Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Physics Student Notes Large Hadron Collider Glitch

"Princeton Senior Finds Error in European Supercollider"
FOXNews (March 25, 2009)

"Princeton undergraduate Xiaohang Quan was working on her senior thesis when she found a miscalculation in the hardware of the world's largest particle accelerator.

"Quan, a physics concentrator, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, in mid-March with Princeton physics professors Christopher Tully, Jim Olsen and Daniel Marlow for the annual meeting of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)...."

It isn't a case of 'science student saves the world.' Quan noticed a glitch that messed up what are essentially snapshots of some of what happens inside CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Which isn't to say that what she did wasn't important.

It reminds me of what I heard (and haven't been able to document) about an architecture student, studying a great architect's plans and specs for a skyscraper. The building was already built when the student re-checked calculations and approached the great architect.

The student asked, very respectfully, for clarification. There didn't seem to be any way that the skyscraper's structure could handle the loads it would experience from wind pressure.

The architect reviewed the student's notes, and the building's plans. And then made an urgent phone call. Emergency crews installed extra bracing before the wind picked up.

Looks like the scientists and technicians at CERN are as sensible as that architect.

More posts about CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC): More:

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