Text and pictures © 2007-2013 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/11
"Never pick a fight with a country that believes in reincarnation and has nuclear weapons."
Those are just a few pictures of a brief visit of the GANIL (Grand Accélérateur National d'Ions Lourds, or Great Heavy-Ions National Accelerator) during a few days of conference in Caen (France), as part of my introduction to the CNRS. This is one of those places that create atoms that don't exist in nature, beyond Uranium in the periodical classification. Maybe they can make me some of that Unobtainium I'll need to complete my current projects.
I'll spare you the comments since I'm not familiar with this equipment (although I work on other types of particle accelerators). If somebody unplugged a random wire, I wonder how long it'd take them to figure it out...
After 15 years working in atmospheric science, I could sum it up this way: now that I'm convinced the planet is gonna fry in its own waste (CO2) within a few generations, I know the only solution lies in better and cleaner energy. The only one that can currently foot the bill is nuclear energy. Everything else is either digits after the comma or hogwash. So I changed field and now work on experimental nuclear reactors, bigass particle accelerators (27km big enough for you ?), unlikely particle detection (95% of the universe ?!?), and big bang cosmology.
Steam has provided us a century of energy, before leaving its place to a century of petroleum which is currently reaching limits in terms of pollution, prices and production. The resources in uranium may be limited to another century only, but that's still one century forward. Also, now that the military aren't dictating the design of nuclear reactors for energy productions anymore (they used to love the dirty byproducts they could use for their own 'toys'), we can actually design and build completely (or almost, nothing's ever perfect) clean nuclear power plants. The cleanest energy there is, and the only one that will remain soon enough, as fusion is not around the corner yet. I'm not going to launch into a debate into solar vs wind vs geothermal vs hydraulic as they all have important drawbacks.
Since I started work at CNRS I had the opportunity to visit some of the labs and some are mighty impressive, such as the Ganil shown here. My main regret is not having taken my camera when I visited the Alice detector at the Cern a couple years back. It was still under construction in its gigantic cavern. The biggest science project of the century (so far), both in terms of money (4 billion euros) and size (27km in diameter). And I have 3 months to jump onto the ship and finish the software of the innermost detector...