Thursday, September 11, 2008

On collision

The first beams cycled through the Large Hadron Collider yesterday deep under Switzerland and France. It's the world's largest particle accelerator, designed to hurl bundles of protons into each other at nearly the speed of light so as to break them open and reveal the seams of all things. The collisions themselves don't begin until October, and people have joked (a little uneasily, I think) that the scientists at CERN might produce black holes, though small, still sufficiently strong to swallow the earth.

Collisions do reveal. There is an energy, mysterious and calamitous, that holds the hardest bodies together, but we have learned that speed and thought can break loose almost anything, can open a hole. Some things are here, then not — the particles, no longer parts, return to being elementary. We can't seem to stop studying them.

Bodies obey laws. Accelerate the heavy jets and they will knock the rigid structures down into a hole that can't be built over with concrete or flags. Discover the weakness, make pieces, study the streaks in the clouds. What's left will ratify gravity.

Mass. Motion. Force. Sometimes I think we can know too much.

(I keep telling myself I will stop writing about September 11 in one way or another. Perhaps next year.)

1 comment:

teahouse said...

Don't stop writing about September 11! Your last two posts about it were so beautiful