The world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator is no match for the moon.
That's the observation of one of the scientists working on it, Dr. Pauline Gagnon, a physics professor at the University of Indiana Bloomington, who recently posted a blog entry describing a spatial surprise she encountered last weekend while running one of the six major ongoing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile-around underground accelerator located near Geneva, Switzerland, which has been nicknamed the "Big Bang machine," because it is designed to simulate the conditions of the early universe.
As Gagnon recalled it, everything seemed to be going smoothly until the end of her shift, when another scientist called in to report unexpected fluctuations in the data coming from the planned collisions of two high-energy proton beams taking place in the accelerator.
Gagnon wrote in her post:
So I called the LHC control room to find out what was happening. "Oh, those dips?", casually answered the operator on shift. "That's because the moon is nearly full and I periodically have to adjust the proton beam orbits."
"Since the moon's effect is very small, only large bodies like oceans feel its effect in the form of tides. But the LHC is such a sensitive apparatus, it can detect the minute deformations created by the small differences in the gravitational force across its diameter. The effect is of course largest when the moon is full."
Finally, Gagnon told Talking Points Memo: "I do not recall seeing it so vividly on a graph before when I worked on LEP. Maybe I was never on shift when the moon was full!"
Amazing stuff, eh?
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