Pondering the palimpsest and panoply of the planet.

Archive for the tag “particle physics”

Democritus: The Laughing Philosopher

Hubble Space Telescope

This year, the Large Hadron Collider celebrated its second year of service, and the Hubble Space Telescope its 21st year. The former is a 27-kilometer long circular underground particle accelerator near Geneva that creates and measures some of the smallest and most elusive particles in (sometimes still-theoretical) existence. The latter is a telescope in Low Earth orbit with a 2.4 meter diameter that observes some of the oldest, largest, and farthest objects in the universe.

Large Hadron Collider’s ATLAS detector

Together, these two modern machines could be considered the most important in their respective fields of particle physics and astronomy, as well as pinnacles of excellence in the constant growth of human knowledge, technology, and capability. It is hard to imagine that less than 200 years ago, there was no atomic theory, and no knowledge of anything outside of our own solar system. Over 2000 years ago, generations of the best thinkers of the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks knew next to nothing of the true nature of the world, despite their best efforts. Well, there was one man who had a pretty good idea about how things worked–perhaps the one man from the ancient world who might be totally unsurprised by the findings of the HST and the LHC, were he alive today. That man is Democritus.  Read more…

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