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The Large Hadron Collider was tested this weekend and a black hole hasn’t destroyed the Earth…yet

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It’s not a start-up per se, nor is it a web company, but the Large Hadron Collider is damn cool — and important. It was fired up this weekend for its first ever test, and despite fears of the world ending due to the device, that hasn’t happened yet.
The Large Hadron Collider (or LHC) is a particle accelerator built by CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. With a 17 mile circumference, it’s the world’s largest and most powerful accelerator. Scientists hope that using it to create environments similar to those found near the time that the Big Bang occurred, they will be able to unlock new secrets of our universe.
What kind of secrets? Oh, just some minor details not yet known to science, such as how elemental particles obtain mass.
The science blog Cosmic Variance has a great rundown of what the LHC could find. At the top of this list is the Higgs boson, which is the only particle in the Standard Model (the theory that describes the fundamental interactions between the particles that make up all matter), that hasn’t yet been detected. The site thinks there is a 95 percent chance the LHC finds this particle, and that could lead to a much better understanding of how our universe works.
Other notable possibilities on Cosmic Variance’s list include finding extra dimensions (these could be so-called “warped” hidden dimensions or a large dimension we have not yet detected), evidence for or against String Theory (perhaps the most popular “theory of everything” in recent times), dark matter (the matter that theoretically makes up most of the Universe but we can’t see it), dark energy (invisible like dark matter, but theoretically making up some 70 percent of the universe — much more than matter), and a bunch of sub-atomic particles that you’ve probably never heard of and I won’t go into.
One reason the LHC has gotten a lot of press recently is that word started to get around that it was technically possible that when the device turned on for the first time, it could create miniature black holes. You hear the word “black hole” and you immediately think end of the world, but any black hole the LHC could create would likely be so small and destroy itself instantaneously that no one would ever notice it.
The likelihood of the LHC creating a stable black hole that could destroy the work is 10 to the negative 25th power, according to Cosmic Variance’s list. For some perspective, the likelihood of finding God is 10 to the negative 20th power, according to the same list.
After the initial test this weekend, the LHC will start up for real on September 10th. At that time, a full-power beam will travel around the accelerator’s 17 mile course and reach 99.99 percent of the speed of light, according to Wired.
If all of this still makes absolutely no sense, I recommend checking out the video below for a different kind of explanation.

For even more, check out some of the pictures and videos blogger Robert Scoble took (embedded below are parts 1 and 2) when he toured the CERN a few months ago.

Update: As commenter JTankers points out below, the first actual particle collisions aren’t likely to take place until October.
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Written by shinslab

September 10, 2008 at 11:33 am

Posted in Technical

Apple unveils new iPods, Wall Street yawns

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CEO Steve Jobs gives the iPod line a makeover as sales of the company’s mobile phone threaten to make the iconic music player obsolete.

By Scott Moritz, writer
Last Updated: September 9, 2008: 5:29 PM EDT

NEW YORK (Fortune) — Apple, the consumer electronics giant, on Tuesday rolled out new versions of its popular iPod music player, but failed to deliver the surprises that finicky investors have come to expect.

The new iPod line announced by CEO Steve Jobs at a press event in San Francisco, which Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) dubbed “Let’s Rock.” Among other things, Jobs cut the price on the year-old iPod Touch and unveiled a new Nano video player.

Shares, which were flat throughout the presentation, fell 3% at the end of Jobs speech as investors signaled their disappointment that more sweeping changes in products and pricing weren’t in the works.

A fresh line of iPods was widely expected ahead of the holiday shopping season. This time last year Apple announced the Touch and the Nano the year before that.

This time, however, the iPod is facing stiff headwinds as the iPhone, which comes with its own built-in MP3 player, threatens to make them obsolete.

As of July, Apple has sold more than 184 million iPods since their debut in 2001. Sales of the iPod, which once accounted for nearly 50% of Apple’s annual revenue, were nearly flat last Christmas. Apple, citing NPD data, says the iPod has 73.4% of the portable music device market.

Watching Jobs closely

The new Nano is thinner than previous models and slightly curved. Among other features, the display screen changes orientation from horizontal to vertical depending on how the user holds the device. An 8-gigabyte model costs $150, the same price as the original 1-gigabyte model from two years ago.

The Nano also features a new service called Genius, which recommends songs or movies based on a user’s interests and creates playlists based on songs the user has chosen. The device will also shuffle the playlist if a user shakes it.

Jobs also unveiled cheaper models of its Touch music player, a touchscreen-only device. An 8-gigabyte version now costs $229, down from $299. A 32-gigabyte model costs $399, down from $499.

All eyes Tuesday were also on Jobs and any sign of his health. Jobs was treated for pancreatic cancer several years ago and has been looking surprisingly thin in recent sightings, unnerving investors. He looked as thin Tuesday as he did at his last appearance in June. To top of page

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Written by shinslab

September 10, 2008 at 11:30 am

Posted in Technical

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Written by shinslab

September 10, 2008 at 8:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized