Weekday Squib: When those hadrons finally collide

Six pints of bitter. And quickly, please because the world’s about to end.

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has—or rather had—a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever. [Prologue, H2G2]

No Vogon spaceships, but hadrons are about to collide…and it’s not even a Thursday. “It’s at times like this…that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

Update: It’s been turned on. But the hadrons haven’t collided yet. “Over the next few weeks, as the LHC’s operators gain experience and confidence with the new machine, the machine’s acceleration systems will be brought into play, and the beams will be brought into collision to allow the research programme to begin.”

Weekday Squib: Shooting in the air

The physics of celebratory gunfire

Those watching television news might have wondered: what happens to all those bullets they fire into the air when they are celebrating this or that?

The Grandpa’s physics looks robust: The bullet comes down, at a speed lower than that at which it left the gun, but still fast enough to kill.

And in one study conducted over a New Year’s day celebration in Puerto Rico, it turned out that most of those (36%) hit the head. The International Action Network on Small Arms has reports from across the world of people dying due to celebratory gunfire. UNDP Macedonia ran a campaign to encourage people to practice safe celebration.

UNDP Macedonia via IANSA

Before you ask…it’s unlikely that you can hit a satellite, even one in low-earth orbit (LEO). [With apologies to readers who are in change of ballistic missiles.]