Thursday, April 26, 2007

All in the Name of Science

Fair doos, I may been a bit obsessed in my quest for Super Powers over the years. All that medical research and experimental narcotics.

Anyway, I may have met my match in the 'tired-that-one-and-just-burnt-out-a-load-more-neuros' department in the form of Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski. This man, would never have to buy a pint in my presence.

Anyone who knows me knows I like my armchair physics. I've had a permanent search in eBay for the last 2 years under the phrase of 'hadron accelerator' (thought this is mainly to use as a Super Lair and to take advantage of the giant electromagnets in launching superheated plasma into space to take out satellites.

I digress.

The basics are thus. When two protons collide in an accelerator (though personally, and this is just me, I prefer the term atom smasher) they make muons (and some other micro bits of lepton particle crap).

One Russki physicist offered this analogy: "it's like two Soviet Fiats colliding to produce a bus and a Mercedes Benz 600". That's the biblical thing about high-energy physics: the total is invariably mysteriously beautiful and entirely different than the sum of its parts. In short, these things are not pissin' about.

So it was, in 1978, that when the proton beam entered Anatoli (Dr. Atomic) Bugorski's skull it measured about 200,000 rads, and when it exited, having collided with the inside of his head, it weighed in at a healthy 300,000. Bugorski, a 36-year-old researcher at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, was checking a piece of accelerator equipment that had malfunctioned - as had, in all the best origin stories, the several safety mechanisms. Leaning over the piece of equipment, Bugorski stuck his bonce in the beams path and saw "a flash brighter than a thousand suns". According to him, he didn't feel a god-damn thing.

From what I know about radiation, about 500 to 600 rads is enough to kill a chap. Now, to be fair, I've never heard of anyone else who's been exposed to radiation in the form of a proton beam in the side of the noggin before and certainly never met anyone with such a claim to fame. The left side of Bugorski's face became "swollen beyond recognition" and he was rushed off to clinic in Moscow so that doctors could observe his dying days with the morbid fascination the medical profession do.

Over the next few days, the skin on the back of his head and on his face just next to his left nostril peeled away to reveal the path the beam had burned through the skin, the skull, and his brain tissue. The inside of his head continued to smoulder away: all the nerves on the left were gone in two years, paralysing that side of his face in the same expression for the next 2 decades. Bugorski, however, remains a normally functioning happy go lucky human being, fully capable of continuing his work in the field of particle physics until his recent retirement.

And still, so many years on, Anatoli claims no super powers. He must be gutted. He claims not to be able to stop bullets, leap buildings, chase down trains, or control his capitalist oppressors like puppets with the power of his mind. Fair enough. I've read Planetary. In that political climate I'd keep it quiet too.

My hat is off to you sir.

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