Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Large Hadron Collider could unlock secrets of the Big Bang

The following article is from the UK Telegraph, July 4, 2008. The original article can be viewed offsite by clicking on the title.

 

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Richard Gray, UK Telegraph Science Correspondent — As the world’s largest and most expensive science experiment, the new particle accelerator buried 300ft beneath the Alpine foothills along the Swiss French border is 17 miles long and up to 12 stories high. It is designed to generate temperatures of more than a trillion degrees centigrade.

 

 

The £4.4 billion machine – the Large Hadron Collider – is aiming to unlock the secrets of how the universe began.

 

Scientists will use it to try to recreate the conditions that existed just a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the birth of the universe, by smashing pieces of atoms together at high speed.

 

 

The Sunday Telegraph joined the scientist Peter Higgs, a professor of particle physics at Edinburgh University, whose 40-year-old theories about an elusive particle known as the Higgs boson may finally be proved as part of the huge experiment, as he toured the site for the first time.

 

 

This weekend will be the last time visitors will be given access to the tunnel that houses the accelerator ring. From tomorrow, it will be completely closed off while technicians make the final preparations before it is turned on in July when, it is hoped, it will begin revealing what the matter and energy that created the universe was really like. What happens afterwards could change our understanding of the world. Most experts believe the explosions created when the particles hit each other will reveal the basic building blocks of everything around us. There are some, however, who fear it could destroy the planet.

 

A lawsuit filed last week by environmentalists in Hawaii is seeking a restraining order preventing the European Nuclear Research Centre from switching it on for fear it could create a black hole that will suck up all life on Earth.

 

“The Large Hadron Collider is like a time machine that is going to take us further back towards the Big Bang than we have ever been before by recreating the conditions that existed there.

 

 

“We are going to see new types of matter we haven’t been able to see before,” said Professor Frank Close, a particle physicist at Oxford University.

 

“The idea that it could cause the end of the world is ridiculous.”

 

Housed in a subterranean lair that would provide a suitable home for a Hollywood super-villain, it is hardly surprising there are conspiracy theories surrounding the work being carried out on the collider.

 

The tunnel is large enough to drive a train through and so long that the curve is barely noticeable. To reach it requires a two-minute lift journey from ground level. Down below the scene is a mass of cables, tubes, electronics and metal panels.

 

Atomic particles will spiral though a series of rings, lined with powerful magnets that will accelerate the particles till they reach close to the speed of light. Each particle will race around the 17-mile route 11,245 times every second before being smashed headlong into each other, breaking them into their component parts, releasing huge amounts of energy and debris.

 

The temperatures produced by these collisions will be 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the sun and scientists believe this will be powerful enough to reveal the first particles that existed in the moments immediately after the birth of the universe.

 

 

This massive experiment will create more than 15 million gigabytes of data every year – the equivalent of 21.4 million CDs. The scientists have had to design a new form of the internet to cope with the data.

 

Six separate detectors have been positioned around the collider ring to allow scientists to examine what happens.

 

Among the particles they will hunt for is the Higgs boson, a cornerstone of modern physics that is thought to be responsible for giving every other particle its mass, or weight.

 

Immediately after the Big Bang all particles are thought to have had no mass. As the temperature cooled, the Higgs boson “stuck” to them, making them heavy. Some particles are more “sticky” than others and so gain more weight.

 

A massive detector known as Atlas is among those that will be hunting for the Higgs boson. As big as Canterbury Cathedral and weighing more than 100 747 jumbo jet aircraft, it is one of the most impressive parts of the collider.

 

Professor Jonathan Butterworth, a physicist at University College London who is among the UK scientists involved in the Atlas experiment, said: “If we find the Higgs boson then it will prove our standard model of particle physics.

 

 

“If we don’t find it then nature may have another way of giving particles mass and that is going to turn science on its head.”

 

Two elevator rides and a 10-minute car journey away on the other side of the giant accelerator, another part of the experiment, dubbed Alice, will recreate the superheated gas, or plasma, that existed when the universe was formed. The collider may also reveal more exotic phenomena such as anti-matter, the opposite of ordinary matter, mini black holes and even extra dimensions.

 

“At the level of energy we will be creating normal matter doesn’t exist. I expect we will see some things that are entirely new and could turn our current understanding of physics on its head,” said Dr David Evans, a physicist from Birmingham University who has been working on the Alice project.

 

“Answering these new questions will be more exciting than proving theories that already exist.”
Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Colliding with Christ Seminar at New Life Church

On a warm, Spring evening in Colorado Springs, a group of Christians interested in scientific evidence for their faith met at New Life Church to hear Dr. R.C. Metcalf present a seminar on his latest book, Colliding with Christ: The Science of the Resurrection. The event lasted two hours, which included some excellent questions that stimulated thoughtful discussion. The local chapter of Reasons to Believe hosted Dr. Metcalf, who agreed to offer the seminar again in the future due to the tremendous interest expressed by those who were in attendance.

Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

R.C. Metcalf v. Dan Barker Debate at Tufts

It was as perfect a day in Boston as one could imagine. Dan Barker, President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the largest atheist organization in America, faced RC Metcalf on the question, “Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?” Approximately 75 people were in attendance at the event, which was hosted by the Tufts University Freethought Society. Dr. Metcalf’s opening statement drew upon the evidence presented in his latest book, Colliding with Christ.
Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Collider May Provide Proof for String Theory of Physics

The following article is from the Deseret Morning News, October 11, 2007. The original article can be viewed offsite by clicking on the title.
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Joe Bauman, Deseret Morning News Reporter — One of the most significant moments in the history of science may come after a new particle collider starts work this year beneath the Swiss-French border, according to a renowned physicist, Brian Greene.
The Large Hadron Collider just might prove that the controversial “theory of everything,” string theory, is true.
Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, New York City, and author of best-selling books on string theory, spoke Tuesday at Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center.
His book, The Elegant Universe, was developed into a three-part series broadcast by PBS. “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality,” the title of his latest book, also was the name of the lecture.
“Space and time are the most familiar and yet most enigmatic concepts in science today,” Greene said, but they are not what our senses would lead us to believe.
“We are learning that reality is not what we think it is. The very basis of existence is not what we think it is,” he said.
At the turn of the 20th century, Albert Einstein asked himself how gravity worked. How could the sun reach across 93 million miles and affect the motion of Earth? He struggled with the question for 10 years.
By 1915, Einstein had come up with the General Theory of Relativity as an answer. Einstein pictured space-time as something like a big rubber sheet. When something massive, like the sun, weighs down a portion of the sheet, it causes a distortion in it, and a smaller object will roll around and around the pit.
“Einstein says take that idea and apply it to the cosmos,” Greene said. Thus, a planet will circle the sun because the sun causes a deformation, like a pit, in the fabric of space-time.
Rather than static, fixed features, “space and time can actually do something. Space and time push things around,” he said. Each person “affects the shape of space; in fact, the shape of time as well.”
General Relativity works beautifully on the large scale. But scientists realized that Einstein’s ideas were in conflict with another proven theory, that of quantum mechanics, which covers the very small scale.
“Quantum mechanics is a very mysterious, strange, really mind-boggling subject,” Greene said.
Quantum effects have been proven in the laboratory. The ideas “are confirmed by experimental observation.” A famous feature of quantum mechanics is that one may know one aspect of an electron, such as its speed, without being able to know another, such as its position — and vice versa.
On the large scale, Einstein’s laws show the smooth, predictable actions of relatively big phenomena. But on a tiny scale, things are “chaotic,” Greene said.
When Einstein’s theories were applied to extremely small things, “the laws made wrong predictions.”
String theory accommodates both sets of laws. It holds that each subatomic particle actually is an incredibly minute vibrating filament of energy. The frequency of the vibration determines whether the particle is a quark or an electron, for example.
Vibrating strings define space, time and everything in existence, many scientists believe. The theory “winds up fixing” the conflict between the laws of the large and the small.
But if string theory is correct, “it says something really wild,” Greene said. It fails when restricted to our three spacial dimensions — up and down, left and right, front and back. “If that’s all there is in space,” he said, “this thing doesn’t work.”
Not until 10 spacial dimensions are used in the calculations do the equations work. But we perceive only three. Where are the others? They could be curled up within the normal dimensions, he said.
Greene asked the audience to imagine a piece of paper, essentially a two-dimensional object. When it is curled up and seen from a distance, it looks like a one-dimensional line. But if an ant were on it, the insect might find itself going back and forth in one dimension and around the tube of paper in another.
Peering through binoculars, a watcher might see the ant’s circular sauntering and realize the paper has another dimension.
Understanding the nature of the paper “escaped you without the right equipment — the binoculars.”
String theory may allow tiny curled-up dimensions to be everywhere, so small that we can’t detect them. “We haven’t seen them — yet,” he said.
But the Large Hadron Collider being built near Geneva — an almost 17-mile circular tube built beneath the French-Swiss border, because it was cheaper to use land underground for such a massive structure — may provide proof of string theory. When it begins smashing rotating streams of protons together, the ideas may be verified.
“There’s a chance … that some of the debris from these collisions will be ejected out of our dimensions,” and scientists may be able to discover “these missing energy signatures,” he said. “If this is confirmed experimentally in the next few years, to me this would be one of the most significant moments in the history of science.”
Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

LHC Set for July 2008 Startup

The following article is from PhysicsWorld.com, March 28, 2008. The original article can be viewed offsite by clicking on the title.

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Jon Cartwright, PhysicsWorld.com Reporter — Engineers at CERN are making the final touches to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the biggest experiment in particle physics — and expect to have it running in the first half of July. Although the start-up schedule of the European particle accelerator has slipped by over a month since the last official announcement, there appear to be only minor problems left to resolve.

“It has been some time since we’ve been in this kind of position with this kind of research facility,” says James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN. “There’s real confidence that we’ll be collecting new data this year. It’s a very big time for us.”

When all is done and dusted, the LHC will have cost around $6.3bn to build. Some 6000 superconducting magnets will whip proton beams in opposite directions around a 27 km-long ring and smash them together at energies bordering on 14 TeV. The impacts will generate a hoard of new particles, possibly including the highly anticipated Higgs particle and so-called supersymmetric particles. But regardless of what is or is not detected, it is almost certain that the LHC will provide a window onto new physics.

Until recently, the official line from CERN was that the first proton beams would be injected into the ring in May, despite status reports from the LHC website suggesting otherwise. According to Gillies, previous problems have now compelled CERN to set back the start up to the first half of July. An official date will be announced sometime after mid-June, the earliest time that all the magnets can be cooled to their operating temperature of below 2 K.

“There’s real confidence that we’ll be collecting new data this year. It’s a very big time for us.” –James Gillies, CERN spokesman

Latent problems

The main problem that has dogged the LHC start-up schedule of late erupted with a bang this time last year, when one of the “quadrupole” magnets used to focus and manipulate the proton beams failed during preliminary tests. Fermilab, the US laboratory who manufactured the magnets, was quick to accept responsibility, but it soon became apparent that all similar magnets would have to be redesigned and replaced. CERN is still reeling from this overhaul, having had to delay the cooling of magnets and skip the low-energy test runs that were due to take place before winter.

There have since been other, less serious problems. Towards the end of last year CERN found that certain “copper fingers” used to ensure electrical continuity between magnets had buckled when the magnets were warmed up. Presently, LHC engineers are having a few difficulties with leaky plumbing of liquid helium, which is used to cool the magnets. “Superfluid helium has no viscosity, so it can find any cracks,” explains Gillies.

Even though proton beams will not enter the LHC before July, by May 21 the beams will be running through two of CERN’s existing particle accelerators, which are serving as preliminary accelerator stages. The Proton Synchrotron, built in the late 1950s, will speed the protons up to 25 GeV and feed into the Super Proton Synchrotron, built in the 1970s, to get them up to 450 GeV.

Wide media coverage

On the day when the LHC is ready to have its proton beams injected, onlookers can expect wide media coverage. According to Gillies, they will inject the first beam in one direction at 9:30am (central-Europe time) to tie in with a live broadcast from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. Visuals will show the beam’s progress while CERN scientists analyse it. Every 10 minutes, they will be able to send in another beam. “Hopefully we’ll get one circulating all the way round by the end of the day,” says Gillies. Once they have understood the circulation in one direction, the scientists will begin experimenting with counter-circulating beams. “Then we’ll ramp up the energies,” he adds.

In light of the huge public interest in the LHC, CERN is holding an open day for the accelerator on April 6. From April 2–7 the lab is also allowing US high-school students to visit and report back their experiences via blogs and videos.

It appears that the pangs of excitement are beginning to be felt at CERN. Still, few of those involved are counting their chickens just yet. “We have to cool the whole machine down first,” says LHC project leader Lyn Evans. “I hope that that can be achieved by mid-June so we can start taking data in July.”

Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Lawsuit: Huge Atom Smasher Could Destroy World

 

The following article is from Fox News, March 31, 2008. The original article can be viewed offsite by clicking on the title.
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Paul Wagenseil, Fox News Reporter — Stop the scientists before they destroy us all!
That’s what a Hawaii man with a background in nuclear physics is asking a court to do.
Walter F. Wagner and his colleague Luis Sancho have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop work on the Large Hadron Collider, a gigantic atom smasher on the Franco-Swiss border that’s set to start operations in May.
Physicists hope its incredible energies will form briefly-lived new particles that could shed light on the origins of the universe, among other marvels.
The plaintiffs’ concerns? That the LHC could accidentally create strange new particles that would instantly transform any matter they touched, engulfing the Earth, or, even worse, make a rapidly expanding black hole that could consume the entire planet.
“[T]he compression of the two atoms colliding together at nearly light speed will cause an irreversible implosion, forming a miniature version of a giant black hole,” reads the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
“[A]ny matter coming into contact with it would fall into it and never be able to escape. Eventually, all of earth would fall into such growing micro-black-hole, converting earth into a medium-sized black hole, around which would continue to orbit the moon, satellites, the ISS, etc.”
Named as defendants are the U.S. Department of Energy, the venerable DOE-owned Fermilab particle-accelerator facility outside Chicago, the “Center for Nuclear Energy Research (CERN)” and the National Science Foundation.
(CERN’s full name is actually the European Organization for Nuclear Research; “CERN” is the French acronym for an earlier name.)
The lawsuit wants the LHC’s opening to be delayed for several months so that outside experts can read the facility’s internal safety review, which was to have been completed by Jan. 1 of this year but does not appear to have been released.
Wagner has even put up a Web site at http://www.lhcdefense.org/ detailing his concerns.
Not included among the documents is Wagner’s own indictment last month on identity-theft charges tied to an ongoing legal battle over a botanical garden on the Big Island of Hawaii, but you can read about that here.
Most physicists say Wagner’s worries are unfounded. Micro black holes would evaporate nearly instantly instead of combining to form larger ones, they say, and the “strangelet” particles he frets would freeze the world would in fact fall apart quickly.
Wagner’s own background is a bit fuzzy. He claims to have minored in physics at U.C. Berkeley, gone to law school, taught elementary-school science and worked in nuclear medicine at health facilities — but he doesn’t appear to have an advanced degree in science.
Sancho’s qualifications are even murkier, but the lawsuit identifies him as a Spanish citizen residing in the U.S., even if his presence makes the entire case a bit, um, quixotic.
Fears that atom smashers will destroy the world have been around for decades and seem to come to the fore every time a new well-publicized facility comes online.
But no particle accelerator has ever come close to the power of the Large Hadron Collider.

 

Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Dinesh D’Souza to Debate Dan Barker at Harvard

Dinesh D’Souza will engage in a student led debate at Harvard University with Dan Barker on April 22, 2008. Their topic will be “Christianity vs. Atheism.”

Dinesh D’Souza is a leading conservative Christian intellectual and author of What’s So Great About Christianity. Mr. D’Souza’s bio is available here.

Dan Barker is the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the largest atheist organization in America devoted to the separation of church and state. Mr. Barker’s bio is available here.

Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

R.C. Metcalf to Debate Dan Barker at Tufts in Boston

Dr. R.C. Metcalf is scheduled to debate Dan Barker at Tufts University on the topic of the Resurrection. The debate is being sponsored by the Tufts Freethought Society. Last year’s debate was between Dr. Daniel Dennett, author of Breaking the Spell, and Dinesh D’Souza, author of What’s So Great About Christianity, on the topic of the existence of God. This debate can be viewed here via YouTube clips organized on Richard Dawkins’ website.

Dan Barker is the president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the largest atheist organization in America devoted to separation of church and state issues. Mr. Barker was once an evangelical pastor and is an accomplished songwriter. He is the author of Losing Faith in Faith. Dan’s bio is available here.

Dr. R.C. Metcalf’s bio is available at ThinkAgain.us.

Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Seminar: The Science of the Resurrection of Jesus

Dr. R.C. Metcalf will present a 2 hour interactive seminar on the science of the resurrection of Jesus Christ at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO. The event is scheduled for May 10, 2008 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the World Prayer Center on the New Life campus.

Posted by: rcmetcalf | March 28, 2009

Christians Urged to Meet Atheists in the Public Square

R.C. Metcalf & Dinesh D’Souza at NRB 2008

The following article is from The Christian Post, October 11, 2007.

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Christians shouldn’t always turn the other cheek and ignore the attacks of secular thought, says one prominent conservative writer. They need to step out and meet the atheist critique.

Thu, Oct. 11, 2007 Posted: 13:55:15 PM EST

Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Reporter — Christians shouldn’t always turn the other cheek and ignore the attacks of secular thought, says one prominent conservative writer. They need to step out and meet the atheist critique.

“We don’t want the public square to be dominated by the atheists,” said New York Times bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza.

D’Souza believes Christians have left the public square unoccupied, limiting their expression of religiosity to church on Sunday, their families, and the Christian subculture.

As a consequence, atheists have entered the public square – what Christians thought would have been “neutral space,” as D’Souza put it. And they want to drive the Christians out, remove Christian symbolism from coins, the pledge and public buildings.

“Ultimately, they want to discredit Christianity as something that is incompatible with modern life and modern thought,” said the noted author in an interview with The Christian Post.

D’Souza is calling Christians back to the public square.

“There is a time to turn the other cheek but there is also a time to drive the money changers out of the temple,” he said. “By that I mean there is nothing in Scripture that says Christians should ignore or embrace attacks on their face. But with the right tone, using not only Scripture but reason and science and experience, I think Christians should step out into the world and meet the atheist critique.”

D’Souza is due to release What’s So Great About Christianity next week. It’s his first book, among many, dealing with Christianity in America. He originally set out to approach the topic in a modest and more secular way, he said, but found himself in the midst of a number of atheist books hitting stores and greatly widening the attack on religion and, more specifically, Christianity.

The atheistic arguments – that Christianity goes against reason and science and is based on blind faith – are resonating with people, D’Souza noticed, and hitting bestseller lists.

“I do think that we are seeing a more self-confident and perhaps even militant atheism,” he noted. “Atheists are kind of on the war path, out to attack religion, demean it, drive it out of the public square, and remove all religious symbolism from American society. So something odd is going on here.”

One such atheist is Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, who is urging atheists to come out of the closet and declare themselves publicly with his Out Campaign. Like other “new atheists,” Dawkins publicly rejects the existence of God and wants to drive out religion.

Part of the reason society is seeing an emboldened atheism is that a lot of these outspoken atheists were hoping religion would disappear as society became more modern and developed, according to D’Souza.

“Religion was seen as more of an ancient form of belief that would go away as science progressed and as we all became more successful, educated and affluent,” said D’Souza.

“But this has not happened,” he continued. “And, in fact, religion is booming in countries around the world,” including the most modernized ones such as India and China.

“So the atheist in a way is getting a little more desperate,” D’Souza believes.

Living in a culture that is to a considerable degree secular, D’Souza would like to see in churches across the country apologetics come to center stage not to displace what the churches have been doing but to supplement it in a very important way, he said.

“[Christians] are going to meet arguments that cannot be settled simply by ‘the Bible says this, the Bible says that’ because the other person will promptly reply that they don’t accept the authority of the Bible,” D’Souza noted.

He suggests Christians become “bilingual” in which they are educated in both the biblical language and a secular language the world can recognize – a language anchored in history and reason and experience.

In his upcoming book release, due out Oct. 16, D’Souza dispels common myths about faith, many of which are argued by atheists.

Myth #1: Atheism is growing and more people are choosing it over church

Pews might be empty in some urban parts of America, but the world is witnessing a huge explosion of Christianity, says D’Souza who notes Christianity as the fastest-growing religion in the world and that the number of unbelievers is actually shrinking. In America, about half of the population goes to church and an overwhelming majority believes in God. But there are also “powerful currents of secularism” in this country that counter that, the author acknowledged.

Myth #2: Religion has caused history’s wars, murders, and violence

The number of people killed in religious wars such as the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition is infinitesimal compared to those killed during modern atheist regimes, the author notes. “We have to keep a sense of proportion,” he says.

Dawkins had argued in an earlier debate that atheists never commit atrocities in the name of atheism while religious people do so in the name of their faith.

D’Souza disagrees. “Somebody should send Dawkins a copy of ‘The Communist Manifesto’ [because] the truth of the matter is that these secular ideologies of the 20th century were explicitly opposed to religion.”

“Communism was explicitly atheistic. It committed attacks against the church, imprisoned priests, shut down prayer meetings … in the name of creating atheist utopia freed from the shackles of traditional religion and traditional morality,” said the conservative author.

Myth #3: There is no such thing as a human soul

Atheists use science to argue that there is no soul, as there is no physical evidence of one. “If the atheist universe were true, there would be no free will in it,” says D’Souza. The world of science, of atoms and molecules, is one in which there is no free choice because the actions of the atoms and molecules determine the outcome, he argues. Atheists believe the only things that exist are the material things that can be seen under the microscope and smelled and touched to which there is empirical evidence, he adds.

“There are dimensions of reality that cannot be captured in purely material terms. When has science ever located a thought or a feeling or a choice?”

Myth #4: Where is God when bad things happen?

D’Souza turns this question around and asks where is atheism when bad things happen? At the tragic event of the Virginia Tech shooting in April, there were nonstop memorial services and everyone began to speak a very religious language of healing and spirituality, he noted. “Atheism has absolutely nothing to offer us at moments of life that matter the most – birth, marriage, death, suffering.”

What’s So Great About Christianity is a defense of Christianity, D’Souza explained, “but it’s a defense that meets the critics of Christianity by taking them seriously.”

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