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I’m back! Here’s some news.

April 5, 2010

So since I have been gone a lot has happened. Here is a run-down of recent, science-related, news.

  • Around 3 pm on march 30th the guys at CERN tweeted:

Experiments have seen collisions!!!!!!!!!!!

and

First time in the history!!!!!!!!!!!! World record!!!!!!!!

As you can see they were very excited, and rightly so. After 10 years of hard work by thousands of staff and despite seemingly endless delays,the LHC is finally crashing protons into each other at just shy of the speed of light. Operating at 3.5 trillion electron volts the Large Hadron Collider has easily surpassed previous particle collision energy records and is all-set to discover amazing new things in particle physics. It’s the most complicated machine mankind has ever made so watch this space!

(Just so you know, a teravolt might sound impressive but it’s actually a really small amount of energy, roughly equivalent to that of a mosquito in flight. For something the size of a proton however, that’s A LOT OF ENERGY.)

  • Reporting on the event, a newspaper finally slips up and refers to the LHC as the Large hard-on collider. Hey, don’t look at me like that, this is news.

More (real news) after the jump

  • Science writer for The Guardian, Simon Singh, wins the annoying case of “valid criticism vs corporation with lots of money”. This is brilliant news; our libel laws are well-known for being rubbish. So rubbish in fact, that people from other countries try to get their libel trials done here in sunny England in what is cutely called “libel tourism”. Here is an image that better describes what happens when someone gets sued for libel.

    I'm fairly sure legal proceedings are more complicated than this.

    If the above picture didn’t make it obvious, our libel laws suck because it gives the overwhelming advantage to the guy who can actually afford the court proceedings (aka. the accuser). It is common knowledge that journalists never have any money, however, even if the writer somehow finds the money to defend himself the laws in this country are such that it is up to the defence to prove that their client wasn’t being litigious rather than it being the other way around. You are presumed guilty until proven innocent. What is this, law on opposite day?

    The guy in the green scarf is certainly smelling something. The sweet scent of impending victory perhaps?

    Because Libel laws are so stacked against the defendant, it is often a better option to simply avoid court altogether and submit to the demands of the accusor, which usually amount to censorship or worse, the handing over of large amounts of cash. Our libel laws are a horrible abuse to free speech that favours the rich over the poor and threatens to stifile legitimate debate. Luckily, when the British Chiropractic Association took Simon Singh to court he not only had the money (it cost him around £200 000) but he also had the guts to fight for his right to speak honestly. This makes him a hero of free speech. Importantly, it sets a precedent for similar trials in the future so that writers can now make statements like: “chiropractic therapy is totally bogus” without having to fear that they’ll get taken to court please don’t sue me. Justice secretary Jack Straw has since promised to look into it.

For the hopelessly curious, here is the original article that got Simon Singh in so much trouble in the first place.
Still curious? Ok, here’s CERNs twitter feed. Interesting stuff!

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