the Handcrafted Particle Accelerator

what if we could look ourselves up in a parallel universe? what if we could predict our future using DNA? what if we could build a particle accelerator at home? UK-based designer Patrick Stevenson-Keating creates projects which not only solve problems, but ask questions. for Milan Design Week, we teamed up with him to create the world’s first handcrafted glass particle accelerator read more


delicate and highly detailed studies of the flora and fauna of the Pacific islands provide the inspiration for Carlos Noronha Feio’s latest work, now showing at IMT Gallery.  Plant Life of the Pacific World  is a series of gracefully collaged photos of nuclear explosions, alluringly echoing the forms of the natural world as classified by American botanist E.D. Merrill’s book from which the exhibition takes its name. the book’s dry classification of plant forms is transformed by Noronha Feio into an explosive revelry of intense, amoebic forms bursting forth as deadly chain reactions

guest post: a new physics?

with all the recent talk about faster-than-light particles, we thought it timely to bring you selected excerpts from physicist Ben Still’s Neutrino Blog looking at how such speeds might be possible, what that means for physics and how we might have seen this all once before read more


after nearly three decades of smashing particles together, physicists at America’s forerunner to the Large Hadron Collider will be raising a glass as the Tevatron is shut down for the final time later today. and while many are talking about the closure in the context of increasing international competition (like China’s recent space habitat launch), the team at Fermilab (whose amazing offices are pictured above) will probably be remembering the good times, like discovering the elusive top quark particle, and looking ahead to the mysteriously named Project X

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Particle Zoo

coming soon to the super/collider shop – a selection of cute little particles from the Particle Zoo range. click here and we’ll tell you when they arrive on these shores


set underground in the shadow of the Abruzzo mountains, the just-inaugurated ICARUS experiment at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory is designed to detect the passage of neutrinos coming from space – and others emitted by CERN, over 700km away. made up of 54,000 steel wires immersed in 600 tons of liquid argon, it detects the passage of these tiny particles by reading the electric charges released along their tracks by ionization processes, offering a new way to study the universe and hopefully learn more about dark matter




chances are that – like us – you’re still waiting for that invite to the Nobel Prize awards and gala dinner in Oslo next week? thankfully, they’ll be screening the whole thing live – you can watch it over on super/reader. besides the actual awards, the week-long build up includes lectures by the laureates. we’re particularly looking forward to Physics award winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov’s talk about their work with graphene: a one atom thick carbon-based material that’s essentially a 2D solid (!)


_a graphene molecule under extreme magnification / Condensed Matter Physics Group, Univesity of Manchester


typical. you wait all week for a nice science image, then two come along at once. both images below are surprising examples of the way particle physics experiments are being used to study nature, something that will be discussed at a workshop in Paris next week. the first shows something called a scintillation hodoscope close to the crater of Mount Etna, which is being used to study both cosmic rays and help predict volcanic eruptions. the second is part of the

CLOUD project at CERN, which is looking at cosmic rays in relation to cloud formation and climate science. nice to see the sciences playing so well together


_image: D.Gibert et al, CNRS/INSU/IN2P3, INGV/Catania_image: CERN

_image: CERN

head on

we usually steer clear of CGI, but this week we had to break with tradition to bring you this breakthrough from the Large Hadron Collider: the first lead-ion collision ever recorded inside the ALICE experiment. generating temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of our Sun, these collisions will create conditions similar to those that existed during the Big Bang at the very beginning of time itself


vast, white, frozen and forbidding, the Arctic and Antarctic hold endless fascination for artists and explorers – but are also the ideal setting for some of the latest research in physics, astronomy and climate change. join us for a special (and free!) Science Fair™ on Monday as we discuss the polar regions of the earth in terms of art, culture and science. our guests will be Nicola Triscott of the Arts Catalyst’s Arctic Perspectives Initiative and New Scientist journalist Anil Ananthaswamy, whose forthcoming book The Edge of Physics took him to Antarctica to visit cutting-edge physics experiments and meet the people behind them


_image: a photograph of the snow surface at Dome C Station, Antarctica by Stephen Hudson


while we’re busy partying on the moon this weekend, the folks over at the Royal Observatory Greenwich are off exploring Saturn and its immense moons. there’s some kids’ stuff this weekend, but also an exciting series of talks from NASA experts and mission planners


_image: Titan’s thin atmosphere _credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


if you haven’t checked out The Arts Catalyst’s nuclear art show yet, you might want to do so before next Friday, when they and the venerable Royal Society of Arts will be hosting a forum on nuclear power, art and culture. it’s free to register and speakers include Kate Hudson of CND and James Acord – the only private citizen in the world licensed to handle radioactive materials


_image: still from Chris Oakley’s Half-Life


we usually have a pretty strict policy of ‘no CGI’ – especially when it’s a bit pixelated – but there’s something awesomely artful and 80s about this simulated cosmic ray, as seen by the new Pierre Auger Observatory in the grasslands of Argentina. made up of 1,600 water tanks spaced 1.5 km apart, it detects the radiation emitted by cosmic rays as they hit the earth. the observatory, which will be officially inaugurated today, explains everything in more detail on their website, which also features some Google Earth images of the facility if you’re into that sort of thing



__water tanks awaiting installation


back in May, super/collider travelled to CERN on the Switzo-French border to see the Large Hadron Collider before they sealed the tunnels to begin supercooling it. with the world’s most ambitious physics experiment set to start tomorrow, we thought it high time we take a look back at this underground marvel

safety first

our day began outside the ATLAS experiment, with the Alps towering in the background. it being the EU, everything is recycled

this looked really impressive at the time, but it probably just controlled the garage door. once we got inside we were blown away

so blown away, in fact, that we forget to set the camera back to auto-focus. luckily Angela from Mutable Matter took some better photos, like this one of the CMS experiment

otherwise known as the Compact Muon Spectrometer, this giant experiment sits in a cavern big enough to fit all the residents of nearby Geneva

the place was packed full of amazing-looking stuff like this

over at another site, we managed to get in to see the ALICE experiment, thanks to Dr David Evans from the University of Birmingham who gave us a tour – starting at the high security entrance with iris scanner

what struck us most about the whole project was its sheer size, complexity and permanence. if human civilisation were to suddenly dissapear, the LHC would stand, in its timeless underground tunnels, as the ultimate monument to our current state of knowledge and understanding

barring any more lawsuits, the LHC wil start-up on Wednesday when the first particle beams are injected into the LHC and accelerated around the 27km long tunnel (left). super/collider will be reporting live from the official UK start-up event, so if you’re bored at work, log on from 8am to follow what we’re promised will be “one of the most significant moments in modern science”


we were planning to show you some pictures of our trip to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to celebrate the start of experiments there, but that’s now been pushed back ’til September. in the meantime, we instead mark the launch of the second Pioneer probe to Venus, which blasted off thirty years ago today to release three small probes designed to impact the planet’s north, night and day sides. all very 1970s sci-fi, especially when you see the NASA artwork from that era


_photo: NASA


beamed into deep space on November 16, 1974, the Arecibo radio message is the most powerful man-made signal ever created. encoded in binary – hence the Atari style graphics – it contains information about us, our DNA, the solar system and the telescope that sent it. to increase the chances of someone out there receiving it, the signal was aimed at M13: a dense globular cluster made up of hundreds of thousands of suns

despite numerous other milestones – including the discovery of the first exoplanets – and its ability to track asteroids that could hit the earth, the radio telescope that sent the Arecibo message is under threat, and could be forced to close down due to lack of funding. visit the website of The Planetary Society and voice your support

above: the Arecibo radio telescope and a section of the Arecibo message

smash hits

deep beneath the countryside on the border of France and Switzerland, the world’s largest physics experiment is nearly complete. a joint venture between the UK and other European countries, the Large Hadron Collider is one of the most ambitious experiments ever undertaken

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heads up

over the past week, Comet NcNaught has unexpectedly become one of the brightest in decades. as it races towards the sun, trailing dust and vapour in a long trail, it will be visible to those of us in the northern hemisphere until mid-January. you’ll find it near the western horizon around sunset, clouds permitting


_image: Comet NcNaught over Iowa // Stan Richards