Me and my particle accelerator

‘The high energy scattering experiments of the past decades have shown us the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the particle world in the most striking way. Matter has appeared in these experiments as completely mutable.’

— Fritjof Capra ‘The Tao of Physics’

I have had a fascination with particle accelerators since I was told that we lived practically round the corner from one: DESY. At school, we were promised a visit to its insides, but somehow it never happened. I have just sent off an e-mail request for a ‘Christmas visit’ which is not exactly a likely time for them to be open. But who knows with scientists… Maybe it would have helped if I’d signed the letter ‘Santa’.

What I find exciting about DESY apart from the ‘particle business’ is that all of their huge apparatuses seem to be named after women. Should I ever manage to get a guided tour, I hope I won’t burst out laughing when they start talking about doing measurements on DORIS, PETRA or HERA. It is already hard not to roll on the floor laughing when going through their website and read about scientists detecting ‘excited states’ or installing a ‘wiggler’ at DORIS. (If any staff at DESY reads this, they probably will never let me in…)

For the moment, I have found some sort of DESY substitute on the net: the ‘BUBBLE CHAMBER’ website. The virtual bubble chamber uses a programme which basically fakes particle collisions for aesthetic rather than scientific purposes (I think the developers’ motto is ‘Algorithms to Fill Space’). The images look like the one at the beginning of this post. I have a feeling that scientists’ wished their collisions to happen at the speed that these images build up…

What else can be done this season with particles, albeit larger ones, (and acceleration) is demonstrated in this picture…

Merry Christmas…

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