, 2009 6:31 AM | Report abuse

You gotta stop abusing your circadian rhythm like that. It'll make you go blind. Does he help or hurt that you change time zones but have to stay up nights?

Posted by: yellojkt | August 7, 2009 6:32 AM | Report abuse

What if scientists find the Demi-Moore particle?

Posted by: yellojkt | August 7, 2009 6:42 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all, happy Friday.

DNA_Girl, I'm with SciTim, you're in the clear. Sounds like a great vacation you're having.

Rainforest, you're up late this morning! Or something like that.

I'm glad to hear everyone had a good time at last night's BPH. Pictures?

Got a call yesterday from the editor of the book for which I'm revising a chapter. She asked if I had any questions about her comments on the outline I submitted. Now I got those comments earlier in the week, after I'd finished writing, but all I said was that I'm waiting on permission to use photos and I'll be done. Nope, not gonna go back and rewrite. They're not paying me enough to do that.

Posted by: slyness | August 7, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

(1) Weird Science was pretty bad, but the TV show based on it was pretty good. So, he should get some positive cred for that.

(2) Evidently, the circadian abuse is not helping, because I feel pretty dang dead.

(3) I would not mind finding the Demi-Moore particle. I am pretty sure she is on the list for one-time forgiveness, if you catch my meaning.

Posted by: ScienceTim | August 7, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Prior to backBoodling...

The BPH was special, as we initiated Sou'wester into the mysteries and wonders of the Inner Sanctum. He's a fine young canni... I mean lad, apart from a very unseemly preference for Roger Moore. (kidding, I'm kidding!) Don from I-270, Maggie O'D, Raysmom, empty-nester yellojkt (and the Mrs.!), along with a special guest appearance from ftb, helped bc and I test M&S's single-table capacity. And we continue to pine for the AchenWaitress... *SIGH*

*off-to-backBoodle-and-get-a-little-TGIF-morning-sustenance Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 7, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Oh, just imagine all the spinning that's about to ensue...

*rolling my eyes*

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 7, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

SCC: bc and me... Darn long lists of people... *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | August 7, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. yellojkt was most impressed by the low prices and relatively expansive portions of the items on the M&S happy hour menu. She was, however, rather off-put by the implicit assumption made by the substitute Achen-waitress that shrimp scampi is finger food. Cutlery did finally arrive, but it was not a shining example in the annals of food service.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 7, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Morning everyone, I just made some coffee, a new brand for me - dark roast, miscalculated slightly on the amount of grounds I put in the coffee.

SciTim faxing you some of this brew - should be strong enough to keep you awake until next Saturday.

Posted by: dmd3 | August 7, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse


I am far more concerned about the italicized portion at the bottom of the article:

"Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the date on which the two journalists were apprehended. It was March 17, not May 17."

The wholesale dismissal of copyeditors at major newspapers will be marked as one of the milestones in the demise of print journalism.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 7, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. The birdseed-eating bear wasn't back but I discovered last night, in the most unpleasant way, that it had left "souvenirs" behind. This bear apparently eat raspberries at this time of year.

One more item for the Naval Aviation chronicle, a lost Cat was found:

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | August 7, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Morning Boodle,
New Kit!

Posted by: Southwester | August 7, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

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