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The Six Billion Dollar Experiment

August 7, 2011

Last week, Mindscape screened The Six Billion Dollar Experiment as a part of their weekly screening and I had to miss it since I’d a lot of work to do. So, I got the documentary and started watching it. I found out that I had three other videos-two of them TED-and so decided to watch them as well :).

The Six Billion Dollar Experiment is a documentary on the Large Hadron Collider, one of the most ambitious particle physics projects in history. In short, the experiment involves using two proton beams travelling in opposite directions at 99.999999% speed of light around a 27 km long circular tunnel to recreate the universe less than a billionth of a second after it was formed! The two beams collide and information during the collision will be collected by the detector-about 600 million of them occur each second! Simply amazing! Imagine the engineering challenge that this involves! Cutting edge engineering at it’s best!

The LHC’s goal is to find the Higgs particle(or Higgs Boson named after Peter Higgs). The Standard Model is an equation that can accurately describe the behaviour of almost anything in this universe! But it’s incomplete without the Higgs particle(in fact, it predicts the existence of the Higgs particle) and that’s the goal of the LHC-to discover this mysterious particle that gives mass to everything in the universe.

It also talks about the origin of the universe, the various discoveries that led to it’s unravelling, lessons that can be learnt and how is that you look to the sky, you’re actually seeing the past since the light travels such a long distance to reach earth. The farther you look into the universe, the more into the past you’ll be looking into. Which means, when you look into the night sky, you’re mostly seeing light from stars that left them probably even before you were born! The realization that we’re nothing but a small speck in the universe is absolutely amazing!


Dr. Brian Cox, one of the researchers who worked on the Atlas detector, delivered a talk about the LHC-what is it and why is it that they’re so excited about the entire project. He returned a year later in 2009 with the first findings of the LHC and was amazing to see that magnet bent by a simple manufacturing defect! That’s engineering at it’s best!

Speaker Profile:

Universe and Philosophy

I also saw the video about Carl Sagan on how the universe is so huge and earth is nothing but a “Pale Blue Dot” in the universe! And how world over countless people shed a lot of blood and wasted countless amount of time to command a small part of the universe! It shows on why earth is the only inhabitable planet and we should work towards conservation of our planet or all hope is lost for us!

It puts a lot of perspective on how we consider ourselves to be such great individuals and an important part of the universe, when we’re nothing but a speck of dust in a vast universe who’ve been around for about a second in the universe clock. And just write down how much the humans have managed to mess up planet Earth in this small span of time! It shocked me to the core when I realized this for the first time.


I realize that we’re expected to do great things! That’s what engineers do always! It’s always working on the cutting edge of any field. If you’re a computer science person, it’s not essential that you work in this field only-there’s no such distinction out there. It’s all in our head! Get that theory out!

To conclude my post, I’d like to quote what Carl Sagan said, which Brian Cox quoted in his TED talk.

“The ash of stellar alchemy was now emerging into consciousness. At an ever-accelerating pace, it invented writing, cities, art and science, and sent spaceships to the planets and the stars. These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution.”

Just imagine what all has happened due to a few hydrogen atoms-internet, sports, movies, billions different types of humans, animal and plant species-the list just goes on endlessly. More you think about, more the realization dawns on the sheer magnitude!

From → TED Blog

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