Small Hadron Kitchen Collider

Recently received some granite counter-top samples from a remodeling friend who knows I'm incapable of throwing such stuff away. The granite squares have been surprisingly useful as teeny-tiny trivits, and particle colliders.

I gotta say that after a long day with preschoolers, it is very satisfying to smash a clove or two of garlic between cool, smooth, palm-sized blocks of stone. Haiiii-JYAH!!! Splat!

Saturday the CPR instructor explained that there is nothing to be done for a broken toe except to tape it to the next toe and hobble on about life. If you happen to be a karate student or even a black belt, don't whine to your wife about your broken toe. That only gets sympathy the first time. If your wife happens to be at home with three small children while you are off kicking and breaking boards with your foot for fun, you should probably send her a dozen roses and never ever mention your foot pain. Speaking from experience here...

We moved to Texas in 1990. The Superconducting Super Collider being built underground near Waxahachie was big news. I was vaguely concerned about a Big Bang occurring so close to my home, but the day-to-day realities of parenting three boys were more atom-smashing than particle physics.

The boys needed to get to school on time with their lunchboxes, homework, permission slips, and those darn fund-raising order forms each morning. They needed to have their clothes on right-side out, eat a healthy breakfast, and take their asthma/allergy medicines.

Getting to school on time is so important. If you are late you miss the announcements and instructions, and also the settling-down-to-learn part of the morning. This was brought home to me during a truly comic day in sixth grade.

At Eastridge Elementary my sixth grade classroom windows looked out toward "L" Street. Two of my classmates, Ron and Dave, lived across the street from the school. They liked to shoot hoops on the driveway as long as possible before crossing the street for school.

When the first school bell rang, many students entered the school and sat down at their desks. As usual, we looked out the window at Ron and Dave shooting baskets across the street. The second bell rang, meaning students better hustle so they won't be tardy. Ron and Dave were still playing basketball, but they were known for cutting it close.

The tardy bell rang. The school day began. The roll was taken along with the lunch count. The sixth graders should have been sharing "current events", but we were all too mesmerized by the suspenseful drama taking place outside the window.

  • How long would Dave and Ron keep shooting baskets?
  • Would Ron's mom come outside and yell at them?
  • When would they realize that bell they heard was the tardy bell, not the first bell?
  • How stupid would they look when the realization kicked in?
  • How silly would they feel when they found we were all watching their personal blooper?

By now the entire fifth grade had figured it out too, and was staring out the window. Slowly, the awareness spread down the classrooms on the north side of the school to the fourth, third, and second graders. The awakening was everything we were hoping.

Suddenly dim lightbulbs flickered over the heads of the pair. Ron's mom appeared, hollering. Can you say "skedaddle" boys and girls??? Darryl and his other brother Darryl hitched up their overalls and came tearing across the street and into the school. They even bumped into each other while scrambling for their lunch boxes. Hinckley and Hadley were very, VERY tardy. The show was over.

It was a powerful, cinematic moment, right up there with "Gone With The Wind"-- like watching Harold Edgerton's strobe photography of a bullet hitting an apple--or seeing the Jellystone Ranger nab Yogi and Boo-Boo.

"Some think this Hadron project will create a black hole that will suck in the Earth." I read that in the "Points" section of Sunday's Dallas Morning News. A scientist who worked on both the Superconducting Super Collider project and the Large Hadron Collider answers:

It is not possible for the LHC to create a massive black hole. Massive black holes, which swallow everthing near them and are created by gravitational collapse, require enormous mass. Not even the sun's entire mass would be sufficient. Some theories speculate that the collisions at the LHC could produce miniature black holes. Even if they are produced, they will evaporate immediately. There is no possibility of gravitational collapse.

That's okay. There's no possibility of real science being heeded in a McCain-Palin administration, either. Just dress that moose, feed him a Pop-Tart and send him out to shoot baskets. The whole school is watching

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

I am relieved to read that we won't be sucked into a black hole! (I wrote a poem about the collider, and there's a vague possibility of that.) I have done similar things with the granite hunks that came my way...but where are they now? That's what I want to know! There IS some kind of black hole out there, sucking up my granite hunks....


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