The Great Wall of China — a ring of fortifications built to protect the country from Mongol invaders and other would-be plunderers from the north — is aptly named and well deserving of its imposing title. Visible to Earth-observing satellites and commonly cited as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” this structure is the longest ever fabricated by humans, as well as one of the most ambitious architectural and engineering projects ever carried out.
Today, China is considering a venture of almost comparable magnitude — a Great Wall for a new era. Plans specifically call for building the largest and most complicated machine ever assembled. This so-called “Great Collider” will hurl tiny, subatomic particles at nearly the speed of light, circling through a tunnel about 100 meters underground and up to 100 kilometers in circumference, in order to unlock the secrets of the universe. Such a facility could confer broad benefits to society, while serving as a tremendous source of national pride, just like the Great Wall itself. “And hopefully its discoveries—and contributions to the development of science and technology—will be remembered just as long,” says Physics Nobel Laureate David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
–by Steve Nadis and Shing-Tung Yau, authors of From the Great Wall to the Great Collider: China and the Quest to Uncover the Inner Workings of the Universe
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