Yale’s particle accelerator may once have sent atoms flying through space at tens of millions of miles per hour, but humans clearly are a different ball game altogether. On Saturday morning, the line outside the accelerator’s bunker-like home on Science Hill was decelerated to a crawl: an average speed of 100 yards per hour, I’d say. If you asked for the velocity instead (as physicists often do), that figure would have fallen to a dismal 20 yards – the line snaked around in a giant U-shape and visitors reaching the front found themselves not so far away from where they started.
Perhaps it is heartening to know that Homo sapiens are more than the mere beams of particles that the gigantic machine is used to spitting out. Yalies pressed for time didn’t always see it that way though. Grumbling about waiting psets and unfinished papers, how they wished the particle accelerator would work its magic on people too. What they would give to be sent speedily through the tour and back on collision course with their books!
“I certainly didn’t expect such great interest in a particle accelerator!” one exasperated student exclaimed. He clearly has been paying attention in physics class however, and his professor would have been impressed with his ability to put classroom knowledge into practice. With great dexterity, the student leapfrogged scores of people and inserted himself near the head of the queue. Speak of quantum tunneling!
His computer science professor, on the other hand, might not have been so pleased. Queues happen to be important data structures and there’s no better sign of buggy code than such blatant violation of the rules.
Now, this massive overdose of science may have decelerated those neurons in your brain, so perhaps it’s a good thing that the public has only been allowed to tour the lab once. Still, the undeterred visitor could make a trip down to the Large Hadron Collider buried beneath the Franco-Swiss border, or alternatively to the Brookhaven National Lab in New York. The possibilities don’t stop there. Beijing, California, Illinois, Siberia, you name it, they’ve got it.
Hear the accelerators we’ve got these days are even more powerful than the machine on Science Hill. Hopefully that acceleration will translate to brain function too. Or, for that matter, to lines of waiting Homo sapiens.