Monday, November 23, 2009

LHC Back Online

Scientists at CERN turned the Large Hadron Collider back on and injected protons into the particle stream on Friday, resuming operations for the first time in a year.

Last year, shortly after it became operational for the first time, the LHC experienced a failure in one of the containment magnets that keeps the particles within their track and going around in circles. Because of the tremendous forces required, these magnets are extremely powerful, and if they become misaligned by even a tiny amount, they can fail catastrophically, destroying themselves.

That's what happened last year, and resulted in repairs and replacement of the magnet. It took a while to complete the repairs because the LHC is kept at a brisk -271°C and had to be warmed up slowly, repaired, and cooled back down slowly, but the work is finally done and science is once again underway at the world's most powerful particle collider.

And, in case you hadn't noticed, it still hasn't destroyed the world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Be a Martian

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) know that I'm a big fan of things that people like you and me can do to help advance science and technology. Well, now thanks to Microsoft and NASA, there's another opportunity, and this one is very cool.

Microsoft and NASA have teamed together to create Be a Martian, a new website where you can help contribute to our understanding of Mars. By participating in the site—which largely consists of combing through the vast quantity of Mars images and classifying them, as well as participating in surveys and discussions—you can earn badges and "Reputation Points". But more importantly, you can help our understanding of our red neighbor... the knowledge you help provide may give some indication of where to look for microbial life, past or present. It may help find suitable locations for manned missions or even long-term colonies.

I haven't had a chance to do much other than view a few videos so far, but it looks very interesting, and I've bookmarked it so I can return this weekend and spend some time contributing to the future of science and technology.