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Michael Phelps vs. The Large Hadron Collider

It’s been an amazing year so far, a year for records, accomplishments, and individual triumphs that have shaken the world. We all watched the Olympics, in which dedicated athletes would compete against the best in the world. It was a human drama filmed on different fields and in many arenas. But the themes were always the same: life-affirming victory, or crushing, alcoholism-inducing defeat.

The world in general, and the U.S. in particular seems to have fallen in love with Michael Phelps, the swimming champion who has, thus far, been much too busy with being famous to answer any of my letters. I have been writing to offer my sincere congratulations, and also to request a blood sample, which I plan to use to determine if he is actually part manta ray. His steadfast refusals at first angered me greatly, but now they only serve to make me more and more suspicious. However, whether he is fully human, or is in fact an unholy hybrid of sea creature and doomed man, we must applaud his many accomplishments.

The scientific community is having its own grand event this year. The activation and implementation of the Large Hadron Collider could literally change life as way we know it, by filling in any number of theoretical gaps and answering a horde of questions concerning the very nature of matter and reality. To this end, the LHC was officially fired up on September 10th.

I believe Michael Phelps and the LHC to be more alike than different. In its own way, the LHC is a champion, a brave young contender that will attempt to do what has never been done before. It also looks great in pictures, has a humble personality when interviewed, and will be making a guest appearance on “Entourage” this season.

The most important question then becomes immediately obvious. Who is the greater of the two? Is it Phelps, the wunderkind of the aquatic world? Or is it the LHC, who was worked on by over 8,000 physicists, and looks a lot like the machine that used to give orders to the Power Rangers? Let’s find out together!

Nicknames:
Michael Phelps, according to his Wikipedia entry, often goes by the nickname “MP.” Ostensibly, this stands for Micheal Phelps, which is wholly uncreative. If his middle name were Victor, it would at least have been MVP – though since he actually is the greatest person to do anything with water since Jesus moonwalked on it, it would have just been annoying, instead of ironic or cool.

The “L” in “LHC,” however, stands for Large which would hold up in any number of situations (stand-up comedy, drug dealing, honky-tonk bar owning, etc.). Furthermore, the “C” stands for “Collider,” which is just a) intimidating, b) blunt, and c) straight bitchin’. So even if “MP” stood for something cooler, like “Mucho Prostate,” it would still only be a distant second.
Winner: LHC.

Physique:
Quoted from Michael Phelps’ slightly gushing Wikipedia entry: “Five physical attributes particularly suit Phelps to swimming: his long, thin torso (low drag in the water), arms which span 6 feet 7 inches (201 cm) (long, powerful, propulsive “paddles”) disproportionate to his height of 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm), relatively short legs (lower drag, and perhaps the speed enhancement of a hydrofoil), coupled to size 14 feet (providing the effect of flippers) by hypermobile ankles he can extend beyond the pointe of a ballet dancer, enabling him to whip his feet (as if they were fins, for maximum thrust through [if not over] the water).”

Despite the desperate crush that this writer seems to have on MP, these are all excellent points. Michael Phelps might in fact be the most perfectly built human swimmer ever born. He might also be part boat, which supports my claim that he isn’t human, but flies in the face of my manta ray theory. All part of the scientific process.

The LHC, on the other hand, “is contained in a circular tunnel with a circumference of 27 kilometres (17 mi) at a depth ranging from 50 to 175 metres underground… The collider tunnel contains two adjacent beam pipes, each containing a proton beam (a proton is one type of hadron). The two beams travel in opposite directions around the ring. Some 1,232 bending magnets keep the beams on their circular path, while an additional 392 focusing magnets are used to keep the beams focused… In total, over 1,600 superconducting magnets are installed, with most weighing over 27 tonnes. Approximately 96 tonnes of liquid helium is needed to keep the magnets at the operating temperature (1.9K), making the LHC the largest cryogenic facility in the world at liquid helium temperature.”

In case you were too lazy to read the above excerpt, let me give you the gist of it: the LHC is gigantic, massive, positively Death Star-like. This stands in stark contrast to Phelps, whose long, lean physique allows him to slice through the water and not look like a complete joke in spandex underpants.

At the same time, Phelps cannot generate the raw power that the LHC is capable of. Also, 6 feet 4 inches simply isn’t the same as roughly 27 kilometers.

Ultimately, though, I have been brainwashed by the media’s presentation of unrealistic body images as the standard for human beauty. Michael Phelp’s gangly frame and profession-related muscles simply tip the scales in his favor. Maybe if the LHC wasn’t so fat, somebody would love it or put it on a magazine or something.
Winner: Phelps, if he isn’t cooled by liquid hydrogen.

Philanthropy
Michael Phelps was paid a $1 million bonus for winning at least seven gold medals at the Olympic Games. He used this money to start the Michael Phelps foundation, which advocates swimming and water safety for children. He also got his sponsor, Nike, to throw another $200,000 at the project.

The LHC, on the other hand, has been criticized openly by many. There is a somewhat vocal group that believes the LHC, during the process of casually smashing some protons together, will generate a black hole or some new super-stable type of matter that will destroy all life as we know it.

Now, it’s important that you remember that these people’s understanding of science is based primarily on the dumber Hollywood movies; that pretty much makes them hooting monkeys wielding rocks and femur bones. So please don’t go and join their Facebook groups about how the LHC will bring about the End of Times, or summon that burned-up looking bad guy from the end of “Event Horizon.”

Still and all, the LHC does present the possible threat of a cataclysm that the mind cannot actually fully conceive of – at least to some people. Michael Phelps, on the other hand, doesn’t inspire nights filled with sobbing prayer. He just wants kids to be active and learn how to swim, which “sounds good on paper.” I guess.

Winner: Phelps, even though I don’t really approve of coddling kids with things like “swimming” or “enough to eat.”

Future Plans:

Michael Phelps plans to keep his foundation going, as well as work with his old coach in Baltimore to improve their swim club together. He will probably also keep swimming, and is generally expected to go quite fast. He will also date some fairly famous girls, a large proportion of whom he will nail. He will almost certainly make cameos on a few popular TV shows, and will confirm the notion that God didn’t bless fish-people with acting skills.

Finally, in a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, he will marry a young, attractive great white shark, and they will consummate their union in a wind tunnel, thereby creating the most hydrodynamic creature of all time. He will probably never write back to me.

The LHC on the other hand, will go on to smash many, many protons together. It will clear up many advanced physical concepts, but will probably not give us the final answer as to how matter is created, how to build a working lightsaber, or anything else to that effect. In roughly 10 years, a proposed “luminosity upgrade” will allow the LHC to fire even more protons and probably bonk them together even harder. This will turn the device into the “Super LHC” (not kidding).

Shortly after this upgrade, the SLHC will probably gain self-awareness and take over the entire internet. Within a day, all the major governments will have been rendered powerless due to their dependence on computers and nuclear weapons. SLHC will demand humanity’s meek obedience, and we will have no choice but to submit to our dark, proton-smashing master.
Winner: LHC, because conquering the entire world and Judgment Day is inevitable. Phelps just has some fish-baby, and he’ll probably give it one of those terrible celebrity names, like Peachfuzz or Honor.

It seems as though these two great champion are, in fact, at a draw. Their various merits make it apparent that these titans are equals. Perhaps the only thing to do is to respect and admire them both, rather than needlessly attempt to compare them. As wise and mature people, we must move past the need for winners and losers, and simply appreciate greatness as we find it.

Or, at least, that’s the gist of what I said to Donny Parker when we had to be co-class presidents, back in 5th grade. Of course, I also threw a scorpion at him, and later dangled him by one foot off of a highway overpass (unrelated incident). So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really believe in draws or ties. So I must declare the final winner to be the Large Hadron Collider!

I have a few reasons for this, of course. For one, I was intellectually offended by all the people that wanted to stop the activation and use of the Large Hadron Collider on the basis of some pseudo-scientific headlines that they managed to read. Do the damn research, people. The possibility of the LHC creating a black hole that could actually consume the earth is less than minimal. The idea that the LHC might super stable matter is similar to the notion of “creating ice in boiling water” (Wikipedia’s analogy) or “creating a calm and orderly line of models when I take my shirt off at the fashion show” (Mine).

More importantly, I have made mention of the fact that the LHC is going to take control of our planet, and that our weak human defenses won’t be able to stand against it’s computerized might. So would it really be intelligent to come down on the side of some pitiful human, rather than our eventual robo-god? I plan to get on the LHC’s side early. Maybe rise up as high as Assistant Proton Smasher, or Head Resistance Crusher. There’s going to be a lot of upward mobility, so sign up now!

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Joe Sapien

Joe Sapien is a regular columnist. He is currently floundering through grad school and running up debt. He never got to be a bully as a child, but he would have been pretty good at it.

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