Saturday, March 29, 2008

Strangelets and Graupel

The day began with snow again and a weird word, “strangelet,” in a front page story in The New York Times.

Seems that a couple of scientific skeptics fear that a giant proton accelerator/smasher that will be switched on this summer in Switzerland (they should stick to clocks and chocolate) could produce a black hole and suck the planet into nothingness.

Or, under cheery Option B, the accelerator/smasher could produce something called a "strangelet" that would, and here I quote the Times, "convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called ‘strange matter.’"

Strange matter, indeed. What on Earth are these Swiss physicists thinking?

Well, the skeptics have actually taken the matter to court in Hawaii to have it all looked into by a judge. Sounds vaguely like a protest junket to me, but whatever it takes.

So that’s where it stands with the “strangelets.”

(Red Electric reader Gary Gilbert wrote after this was originally posted and suggested this information on "the precautionary principle" as being relevant to the above. I agree.)

Then, as strange as strangelets came the weather forecast in The Oregonian calling for “graupel.”

Here is Matt Zaffino, TV weather, oh-so-nice guy, writing in the paper, telling us to expect graupel. According to Matt, this stuff, and I quote," forms under the same process as hail, but it begins with snowflakes instead of raindrops. Updrafts in the clouds carry the snowflakes upward, adding ice. They fall when they're heavy enough to overcome the updraft."

And sure enough, around 4 p.m. we got graupeled. The stuff is kind of like Styrofoam hail, which is a whole lot better than a Swiss-made black holes or strangelets.

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