Here is a cool article on the “cool” LHC from The New Yorker:
Since Rutherford’s discovery, particle physics has provided one extraordinary—if increasingly implausible-sounding—revelation after another: first protons and neutrons, then antimatter, gluons, neutrinos, and quarks.
And yet, for all its triumphs, the field has been haunted by failure. The more physicists have learned about the way matter behaves at its most fundamental level, the more acutely they have become aware that something—a big something—is missing from their accounts. Among the many possibilities proposed for what’s often called “new physics” is that the universe actually consists of tiny strands (or strings) of energy; that it contains several dimensions beyond those that we perceive; that it is full of mysterious particles—“sparticles”—that have yet to be detected; that it is not a universe at all but a multiverse; and that it began not with a bang but with a splat.
The L.H.C. is a kind of Babel built underground.
Among his responsibilities is dealing with the frequent calls and letters CERN receives about the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider will destroy the world. When I asked about this, Engelen picked up a Bic pen and placed it in front of me.
“In quantum mechanics, there is a probability that this pen will fall through the table,” he said. “All of a sudden, it will be on the floor. Because it can behave as a wave, it can go through; we call that the ‘tunnel effect.’ If you calculate the probability that this happens, it is not identical to zero. It is a very small probability. But it never happens. I’ve never seen it happen. You have never seen it happen. But to the general public you make a casual remark, ‘It is not identical to zero, it is very small,’ and . . . ” He shrugged.