“COSI's Chief Scientist Paul Sutter has a bad case of Particle Fever"
This week I had the honor of being invited to introduce a showing of the "Particle Fever" documentary as part of a Science on the Screen event here at COSI. I had to cancel because of a nasty stomach bug, which really bummed me out, but I have had the good fortune to know several people involved in the subject of the film. Particle Fever chronicles the development, testing, and running of one of the most ambitious scientific and engineering projects in human history: the Large Hadron Collider. Located near Geneva, Switzerland, the LHC is a beast of a machine: 17 miles of magnets, cooled nearly to absolute zero, propel bits of matter to the edge of the speed of light. And then smashes them together. For a brief moment, the collision point reaches temperatures and densities rarely seen since the earliest moments of the universe. The intense energies crack open protons, forcing their fragments to momentarily transform into a jet of more exotic particles. It's not exactly easy - neither the building nor the analyzing. It took over 10,000 scientists and engineers almost a decade to even get the thing going. But the payoff is enormous: combing and sifting through the reams of data reveal clues about the fundamental working of our universe, and gives us a peek 14 billion years into the past.