Learning my way around winding through Palo Alto,



Learning my way around winding through Palo Alto, California in 1969 I remember being on the expanse of scrub covered dried out ground of Stanford University and being told as my friend pointed off into the horizon that this was where the linear accelerator – two miles long was.  A linear what? Where scientists were smashing atoms?  What won’t they think of next? 

My children and I had moved to Naperville, Illinois in 1984 to be closer to my sister and her family.  A tourist spot we visited one summer afternoon in a little town called Batavia had a scrappy looking field which had a thin wire fence all around it and buffalo grazing inside the fence.  It was an innocuous looking field – I would never have imagined what was under the field.  My sister told me about the underground larger circular collider.    We went into the main floor of the small white building sporting a line of flags of many countries across the front entrance and we watched an assortment of videos and displays where we learned about quarks and other tiny particles that were discovered by smashing atoms at great speeds into one another in this and other colliders.  Let’s see, not only quarks, but up-quarks, down-quarks; muons, gluons, leptons, neutrinos, to name a few – I can’t keep them all straight. 

Sean Carroll, PhD, author of The Particle at the end of The Universe, said that as one can build anything out of Lego blocks, so too, all things we can see in our world are comprised of the same things, but in different combinations and circumstances.  So a table, a toothbrush, your pet cat, all humans, stones and a ham sandwich are all made of the same stuff, just arranged differently.   

Dr. Carroll goes on to talk of an elusive particle, the Higgs-Boson, which has now been discovered at the LHC or Large Hadron Collider, underground partly in France and partly in Switzerland.  This machine is the largest machine ever built by mankind.     

I like that Dr. Carroll dedicated the book to his Mom who took him to the library.


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