What is…the Large Hadron Collider?

Courtesy of CERN

What is the Large Hadron Collider? You may have heard about it in the news or on the internet. You may even of heard that  it would produce microscopic black holes that would engulf and destroy the entire. The ultimate doomsday weapon. Science fiction made real.

Be comforted and know that the LHC is not a black hole generator.The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)  is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world and was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).  It consists of a 27 kilometer, or 16.777 mile, ring of magnets that smashes two proton beams at 99.9999991% the speed of light. These proton beams reside in two separate tubes that are kept at  a vacuum like that in space. The super magnets that guide the proton beams are built from coiled electrical cable that are supercooled to 271.3 C, near the absolute zero of 273.15 C. Additionally, there are dipole magnets that bend the proton beams and quadrupole magnets that focus the beams. The protons collide with an energy of 14 teraelectronvolts in a space that is a thousand billion times smaller than a dust speck. By the stimulation of an environment where there is such a concentration of energy in a microscopic area of space, the LHC recreates a similar environment to the universe right after the occurrence of the Big Bang.

This compression of energy is the cause for the black hole scare as black holes are created from the collapse of a dying star into a small area of space. However, scientists at CERN have stated that it would be impossible for the manifestation of black holes to  occur in the LHC and even if they did, those black holes would collapse almost immediately as there wouldn’t be enough matter to sustain the black hole.

So it may not potentially destroy the world but it still is a marvelous example of current science. The greatest discovery yet at the LHC is a particle that scientists believe to be the Higgs Boson.  According to the Standard Model, a major theory of how the universe functions, the Higgs Boson is what allows objects throughout the universe to have mass. Anything that has mass is theorized to have mass because of the Higgs Boson. For this discovery, Francois Englert and Peter W. Higgs were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for more findings from the LHC.  It has been shutdown for repairs and upgrades until 2015 but don’t fear, there is still over 88.8 petabytes, or 93,113,570 gigabytes, of data to look over.







Multitasking: Friend or Foe?

Photo Courtesy of Innovativelyorganized.com
Photo Courtesy of Innovativelyorganized.com

I used to take pride in my ability to multitask. While reading for class, I would watch the next episode of How I Met Your Mother and I would convince myself that I absorbed what I read and what I was watching. I was lying to myself, similar, I am sure, to many others who multitask. 

For those living in a fast paced city with many tasks that have  to be done but with even more  places and experiences  to be explored and felt, multitasking has become a method used by many who believe it will enable them to accomplish as much as possible in the least amount of time.However, not many of us understand how our brains function when we multitask and that multitasking, in actuality, has a negative effect of wasting our time and efforts.

In our brain, the executive control network located in the frontal lobes is responsible for our attention demands. When multitasking, many believe that they are focusing on two tasks at the same time when they are just switching between the two very quickly. An idea of why there is a rapid switch between the two tasks is the possibility that it, both, requires the same part of the brain. Have you ever found yourself reading the same sentence over and over while sitting with friends because you are attempting to stay in the conversation while understanding what you are reading? The fact that you have to constantly read the same sentence again is proof that you are switching between talking and listening to your friend and reading and understanding for class. You simply cannot simultaneously read and talk and understand what you’re reading and stay active in the conversation. If you look at this situation, you would notice that the time you spent talking with your friend leads to wasted effort trying to concentrate on your work. The consequence of wasted time and inability to concentrate? Your grades might suffer.

There is a study that I believe displays how multitasking leads to distractions which will affect your comprehension and, in turn, affect your performance. This study was mentioned in a New York Times article. In this research, 136 participants were asked to read a passage and answer questions. The group that was interrupted with instant messages containing further instructions proved to score 20% lower than that of the control group (uninterrupted group). “That’s enough to turn a B-minus (80%) student into a failure (62%).”

The best solution to prevent you from multitasking and enabling you to accomplish all on your to-do list is time management, a skill I have yet to master but am learning to.

Prioritize what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. Schedule your days beforehand and split your work up into intervals of 1-2 hours each. Give yourself breaks in between studying. The break time is for you to reconnect with the world for a bit and relax your brain. Once your break is over, get back to work. The next challenge is to make sure you follow your schedule.

For further reading and tips:

How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain and Your Effectiveness At Work




Music as Medicine?

Photo courtesy of Ovation Press String Visions

We all know a good song can change our mood. Regardless of genre or artist, our favorite tunes have an amazing ability to give a quick escape from dilemmas we may face. Yet did you know that music can also affect our physical and mental health?

According to an article by USA Today1, studies have shown that music can alleviate pain, improve exercise effort and quality of sleep, and incline people to eat less. In terms of mental health, it can reduce stress, ease symptoms of migraines, relieve symptoms of depression, and even improve cognitive function, something all students can appreciate. Do you often find yourself in high-pressure situations? Perhaps listen to some tunes before the big event- a study found that basketball players improved their performance after listening to upbeat music. It also has therapeutic effects for medical patients before and after surgery.

If you’re interested in the specifics, Medical News Today published an article2 echoing this concept. A review of 400 research papers revealed that music can increase levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody part of the immune system. Cortisol levels decrease when listening to music while dopamine levels increase.

So what is the big takeaway from these findings? For those of us who are already avid music-listeners these facts may seem to be mere positive reinforcements of what we have already experienced. In my opinion, however, the potency of music is not something to be overlooked in the medical field.  If “listening to music was also shown to be more successful than prescription drugs in decreasing a person’s anxiety before undergoing surgery,”2 does this not demonstrate that there are existing, simpler alternatives to the prescription pills our society often associates with our healthcare system? Perhaps the most powerful prescriptions are the simplest ones.

  1. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2013/12/17/health-benefits-music/4053401/
  2. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/258383.php
  3. http://stringvisions.ovationpress.com/2011/05/string-players-brains-are-special/