Protons in the Hood

For scientists, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was built under the French-Swiss border to re-create the Big Bang that created the universe almost 14 billion years ago, is an important experiment; for kids, it’s a pop icon.

The LHC is a 16.9-mile circular tunnel in which beams of protons aimed at each other will be accelerated to nearly the speed of light and guided by monster superconducting magnets to smash into each other in four huge laboratories.

It’s a very complicated project that involves particle physics, dark matter; antimatter; the law of conservation of energy; the Higgs Boson, and ions; took hundreds of astrophysicists 20 years and $10 billion years to build, and runs over a grid consisting of hundreds of computers worldwide.

But it’s now become the subject of rap videos on YouTube that have been downloaded millions of times, and even has a dedicated ringtone kids can download onto their cell phones.

The rap video frenzy was kicked off by Kate McAlpine, an intern at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which is running the LHC experiment. Calling herself alpinekat, she released a nearly five-minute rap video two months ago on YouTube explaining the LHC in simple terms. As of publication time, Alpinekat did not return queries from

That video has been viewed almost 3.4 million times so far, has a five-star rating and has spawned more than 60 video responses on YouTube, including versions with Spanish and Portuguese subtitles, and several remixes, including a minimalist techno version.

Meanwhile, FunMobility has brought out the Hadron Particle Rap Ringtone, according to Robert Paul Reyes’s blog, News Blaze. FunMobility bills itself as “America’s largest mobile content community” and developed the FunMail Animated Messaging System, which translates simple text to animations. FunMo had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

The LHC has powerful supporters. Sir Tim-Berners Lee, best known as the father of the World-Wide Web, recently launched the World Wide Web Foundation to combat false reports that the collider might create a black hole that could swallow the Earth.

A helium leak last weekend forced CERN to shut down the collider, just 10 days after it was started up, and repairs and winter maintenance will keep it shut until spring.

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