This blue marble

– and yet it spins

Ours is a strange world

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CERN-1What could be more mind-boggling than to think that everything we see, and everything we are, is mainly emptiness? The chair we sit on is space, even if we are told it consists of atoms. We ourselves are made of space. Apparently, if all space was removed from between the electrons, protons, and neutrons in the atoms, the consistence of the entire human race would fit into a sugarcube.

Oh yes, there is something just a little bit more mind-boggling: that the emptiness of space is not really empty at all but filled within something mysterious named “dark matter”. And that there may be as many as 11 dimensions – some of them curled (now please make an attempt at imagining how). And that gravity is not just a force but actually a particle too, just like light is, and there is no real difference between an energy wave and a particle. And the most mind-boggling thing of them all: scientists spent ten years building a huge machine to find out the “theory of everything”, spanning from the secrets of the universe at its birth to small subatomic particles that would explain dark matter, multidimensional universes, and gravity.

CERN-2Deep down under Swiss and French territory, the secrets of the universe are revealed in a giant synchrothron that spins the tiniest little parts of atoms around a 27 kilometer circuit at blinding speed. For the smallest possible particles to show themselves, a massive detector 25 meters in diameter is needed to catch every signal. The difference in size between the construction and the particles it captures is probably similar to the distance between one human being and a distant galaxy. After just a few years of operation, a particle beginning to unravel the mystery of gravity and supersymmetry was found – and with a Nobel prize on the tail.

Some make pilgrimages to churches, others to battlefields. But I… oh, I was walking on holy ground as I toured CERN. Oh, today was a happy day for this science nerd. Wandering among other science nerds I pondered of how little we really do know of the basic building blocks that hold our up the scaffold we perceive as our world. Buddha was right: everything truly is an illusion.

CERN-3(LHC at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland; November 2014)

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