Brian Cox was on the Colbert Report last Wednesday, and in response to the idea that the future is somehow stopping us from turning on a high-energy particle accelerator, Cox ends up saying, “The technical term in English is ‘Bollocks.’”
If you’ve never heard of Brian Cox, I highly recommend his TED talk from spring of last year, shown here:
In this TED talk, Cox frames the purpose and goal of CERN in a way that has become my favorite way to explain what we do to my family and friends.
In short, essentially the way he frames it is this: Every society has a creation story – a story of where our world came from and how we got here. Only in the past few decades has our modern society begun piecing together information from both Astronomy and Particle Physics to build the most accurate creation story we currently know – that of the “Big Bang.”
Astronomy tells us most of what we know about the universe from about 400,000 years after it was born to now. Before that time, we need Particle Physics and increasingly larger particle accelerators to figure out what the universe was like closer to the Big Bang itself – when all the matter in the universe was cramped together in a tight, dense volume.
That is the goal of CERN: to recreate the Big Bang in the lab. Check out Brain’s entertaining talk to see him explain it.