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Rene Bellwied | USLHC | USA

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The Black Hole Come-On Line

Ok, we’re down until spring. This is for the standard winter shutdown plus fixing and understanding the helium leak. For somebody who has worked at the AGS and RHIC for the last two decades, this series of events is really no surprise. As was said before, these problems occur during a startup phase and are really not indicative of the quality of the overall project or the probability of success in the future. Next year’s long runs are still something to look forward to. But in the meantime we can shift our attention to other, similarly important, things. And because serious issues such as financial bailouts and presidential campaigns are on everybody’s mind, I thought about a more light-hearted topic for this week, which came to my mind during a gathering of physicists and non-physicists this weekend: Finding the right partner for life….

As we all know, it’s hard being a physicist. Let’s not kid ourselves, people often run away at parties when we start talking, they look puzzled, they don’t know how to respond, and quite frankly they don’t really care. That brings up the question: Can the Geek Squad ever score ?

Even if you unlock the mysteries of the creation of the universe, mostly the religious fanatics stay with you in order to prove you wrong, because God made the proton and not Mr. Higgs. So what’s a good physicist in search for a mate to do ? Well, lately I recognize a certain brashness in my younger colleagues by turning a bad thing into a good thing, a new approach which can be described as The Black Hole Come-on Line.

Here is how it works. In the middle of a rather benign conversation about the sub-prime mortgage crisis you start off by saying that you’re working on a project at the biggest atom smasher (or particle creator, although ‘smasher’ is always a winner) in the world (moderate interest ensues),  then you drop the possibility of creating a black hole (eyes widen, but still only slight interest), but then after a well timed pause you mention that it could potentially destroy the earth (unbridled attention and even slight admiration is a given at this point). You need to follow up with the obligatory disclaimer to put the person at ease: well, if we make a black hole that only one of the good kind, too small to break something but big enough for mankind to learn a lot. And there you have them hooked. You go off with them into Black Hole Wonderland, and if you don’t only know ‘Battlestar Galactica’ but also a little ‘Sex and The City’ you might even carry the conversation beyond the courtesy five minute mark.

Well, good luck Young Skywalker and God’s Speed !!

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