I was going to hold out a bit on this one, but euio has forced my hand with his LHC disaster. Although we picked the same specific theme, it looks like our approaches were light years apart, so that's a good thing.

I began work on Real Science about two weeks ago with research and style experiments. My first map focused on the area around Meyrin, which is the Swiss town that is considered to be the home of CERN. For those of you unfamiliar with CERN, it is the European entity concerned with nuclear research

The big fun at CERN these days is the LHC or Large Hadron Collider. This enormous underground "pipe" is used to accelerate particles to just under the speed of light and then continue to add energy. When matter approaches the speed of light and is further accelerated, instead of gaining velocity, it gains mass. The LHC at CERN can theoretically do this better than any other particle accelerator around, if they can get it to work.

In September of 2008, not long after the collider was brought online, something went wrong and a great deal of damage was done by arcing electricity from a bad circuit that caused a breach in the helium containment system. Great quantities of liquid helium flooded the area and caused massive damage. After much time and many safety improvements, the collider is back online, and slowly making it's way up to its rated capacity, which is 7 TeV (tera electron volt).

Some fun facts about the LHC: It is the last stage of a five-stage particle acceleration process. The LHC has a circumference of 27 kilometers or 17 miles. The great majority of the LHC is not in Switzerland, but rather in France. There are four "collision points" in the LHC: Atlas, LHC-b, Alice and CMS. The pictures you see of massive machinery is typically from these collision points.

Finally before I start talking shop, I'd like to say that I am not a scientist, and I don't believe or wish anyone else to believe that this map is a reflection of the possible. It is fiction. I believe that LHC is dangerous because of the huge machines and amounts of energy required to make it work, but no more so than any other mechanism would be under similar circumstances.

Okay, on to the mapping.

My first go at this focused on the Meyrin area south of the actual collider. It was more of a satellite view at that point, with all of the fields and roads made to look as real as I could. I had begun working on buildings when I started to doubt myself. I was perhaps half way finished when I reluctantly decided that I was missing out on a lot of good science by not covering the whole thing. So I scrapped it and started over. At this point, I was not sure that I'd be submitting this for the challenge. It was just an experiment still.

So I restarted, this time capturing the area of the collider and that immediately around it. I've used probably 30 maps and diagrams to assemble and understand all of the physical relationships, but Google earth was my guide for the roads and features of the LHC area. By maintaining a constant eye altitude, I was able to stitch together the many pieces needed to capture the entire area. The methodology is pretty self-evident, but the trick is to use transparency to align the pieces properly.

Once I had a frankenstein moster of a background layer, I was able to start tracing the roads, rail and Franco/Swiss border. There are no tricks to this either, just hours of long, tedious work. The bad news is that the labeling takes much longer than the tracing. I'm just glad I didn't have to name everything.

The airport was done as a separate element, and the singularity itself was cobbled together using elements that I couldn't reproduce to save my life.

The collider has taken up a great deal of time by virtue of the difficulty in trying to assemble bits of information from a wide variety of sources. CERN has been around for a long time and each stage of acceleration was developed for its own purposes at different times. There are a few good sources that give excellent overviews if you're willing to look, but I dare say that nothing available to the general public covers the physical relationship of the collider to the area it is in nearly as well. If you find anything, please let me know! I'd like to see how well I did.

As always, suggestions and criticism are welcome.

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