August 27, 2008
A friend has just returned with his holiday snaps. He tends to favour destinations that would be below the bottom on my list of must-visit places. This year his destination was the Ukraine and Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor No 4. Yes, the one that suffered Nuclear Meltdown in April 1986.
There is a 30 kilometre exclusion zone around the whole area and yet they now let tourists quite close to the reactor. You have to sign a disclaimer though saying you won’t sue the Ukranian government if you subsequently turn green and start saying things like “Hulk smash!” There was only one geiger counter to share between the group. The next morning my friend decided to dispose of the shoes and clothes he had been wearing for the previous day.
Its called “Chernobyl” but is actually 18 kilometres from there. The nearest village is Pripyat. This place was only built in the 1970s to house the families of the Nuclear Plant workers. They weren’t evacuated until almost 2 days after the accident. Still unsafe and abandoned it must be an eerie place to visit now and see the derelict school, sports centre and funfair.
The Reactor meltdown only happened because they were conducting some sort of test/experiment/maintainance exercise which went awry. Which got me to thinking. We all know what a big bang splitting an atom made. Scientists are soon going to try to split the bits that make up an atom. Did we ought to be fiddling with things when the results are uncertain? Will that make an even bigger bang? Who knows?
Deep under the Franco-Swiss border not too far from Geneva is CERN. They have been experimenting with particle acceleration for years and have built an amazing underground facility 27 kilometers in circumference to house their experiments.
The Large Hadron Collider is currently planned to be activated on the 10th of September 2008. The scientists hope to change our knowledge of the universe by finding the hypothetical “Higgs Bosun” particle. There is also the theoretical possibility that they may create a “Black Hole” and blow up the whole planet.
This underground facility is on a massive scale and makes fictional things like the villains lair in a James Bond film or the “StarGate” in the TV show seem tame in comparison.
In their favour it must be pointed out that it is thanks to these European boffins at CERN that the World Wide Web exists. Although the “internet” had existed as linked college etc computers since the 1970s it wasn’t until the English scientist Tim Berners-Lee’s need to facilitate CERN’s massive number-crunching (amazingly as recently as 1989 !!) that the world wide web as we know it began. And CERN’s current mega-number-crunching is about to move the world wide web into its next bigger better faster stage…if the planet is still in one piece after September 10th 2008 !!!
PS: When they switched the thing on they finally told us that it would be weeks before it built up enough speed to create any particles/destroy the planet. Then it blew a fuse/magnet and the whole thing had to be powered down. It isn’t going to be back on line till the Summer of 2009. By then the planet Nibiru will probably have crashed into Earth anyway……….
PPS: Actually the lastest report for June 2009 pushes the switch-on back to October 2009 so we’ve still got time to put our affairs in order.