Physics and rap music

Geek alert: the Large Hadron Collider (“LHC”), making its debut this year, is the world’s largest particle accelerator.  Built by CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research), the LHC is a 27 km particle accelerator near Geneva, running through both France and Switzerland.  As noted in the NYT, the LHC “will smash together subatomic particles at a rate just short of the speed of light in search of new forms of matter and new laws of physics.”

Some have objected to the LHC as creating an unnecessary risk of, um, destroying the world, such as by creating a micro black hole that swallows the planet.  Several LHC opponents have filed a federal lawsuit seeking delay of its operation, and the government is seeking dismissal.  Ultimately, it’s somewhat moot, as the LHC makes it official debut on “Red Button Day,” Sept. 10, about a week after the court hears the motion to dismiss.

Although I love physics, my physics knowledge is more of the “wouldn’t warp travel be really cool” variety.  So I don’t know how risky the LHC really is.  However, I can say with more confidence that this rap video explaining the operation of the LHC, apparently done by folks connected to CERN, is pretty entertaining (if you’re a physics geek, that is):

Bonus assignment: check out PBS’ program The Elegant Universe, a three-hour miniseries on the development of physics string theory.

H/T on rap vid: SlashDot

Odysseus and tax day

Nature.com reports that several researchers have combined astronomical data with events in Homer’s Odyssey to pinpoint the exact date on which a returning Odysseus executed his wife’s suitors.

Marcelo Magnasco and Constantino Baikouzis identified four astronomical events in the epic poem and calculated dates within 100 years of the fall of Troy that would fit in with the events described around Odysseus’s return home and the ensuing slaughter of men propositioning his wife.

According to the researchers, the date was April 16, 1178 BCE.  That’s also the day after Tax Day, though I’m pretty sure the IRS didn’t exist back then.

(Abstract and paper here; press release here).