Hadron Collider vacuum vessel
We're in the Big Bang gang...
It's a far cry from the snow-capped mountains of Geneva, but here in the flatlands of the Cambridgeshire Fens, engineers are playing a vital role in the experiment to re-create the Big Bang.
When a bunch of scientists got together and thought it might be a bit of a laugh to re-create the so-called Big Bang, the world's media went into overdrive, predicting the end of life as we know it.
Apparently, a theory that created life could, when re-created, end it for good.
But, here in the Fens - considered a bit of a backwater by many - another bunch of boffins were watching with bated breath, knowing that they were playing a vital role in this experiment.
Hadron Collider inertia tube
And what exactly are we banging on about? The much-publicised Large Hadron Collider (LHC), of course. This 13-year, £5 billion project to re-create the Big Bang effect has had its first test run in September 2008 and Stainless Metalcraft Ltd, an engineering and manufacturing company based in Chatteris, played a vital role in the development, testing and building of some of the Hadron Collider's components.
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire reporter, John Devine, strapped on his "the end is nigh" sandwich board and headed out to Metalcraft's 13-acre site to find out more about the part this local company played in one of the world's biggest and most expensive scientific experiments.
Hadron Collider aluminium frame
Martin Lawrence, Metalcraft's business development manager, explained that they had been involved in the LHC project for five years, producing almost 400 stainless steel inertia tubes which form part of the quadrupole magnets used in the particle accelerator. Part of the 27km particle ring was also their work, plus an aluminium frame and various fixtures essential for the LHC to work accurately. And some of the experiments were also carried out by Metalcraft's engineers.
"I'm sure we had some headaches along the way," says Martin, "but it was extremely successful for us. It came in on time, on budget and with almost zero quality issues."
You can listen to the full interview by clicking on the link below:
The science behind the LHC is well-documented, so let's not go into it again here, but very basically, a load of protons are going to be fired off and when they hit each other, the theory goes that this will re-create the conditions of the Big Bang. It's a particle accelerator - and if you want to read more, this easy-to-digest article from The Independent should do the trick:
last updated: 19/09/2008 at 14:25
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