With All the Energy of a Mosquito

March 30, 2010 — Leave a comment

Whilst reading about today’s Large Hadron Collider beam smash on the BBC News website, I spotted an odd statement about the 7 TeV (1,000,000,000,000 electronvolts) energy of the collision.

[7 TeV] is still only the energy in the motion of a flying mosquito – BBC News

Well there you have it. Wait… hang on. What on Earth does that mean? I can see why journalists are scraping the bottom of the analogous barrel on this one – energies are notoriously hard to understand. Energy of motion refers to kinetic energy, which is 0.5 * mass * velocity-squared.

Taking the mass of a mosquito as about 2 milligrams (Wikipedia) and the velocity as about 1 – 1.5 miles per hour (Amazing Mosquito Facts, about 0.5 metres per second) we get a kinetic energy of 0.00000025 Joules, or 1.56 TeV. So they must have fat mosquitos at the Beeb. Or maybe their mosquitos are on speed – seems more likely. They are right though, to an order of magnitude, the LHC collisions between proton beams will occur with all the power of a mosquito.

This has got me thinking about energy units so I’ve done some conversions for you. The 7 Tev collision at the LHC is the equivalent to:

  • 3.1 x 10-13 kilowatt hours
  • 2.6 x 10-16 tons of TNT
  • 7 x 10-15 gallons of jet fuel
  • 2.7 x 10-10 kcal

You switch this final one around to say that there are 1.2 x 10 12 LHC collisions in a Snickers bar. Or perhaps more poetically, there are as many electronvolts in a flying mosquito as there are LHC collisions in a Snickers bar. Oh dear, I think I’ll leave it there…

No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s