#2. The James Webb Space Telescope Will Dwarf Hubble
The Hubble Space Telescope has been cramming the enormity and beauty of the universe down our throats for over 20 years now. But science just isn't satisfied. That's why, in 2014, they're shutting down the Hubble and replacing it with the obscenely powerful James Webb Space Telescope.
Honeycomb's big ... yeah yeah yeah!
When the Webb launches, hopefully in 2018, it will travel a million miles away from the Earth before settling into orbit. Like a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon, the Webb will spread all five layers of its tennis-court-sized solar shield and start forcing the magnificence of the cosmos into our brains through our eye holes.
Its primary mirror, with a diameter of 21.3 feet, is 2.7 times as wide as Hubble's and has six times the area. The reason for this is that the Hubble has just about reached its capacity for how far it can see into the abyss -- as the universe expands, the light from the farthest objects is reduced to a faint trickle of infrared light that the Hubble isn't sensitive enough to pick up.
Its girth can penetrate the depths of space better, is what we're saying.
The James Webb will be able to see light sources 10 to 100 times fainter than Hubble. It will look far into the past to study light from the first stars and galaxies formed just after the Big Bang, as well as check the chemical makeup of Earthlike planets. But mostly it's just going to mess with our sense of worth.
The day we find out we're the least important things in the universe will be the day science wins.
#1. The Large Hadron Collider
We know, you've heard about this before, if only because of all the speculation that it's going to destroy the world. But do you actually know what it does, beyond simply "science?" Do you even know what the hell a hadron is? Did you know the LHC is the largest machine ever built by humans?
With help from the spider god Atlach-Nacha.
Many of the big mysteries we're still trying to solve about the universe are locked up inside tiny particles like protons (one example of a hadron), which are themselves made up of even tinier particles. To detect them, the LHC needs parts like this:
We believe it's called a widget.
That's a component of one of the particle detectors at the LHC. It's 5 stories tall and weighs 6 million pounds. To find the particles for that thing to detect, we have to smash up the protons. Unfortunately, this is like trying to get the cash out of an adamantium piggy bank. You have to smash them really, really hard.
So the Large Hadron Collider, as its name implies, has two main functions: Smashing protons together, and being really big. In order to get a proton up to the speed required to actually break it apart, scientists have to fire it through a circular tube 17 miles in length. This boosts the particle to an energy level of 3.5 tera-electron volts (TeV), or around the energy of a mosquito. That may not sound impressive until you realize a proton is trillions of times smaller than a mosquito, so it's really like shooting a spitball with the force of Halley's Comet.
This is the physics version of those rotating barrels you get at funfairs.
The purpose of this gargantuan machine is basically to prove the existence of particles that should exist in theory, but we've never actually seen. Stuff with really weird names, like dark matter, monopoles and Higgs bosons. Basically, it's the Mad Hatter's Tea Party of physics.
And doing that, as with all worthwhile projects, requires one giant goddamned machine.
Basically, the LHC is how science plans to find the universe's clitoris.
For scientific badassery, check out The 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science and 5 Superpowers Science Will Give Us in Our Lifetime.