The best paragraph I read today

The believe-it-or-not superlatives are so extreme and Tom Swiftian they make you smile. The L.H.C. is not merely the world’s largest particle accelerator but the largest machine ever built. At the center of just one of the four main experimental stations installed around its circumference, and not even the biggest of the four, is a magnet that generates a magnetic field 100,000 times as strong as Earth’s. And because the super-conducting, super-colliding guts of the collider must be cooled by 120 tons of liquid helium, inside the machine it’s one degree colder than outer space, thus making the L.H.C. the coldest place in the universe.

The article is here, via Yves Smith and Jim Crozier.


not even close to the coldest place. Boise-Einstein condensates are often far colder.

Are we still talking about Austrian academic investment theory or what?

The best prank would be to say, after a closure, that the LHC was re-opening on December 21, 2012.

No, the coldest place in the universe is the heart of a bank loan officer. I think I saw that on TV, so it must be true.

What in the world is "colder than outer space" supposed to mean? Cosmic microwave background radiation?


DECEMBER 11, 2009 CONTACT: PRESS OFFICE (202) 224-8277

Cantwell, Collins Propose Carbon Auction: Bill Reduces Emissions, Returns Revenue to Consumers
Bipartisan climate bill uses simple system to reduce global warming pollution and spur clean-energy job growth

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce global warming pollution, spur job growth in clean energy technology, and return money directly to consumers. The Cantwell-Collins Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal (CLEAR) Act would set up a mechanism for selling “carbon shares† to fuel producers and would return most of the resulting revenue in checks to every American. The legislation will achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

“Energy is a six-trillion dollar market opportunity, and green jobs can transform the U.S. economy,† Senator Cantwell said. “But we need a signal on carbon so that this can happen. This bill provides a simple approach to getting off of carbon and on to clean energy alternatives. The CLEAR Act provides businesses and investors with a simple, predictable mechanism that will open the way to clean energy expansion while achieving America’s goals of reducing carbon emission.†

Along with the legislation, Cantwell issued a report today detailing the positive economic impact of the dividends to be returned directly to consumers. According to the report, a typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks from the government averaging $1,100 per year, or $21,000 between 2012 and 2030.

Senator Collins said: “This bill addresses the most significant energy and environmental challenges facing our country. It would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, promote alternative energy and energy conservation, and advance the goal of energy independence for our nation. Climate change legislation must protect consumers and industries that could be hit with higher energy prices. Such legislation also must provide predictability so that businesses can plan, invest, and create jobs. Finally, climate change legislation should encourage adoption of energy efficiency measures and the further development of renewable energy, which would spur our economy and job creation. The CLEAR Act achieves all of these goals.†

Cantwell and Collins highlighted the findings of a recent report by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law that concluded: “carbon pricing is the only signal that can cut through the noise and direct diverse economic actors towards smart, green investments – investments that will create jobs, encourage technological development, and maximize returns.†

By establishing a predictable price on the carbon associated with fossil fuels, the bill provides the business incentive needed to develop and deploy clean energy technology. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that over the next half-century, the investment needed to meet global energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will reach $45 trillion.

Producers would bid in monthly auctions for “carbon shares.† The resulting revenue generated by the auctions is used for two vital functions:

†¢ 75 percent would be refunded to every individual residing legally in the United States. This dividend would more than compensate for the increase in carbon-based fuel that producers would pass on to consumers.

†¢ The remaining 25 percent would be used exclusively toward clean energy research and development, regionally-specific assistance for communities and workers transitioning to a clean energy economy, energy efficiency programs, and reductions in non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

“The President has taken our shared emission-reduction goals to the Copenhagen conference and the response there underscores global interest tackling the problem. It also shows that there will be a highly competitive international business environment for leadership in clean-energy technology,† Cantwell said.

Cantwell and Collins said they look forward to working with other colleagues, especially Senators Boxer, Kerry, Lieberman, and McCain, as the Senate tackles the carbon emission problem.

That's a pretty poor "best paragraph" of the day. It definitely induces professional head-shaking for this physicist.

As Doc pointed out, far, far colder temperatures have been achieved in other physics experiments. The largest machine accolade is very debatable: what about the American power grid? The Earth's field is an incredibly weak comparison for magnetic field strength -- any old magnetized fork is stronger. In ancy case, stronger fields have been achieved in experiments that are really about strong magnetic fields.

None of this to say that the LHC isn't deeply impressive. It is. It's just that the quoted facts don't get to the heart of what's impressive about it.

Liquid Helium isn't that cold, as these things go. Ultracold experiments routinely produce gases cooled to nanokelvin.

cyrus beat me to it. and he is correct, I should have said North America not US.

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Matt M - "I have no idea what you mean by making the distinction."

I looked into it, and as I suspected the number is misleading. The distinction I was inartfully trying to make is this:

1 Tesla is a unit of magnetic flux density and is equal to 1 Weber per square meter. The Weber is a measure of quantity of magnetism, taking into account the strength and the extent of a magnetic field, whereas the Tesla is a measure of the density (what I called intensity) of that magnetism in a particular area.

The earth's magnetic flux density varies across the earth's surface from about 0.00003 to about 0.00006 Teslas. Even a small bar magnet has a flux density of about .01 Teslas (when held close to the measuring device), which is much greater than the flux density on the Earth's surface. A strong laboratory electro-magnet is listed as having a flux density of 10 Teslas, or around 200,000 times the Earth's surface. The strongest man-made magnets go up to 100 Teslas, and the surface of nuetron stars can be up to 100,000,000 Teslas. LHC's magnet is only around 8 or 9 Teslas. So the density of LHC's magnetic field is not so "extreme and Tom Swiftian as to make me smile," even as far as electromagnets go.

But the most misleading part is that the earth's magnetic flux density is spread out over a much much greater area, so that Earh has a much much greater total magnetism (measured in Webers, not Teslas) than "stronger" magnets such as the little bar magnet or the magnet at LHC. Moreover, even the magnetic flux density of the LHC magnet is undoubtably far far LESS than the magnetic flux density of the earth once you move a few miles away from either's poles.

The thing is, LHC is dwarfed by the Texas sized SSC which was designed to have three times the energy, and would have had Texans justifiably arrogant. In fact, the tunnels bored for SSC are nearly as long as the tunnels for LHC.

However, I see the SSC as a symbol of the pervasive America can't do big things anymore.

"the point is that overall, the earth has much much much greatert total magnetism than the LHC magnets. It isn't even a contest."

As a physicist, if somebody were to say to me "this object has more total magnetism than this object" I wouldn't know what the hell they were talking about. There is magnetic field and there is magnetic flux. They made a statement about magnetic field. That statement is true. To claim that this is misleading because it say nothing about magnetic flux makes no sense.

"There is absolutely nothing misleading about the way they wrote that sentence."

It may not be misleading to you, but it is extremely misleading to the average member of the public who does not know the difference between magnetic field and magnetic flux. Here is why, please try to open your mind and understand from the perspective of someone who does not know what you know:

The statement is being used in an attempt to demonstrate how extraordinary the LHC is. It uses the fact that the "magnetic field" is many times stronger than earth's to show how unusually powerful the LHC's magnets are. But as you must know, the earth's magnetic field is not very strong at all, and is itself dwarfed by even the common magnets found in toys. The earth's magnetic flux, on the other hand is extremely strong (or large, or high, or whatever the proper adjective is to describe the magnitude of magnetic flux-remember I, and most other people don't know this stuff), and dwarf's the magentic flux of LHC's magnets.

If you are going to use a comparison to earth to demonstrate that something is extraordinary, people expect that the property of the earth you are comparing against is itself extraordinary. People think of earth and think of something extremely large.

By making a comparison to earth and using a property that is not extraordinary at all (the earth's magnetic field), instead of the property that is, in fact, extraordinary (the earth's magnetic flux), you are misleading those of us who don't know the exact definition of the properties you are talking about, and who would tend to believe that whatever property of the earth you are talking about is extraordinarily large, like the earth's size. That is why the statement is misleading regardless of the fact that it is literally true.

Can a Bose-Einstein condensate correctly be considered to be a "place"?
Is it not rather a substance?

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