Not with a Bang, but a wiggle…

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN

Originally uploaded by Image Editor under a creative commons license- the photo can be distributed and used for new work, but the source must be credited (just like this blog, you nasty content scrapers)!

The Universe is still here…

I’m not sure if they have started colliding things and re-creating the big bang, but the world passed another doomsday last Wednesday when the Large Hadron Collider switched on at CERN and we didn’t all vanish into a mini black hole or end up in a parallel universe. Sorry, that last link is a very geeky gamers joke.

This project, and many attending factors have fascinated me for a while now. There have been some spectacular photographs from inside the various experiments on the ring of the accelerator. These cavernous spaces, deep underground have, it seems, a sepulchral quality. Just like cathedrals are where we go to talk to God, this is where we talk to the start of the universe, to ponder how and why it all began.

The project involves an astonishing number of scientists and collaborators from a huge list of countries; so large in scope that it could not have been achieved by one nation. It has united a diverse bunch of humans in the pursuit of a common goal in a way I’ve never encountered before. What is even more amazing to me is that this is science for sciences’ sake. There is no profitable final end product, nothing that can be marketed, no projected returns on our collective investment. Just the hope that we can re-create the conditions just after our universe started, and perhaps glimpse some of the most fundamental building blocks of reality.

The reporting of this project has also been very interesting. I watched the switch-on live on 24 hour news channels and was amused by the press, so used to spectacular moments struggle to convey how important the slightly wavering curve on the screen was, how momentous the occasion. They all likened it to the Apollo moon landings, new readers and drafted in experts alike. They also went to some pains to reassure people worried by sensationalist stories about the risks of black holes devouring the planet from within.

There has been great coverage on some of my favourite webcomics too- phd comics and xkcd, as well as some great spoof footage here.

The BBC website had an interesting article about how to talk to your kids about these worries (which I now annoyingly can’t find), and I’m really pleased to say that people were talking about it being a great chance to talk to them about science, whilst reassuring them the world wasn’t about to end. I wanted to go off at this point into a long thought about millennialism and humanity and why we seem so curiously prone to the idea of the world ending; how this all links back into ideas about God, prevailing western paragdigms and science-as-faith, but I think I’ll leave that for another day, or someone smarter than me.

Me? I’m just hoping they don’t find the Higgs-Boson. Much like Prof. Hawking I think that would be far more exciting; we’d have to start again on most of our theories about how the universe really operates on the quantum scale.

Nottingham, flesh eating beetles and an apology of sorts

Well this is awkward… sort of like when you bump into someone you knew in high school but don’t keep in regular contact with and you ask how their other half is and then belatedly realise they split up six months ago…

I have been absent. I am sorry dear readers (if there are any of you out there!). Life has been ticking along and I’ve not really had anything earth shattering to say or blog about- I’ve not been in the field or (until very recently) been to any events or conferences to tell you all about. I’ve also been dealing with some personal life stuff.

I find a dichotomy opens up when I have real-life, not-for-sharing-on-the-internets stuff going I want to write lots, and frequently do, but it isn’t stuff I want to share here. I’m even self editing very consciously now, mindful of what I do or don’t say, if any hints I don’t feel comfortable with sharing have leaked through. This makes blogging hard; it stops being a chatty, slightly serious update on what’s new in the world of this particular girl and becomes an agonising exercise in self censorship. It feels like a very long time since I wrote a proper post but it probably isn’t!

I have some posts planned, some from memes that I have seen doing the rounds in the blogs I frequent and others to do with writing I am willing to share. For now, here is a snippety list of things I have done/ seen/ found out lately:

  • Nottingham has changed a lot since I was last there but the new trams are cool
  • Flesh eating beetles will get by on dog food when your forensic sciences colleagues don’t have any ‘real’ bodies to feed them on
  • My Dad being home from hospital is a Very Good Thing ™ and (controversially) ECT seems to have helped
  • I can go digging up at Yellowmead…
  • … but not ’till October so it looks like I’m praying to the weather gods again
  • There is a very small type of Tree Frog called a Phantasmal Tree Frog that secretes a substance ten times more powerful than morphine
  • I miss the ACRG at Southampton University a lot
  • I’m going to miss Cas terribly, but seeing as we interact most online hopefully not too much will change?

I’ve been battling with monsstrous writers block recently but have hopefully beaten it over the head with big sharp sticks so for now I’ll sign off and go and get on with some more work. I have photo’s to Flickr and lots of little posts planned so watch this space!

Neko out

(see- I’m not dead, just been hibernating a bit!)