The end of the world is nigh.
No, really; it’s official – at least, that’s what some of the science sceptics tell us. Next week, what is arguably the largest & most complex scientific experiment ever conducted will be activated deep beneath the Swiss & French borders, when an underground ring of superconducting magnets will smash together subatomic particles with incredible force in the somewhat inelegantly but functionally named ‘Large Hadron Collider’.
But what will emerge from these collisions? To be honest, the physicists don’t really seem to know. Incredibly they may discover new dimensions of space-time; but the more worrying hypothesis is that it’s possible they will even inadvertently create miniature black holes: regions of space in which the gravitational field is so incredibly powerful that nothing – not even electromagnetic radiation (more quaintly known as visible light) – can escape its pull. And whilst quantum mechanics suggests these holes don’t hold captured matter forever as they may leak thermal raditiation, don’t hold any hope that you’ll pop out the other side, ‘Star Trek’ fashion; as there’s evidence that gas drawn from supernovae in close proximity to these potent precipices, heats up to such immensely high temperatures that they emit massive amounts of radiation – so at least we’ll all get a terminally spectacular suntan even if we’re not transported to an exciting new parallel universe or whatever.
But physicists – despite being able to interpret with remarkable precision how particles interact at the smallest levels (such as the foundation of atoms; of biology; chemistry; indeed, existence) still have many fundamental questions left unanswered – & it’s hoped the new particle accelerator will provide some of those sought-after solutions. For example, why do things weigh, what they weigh? And just what is the frightening concept of ‘dark matter’, seen tugging on helpless galaxies?
Theorists have all sorts of ideas of what might emerge as these mighty, seven-storey & 16-mile loop of machines probe the very ‘vacuum of space’. And oddly enough, it would now appear that in scientific terms, a vacuum isn’t an, err, vacuum. Apparently, even if you take absolutely everything out of a space – light, air, the lot – it isn’t empty & must still contain a substance – a sort of omnipresent stickiness which grabs onto everything; making any resultant residue, hard to move: what we commonly call, mass. And apparently masses of particles act as a sort of friction within the vacuum: not travelling freely but interacting with it in some sense – & so here we are (though for how much longer beyond next week is anyone’s guess).
Meanwhile we are assured that (in theory, at least) any black holes which are created won’t threaten our blissfuly ignorant existence as they’ll be too miniscule to cause any harm. This is because they consist of particles of extraordinary density compared to usual objects, rather than the all-engulphing black holes of science fiction.
But more worrying is the idea that the particle collisions will produce things like ‘dark matter’ – the particles which astronomers are confident they can see & which incredibly, affect the motion of entire galaxies. And oh yes indeedy, they’ve seen the effects of dark matter; but ominously have never known what the particles actually are. So next week should certainly be interesting, by all accounts….
Meanwhile we’ve been perfecting our own particle accelerator of sorts, here on the ffarm. At least, when we fire up the new Milking Parlour’s vacuum pump, that’s what it sounds like; & when the computer stanchions on each milking point light up, it certainly resembles something akin to the Starship Enterprise.
Anyway, our Dairy Engineer, Steve, is most impressed – this is apparently the most advanced parlour of its kind in West Wales for any species: goat, sheep or even cow. And as it has such a fearsome vacuum pump – who knows? Perhaps before the first goat even takes to the stand we’ll have inadvertently created an enormous black hole leading to the bulk milk tank….& the first time I open the tap to transfer the milk we’ll all disappear into a whirling white vortex (lactic acid permitting).
But (inevitably) there’s one slight, err, ‘technical hitch’. Tony attempted to fire up the Metatron P21 computer which runs the whole system; but on pressing the magic techno-button, nothing happened. So we’ve left said system in the safe hands of a local computer diagnostics company….but call me cynical, I have a distinct feeling of foreboding. Whilst we are reasonably confident that the system worked before we bought it, travelling a fragile computer loose in the back of a bouncing, bumping container cannot exactly have done it a power of good. And it would appear that it’s certainly the worse for wear after its’ journey….let’s hope it’s not as bad as it appears to be although as with everything else on this project, I dare say we’ll have to throw a heap more money at it to get it fixed….so let’s hope we can run it on manual in the meantime!
Otherwise that really is £13,000+, down the drain….like all the milk we’ve produced so far this year (which in terms of production costs must be at least double that amount, again). So no wonder these matters weigh darkly on our shoulders as we continue to pour money into the black hole of this project.
So roll on, the end of the world: I, for one, could do with a suntan at least….