Though I may only grasp a nano particle of the scientific notions surrounding the Big Bang, or the thoughts on string theory and black holes, and just what has been sucked into their light lorn centres, I have found like I like to be in the orbit of people who do. I attend lectures like people light cigarettes or down bottles of Jack, to get my intoxicating fix of intelligence in a closed atmosphere. Really, is there, anything better on the planet than thinking about the Universe and the mysteries beyond our planet, or being fascinated by the wonder or the neon lit world under the sea? Light emitting plankton do it for me as much as pondering the existence of life forms from other planets. To be honest, I marvel at the utter unfathomableness of my fellow humans, let alone a stereotypical alien, bang on trend in a silver catsuit and powdery green skin.
Among my wish list for ‘ultimate dinner party guests’ you would see, seated to my right the chipmunk cheeked, professor Brian Cox, he’d probably be deep in conversation with Einstein, Darwin or Jagger. It was he who magnetised my interest in the Large Hadron Collider, after being told about it by a physicist friend one rainy afternoon long ago. I’ve been fascinated by the project racing around a 17 mile circuit just outside of Geneva, ever since.
When I heard the www.imperial.ac.uk college had invited Tejinder S. Virdee – one of the founding members of the Compact Muon Solenoid Collaboration at CERN – LHC, I was booking my ticket faster than a speeding light particle. Years ago, I would have thought this out of my depth, before I realised that you cannot know what you don’t know and the only way to know is to go find out, so I went. Happy in the knowledge I’d be in a room filled with minds that I wish I could inhabit for just-one-day. Their brains must be wired differently to most!
Did you know that CERN (Conseil European por la Recherche Nucleaire – European Organisation for Nuclear Research) actually signed over the WWW for public use way back in the day when a calculator was high-tech and video games were so advanced that they made a bleeping sound and has a white moving line on a screen, operated by a joystick?!
The lecture was made possible by the Peter Lindsay memorial foundation and was FREE. This is already a bonus. The person that I am, sitting in that hall, shoulder to shoulder with people who seem to understand quantum theories (like, our consciousness affects the behaviour of subatomic particles and that particles move backwards as well as forwards in time and appear in all possible places at once, even that there are probably more dimensions than the 3 that we see with our human eyes but they don’t quite know what it may look like. Oh, and that one that Stephen Hawking tried to explain in his ‘easily understandable’ book about quantum physics, about an object on a moving train staying in one place in time and something or rather)…..is a projected image I create of me. You see, the me that I am sitting there on the hard, bottom-numbing bench, is the me that wished she had been a nerd at school, got absorbed in clever things grown up to become a scientist. Lectures are my consolation prize.
I am not going to tell porkies and say I totally grasped what Prof Virdee was talking about, but I think I progressed a little. I know a little more about quarks and your gluons and gravitons, and I get that the LHC is this year (2012) going to unveil whether the Higgs Boson exists….or not. The revelation, after smacking trillions of atoms together for a couple of years and analysis the effects, will help us to understand the Big Bang and what gives mass to matter. I am not quite sure how that will help us, but I guess it will. Certainly, bi-products of the experiment have already proved useful – WWW and Magnetic scanning machines to name two. But why is no one asking the question of our ever-expanding Universe…what is it expanding into? What about that? What or who made the Space? How big is the space it is expanding into and, what is outside of that? Ooh, that hurts my brain.
I have to marvel at the workings of the mind of a physicist. They categorise things into – knowns – known unknowns – and unknown unknowns. These brilliant people get paid to sit around and come up with ‘magical’ theories as to what is going on in our Universe, they scheme up fantastical scenarios and get paid to know nothing about their field with any certainty. And they are given titles for it and awards to stand among the party invitations on their mantels. Yes, these are exceptionally clever people!
I, myself, am on tenterhooks to see what the boffins at CERN conclude this year. Real life is so darned funky, shape shifting, complicated and crazy, it’s a wonder we need fictional escapism on the TV at all!
FYI – The Imperial College in London is opening its doors to Joe Public on 11th – 12th May. Go play with robots, dance at the silent disco or even meet an astronaut. It’s a free event. Perhaps the next Einstein will throw a few shapes with you?! www.imperial.ac.uk/festival