How to Make a Particle Accelerator, In Under 5 Minutes
An under-5-minute explanation of how you make a particle accelerators.
When we read about the latest in physics, we’re so excited by some strange new particle that we may take for granted the high-tech device that allowed physicists to make their discovery. We know vaguely what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), for example, is — a particle accelerator — and we know where it is — beneath the France/Switzerland border near Geneva — and we know it smashes atoms after spinning them around a 27-kilometer ring. But how do they get those atoms moving? Do they just pour them into one end and shout, “go?”
In less than five minutes, one of the people who designs particle accelerators, Suzie Sheehy, explains how these amazing beasties work and how you build one. Well, not you, or me, but a team of very smart people like her.
The LHC is the largest machine in the world. Here’s just a bit about the thousands of magnets it contains to give you a sense of the collider’s scale, and of the tech involved. The LHC has 1232 15-meter dipole magnets to bend its particle beams, and 392 5-7-meter quadrupole magnets to focus them. Another kind of magnet pushes them together to increase their chances for a productive collision. Oh, also, the magnets have to be cooled down to ‑271.3°C, which is colder than outer space.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.
- Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
- In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
- Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
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