Saturday, March 18, 2006

All hail Rutherford, king of all things too small to be consequential!

I went down to Oxford yesterday, to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories for a "Particle Physics Masterclass". It was fun, and dull, but you will learn of this in due time.

My day started at 5:45. Yea, you read right folks, quarter to sodding six in the goddamn, muthafckin morning. Just to get dressed, eat breakfast and be on the road by 6:30. JEE-ZUSS, I have never felt so tired in my entire life!

Arrived at school to find that life was actually confined to being nothing but cold for the next 3 hours, as we rode in chlorine and vomit scented style all the way to the service station about 40 minutes down the motorway. Here I was promptly fucked-over by the guys at the Costa Coffee, where I was charged £1:45 for an espresso. That's roughly 30ml of water and a whole world of tastebud orientated pain. It tasted like burnt trees.

In another 2 hours, after bouts of nausea, irritation, the bad breath of my fellow physicists and more general irriation, we arrived in oxford.

Things got underway pretty sharply with a presentation on what we will be doing today, a little (A LOT) of somethings about particle accelerators and then I fell asleep, awakening to the sound of claps, to which I promptly joined in with.

The next lecture (longer and duller by far), was an overview of particularly complex degree level physics. A masterclass it certainly was, but no one in the room was over 18 apart from the teachers, so most of it went far, far over our heads. The guy who presented it was quite a nice guy though, a tall, stocky black fella from somewhere just north of us (we guessed), who had gone to SLAC, in California. This is another accelerator, for reference; a nice, 2 mile long linear accelerator, and another hefty waste of money. The result was that he had a very comical accent which made me titter on the inside for a while.

An hour later, it was time for another lecture, by an entertaining fellow about accellerators and their various uses, followed by a Q&A session with the same man and his portly, energetic, white haired friend, who ignored most of the meat of the questions asked and talked excitedly about completely different things. However, I did take a bit of knowledge away from this hour long session: bosons, as particles, can exist as a singularity and thus are infinitely stackable! You can put as many as you want into a box, and then add a whole lot more, and the box will never fill! Infact, their very nature makes them more inclined to flock together and pack themselves as tightly as possible! Fermions on the other hand don't like being squished together, and are completely incapable of being stacked.

We were given an analogy of a house being built. If you built a house with bricks which were like fermions, then you'd get a normal house, built normally with normal bricks. However, build a house with bricks like bosons and you end up putting bricks into other bricks. Infact, you could put 20 skipfulls of boson-bricks into the same brick. Amazing.

We then went on a tour of the DIAMOND institute at Rutherford, their brand new particle accelerator that they use to harvest neutrons from heavy elements, like tungsten etc.

Then lunch, which was quite nice I thought. My former physics teacher managed to squirt orange juice all over himself in his excitement, bless 'im.

The rest of the day was too annoying to really mention. We connected up with the particle accelerator at CERN and had another Q&A session, which was periodically cut off. A stupid kid at the other end of our row asked them if the atmospheric pressure difference of working at a mere 80 meters underground made any difference. IDIOT. 80 meters down won't make ANY difference to pressure, or even much to gravity! YOU BLOODY GREAT NINNY.

Afterwards I talked to a guy who was trying to find the "Higgs" boson. Y'see, bosons are particles that associate to the 4 fundamental forces of the universe: the electromagnetic (photons), the weak force (W+, W- and Z0 bosons), the strong nuclear force (neutrinoes) and the puzzler: gravity. As far as we know, there is no associated boson for gravity, although it is predicted to be the "Higgs" boson, but no one's found one yet.

The man I talked to twitched a lot. He seemed likable, happy and psychotic. Apparently he'd worked there ever since he'd left university. I've got nothing else to say other than that.

I made friends with some of the year 12's on the trip home. Glen, a rather cool computer afficionado, Christian, co-host of George Spencer Radio's "From Disco to Death Metal" and "Millsy", someone who I-do-not-really-know-what-he-does.

I got home at 7:30. That's over 12 hours on a school trip T_T, 12 hours I will never ever get back. Hurk.

Went home, then straight to Emily's, where my compadres and pizzas awaited! A fun evening was had by all concerned, and a surely destitute one by those we excluded!


1 comment:

Laurengensaft said...

See, mine was a disappointment :p I have never found physics so enjoyable. School trips really do tend to be the equivalent of having your head put in a vice.