The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for March 20th, 2010

Large Hadron Collider Breaks High-Energy Physics Record… Earth Survives

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 20, 2010

**Addendum (3/22/2010): Shortly after I wrote the post below, it came to my attention that the proton-proton beams in the LHC haven’t yet actually collided at the 3.5 TeV level yet, but I think that point is moot. It’s also true that the LHC has already conducted proton-proton collisions at greater than TeV levels (up to about 2.36 TeV, it seems)…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider#Current_results

And despite this fact, we’re all still here. Of course, I expect the scare mongers to come back with something like “But we don’t know that the planet won’t be destroyed at the next energy level!” By that same token, we don’t know that the Earth won’t be destroyed if we don’t turn the damn thing on, right?

Arguments from ignorance can be used in such silly ways. ‘Nuff said.

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The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the largest, most complicated piece of machinery ever created by humanity.  This humongous particle accelerator also just recently broke, once again, the world record for achieving the highest-energy artificial particle collisions ever in history.  Of course, there are some conspiracy-minded scare mongers out there who maintain that the LHC is going to somehow destroy the Earth, presumably because – despite multiple reasons to the contrary – there will be some unknown, magical mechanism by which these artificially-achieved energy levels will kill us all.  In short, with no evidence or coherent theory of physics behind their claims, they’re making an argument from ignorance & saying this…

I think not – it didn’t happen in May 2008, and it won’t happen now.  As I said, the LHC recently broke that supposedly world-ending energy barrier once again, and we’re all still here.  The news is outlined in this Yahoo News story…

Operators of the world’s largest atom smasher on Friday ramped up their massive machine to three times the energy ever previously achieved, in the run-up to experiments probing the secrets of the universe.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said beams of protons circulated at 3.5 trillion electron volts in both directions around the 27-kilometer (17-mile) tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border at Geneva.

The next major development is expected in a few days when CERN starts colliding the beams in a new round of research to examine the tiniest particles and forces within the atom in hopes of finding out more about how matter is made up.

The collider in December had already eclipsed the record of the next most powerful machine, the Tevatron at Fermilab outside Chicago, which has been running just shy of a trillion electron volts, or TeV.

The extra energy in Geneva is expected to reveal even more about the unanswered questions of particle physics , such as the existence of dark energy and matter. Scientists hope also to approach on a tiny scale what happened in the first split seconds after the Big Bang, which they theorize was the creation of the universe some 14 billion years ago.

CERN has reported a series of successes since the collider was restarted last year after 14 months of repairs and improvements following a spectacular failure when scientists initially tried to get the machine going.

CERN improved the machine during a 2 1/2-month winter shutdown to be able to operate at the higher energy .

“Getting the beams to 3.5 TeV is testimony to the soundness of the LHC’s overall design, and the improvements we’ve made since the breakdown in September 2008,” said Steve Myers, CERN’s director for accelerators and technology.

It’ll be interesting to see how the scare mongering pseudoscientists rationalize away this one, but I’m sure they’ll find some way to do it.

Posted in doomsday, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Skeptical App on the iPhone/Touch #2: “Skeptical Science” vs. Global Warming Deniers

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 20, 2010

As a quick follow up to my previous post regarding The Creationist Claims Index, there is a similar iTunes app regarding one of the latest & most venemous science-denial movements: global warming denialism. Whether you are conversing with someone who is merely ignorant of the science of climate change, or if you’re butting heads with a hardcore ideologue, you will no doubt find the Skeptical Science app to be of great use!

Much like its anti-creationist partner, the Skeptical Science app is well laid-out and indexed, making it a handy reference for those on-the-spot conversations that demand an immediate correction or rebuttal.  In addition, it’s free :)

Download it now at iTunes…

As the front page of the website states:

Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to expand their knowledge and improve their understanding. Yet this isn’t what happens in global warming skepticism. Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet eagerly, even blindly embrace any argument, op-ed piece, blog or study that refutes global warming.

So this website gets skeptical about global warming skepticism. Do their arguments have any scientific basis? What does the peer reviewed scientific literature say?

Posted in global warming denial, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Skeptical App on the iPhone/Touch #1: Creationist Claims Index

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 20, 2010

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone who brings up this or that annoying creationist talking point?  How many times have you lamented: “I wish I had something at my fingertips right now to respond to this malarkey!”

Well now you can reference a quick & handy guide on the spot: The Creationist Claims Index – a neat new app for the iPhone or iPod-Touch.  The app is essentially a copy of The Counter-Creationist Handbook by Mark Isaak. The app is easy-to-use, well laid-out, and another big plus is that it’s free!  So what are you waiting for?  Go download it now at the iTunes store…

Hat tip to The Friendly Atheist :)

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Posted in creationism, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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