Monthly Archives: July 2008
The Large Hadron Collider, located at CERN in Switzerland, is a doomsday device constructed from blueprints some aliens projected to earth in the form of crop circles and mutilated cattle anuses (or whatever the plural of anus is) which, when activated, will rip a hole in the fabric of space and time and unleash monsters from another dimension that will bring this world to an end by 2012, as predicted by the Maya several thousand years ago.
Or so some people want you to think, more or less.
In fact the LHC is a particle accelarator that will hopefully give answers to some unresolved questions in physics (like “why do things have mass”, which is a pretty big thing not to know) and which will undoubtly create a lot more new questions in the process.
This raises the question, if science always comes never to an end and increases rather than decreases the number of unknowns, then why do we keep doing it, instead of saying “Goddidit” or “I don’t know or care” ?
There is a long answer to that which involves the fact that, while we’re a far cry away from knowing everything we at least know something, and not the least that we have an idea about how much we don’t know. But there is also a short answer that rather involves the fact that you needed to be a man of straw or a lump of dirt not to be interested in the world around you: just being alive is simply not good enough.
Science is a way to find out about the world; its companion, Art, is a way to cope with what you find out. And sometimes the two celebrate a happy union, like in this, right, rap video, which is not only tremendously funny but also explains (did I say ‘also’ ? That’s the fun of it – ) in rather simply Terms what the LHC is and what it does. The credit for this evidently belongs to science writer Katherine McAlpine, and I hope many many people will look at it.
The Japanese space agency has published an amazing animation made from data from their Kaguya/Selene probe. This is a virtual tour through moons Tycho crater (named after astronomer Tycho Brahe, 1546 – 1601 [Wikipedia]). Phil Plait as badastronomy.com explains a bit about Tychos features (and links to the stunning lunar picture of the day, a picture of Tychos central mountain). Note that these are not actual movies/pictures, but are constructed from the data of Selenes instruments.
With that I wish you a happy weekend, I will attend a family festivity over the weeekend and will be offline ’till sunday.
The german moon mission LEO – Lunar Exploration Orbiter – has now been officialy cancelled, according to the news magazine Tagesschau (Ludmilla Carone at scienceblogs.de (german) had already written about that). The given reason is the cost, although at 350 mio Euro from the federal budget doesn’t seem all that much for a moon mission.
As far as I can tell the german, and actually the european policy on space projects is to fund projects that promise immediate return on investment (or at least allow to channel large amount of money to companys that must not be subsidized under european law. Maybe the people behind LEO should next time plan for a mission that allows to dish out a couple of billions to private companies to improve their chances).
One might argue that an “If we can’t eat it will won’t pay for it” attudite makes economic sense, but then we germans once believed that potatoes are inedible. Like the potato maybe the moon deserves a closer look.