3 of the Biggest Experiments Ever

SciShow is supported by Squarespace. Whether you need a domain, website, or online
store, make it with Squarespace [♪INTRO] It’s one of those fundamental rules of the
universe that we all eventually learn growing up: like, life isn’t fair, Picard was a
better starship captain than Kirk, and bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes though, there are things in nature
so huge or complex that the only way to really study them is to build something enormous. Like, physicists didn’t just find the Higgs
boson by fishing it out from under the couch — it took the world’s largest machine,
the Large Hadron Collider, to observe it. But when it comes to outright size, there
are a few scientific experiments that can even give the Large Hadron Collider a run
for its money. Take the Northeast Pacific Time-series Undersea
Networked Experiments, or NEPTUNE, which is a really big name for a really big network
of scientific equipment off the coast of British Columbia. You may have noticed that the ocean is gigantic. I mean, seriously. About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered
in water, and despite all the seafaring we’ve done as a species, there’s still a ton we
don’t know about what’s going on deep under the surface. Enter NEPTUNE. It’s made up of an 800-kilometer loop of
fiber optic cable that ranges from just 23 meters deep to 2.4 kilometers below the surface. The cable serves as a link between five locations
that have all kinds of different equipment for studying the ocean, and allows them to
transmit data back to land. This equipment includes things like hydrophones,
which are special underwater microphones used to listen to the sounds of life down there
— from swarms of plankton to whales. There’s also an adorable robot called Wally
— yes, there’s fake Wall-E and there’s real Wally… different robots — and scientists
use Wally to study microbes that survive on deposits of methane, on the ocean floor. And, there are cameras that provide livestreams
of undersea activity, like mass crab migrations. There’s a link in the description if you
want to watch some of that! Since it started operating in 2009, NEPTUNE
has given us tons of data about ecosystems that adapted to the extreme pressure and lack
of sunlight on the seafloor. And because it covers almost the entirety
of one of Earth’s tectonic plates, scientists can use it to help build a more accurate model
for things like earthquakes. Further south, in Livermore, California, is
one of the world’s biggest — and heaviest — indoor experiments. It’s called the National Ignition Facility,
or NIF, and its goal is to show that nuclear fusion — where two smaller atoms combine
into a larger one — could be a viable source of power. Existing nuclear power plants work using nuclear
fission: they split atoms apart and turn the resulting energy into electricity. Unfortunately, in the process they also produce
waste that stays dangerously radioactive for decades. But fusing certain atoms together also releases
energy, and unlike splitting atoms, the process could potentially produce much less radioactive
waste. Problem is, pumping enough energy into atoms
to get them to fuse is … challenging. So the NIF’s strategy is to use the largest
laser in the world, which is housed in a ten story building more than 300 meters long. Most of that space is for the laser amplifiers
— 120 metric tons’ worth of a special type of glass. Under the right conditions, it’s capable
of giving a series of 192 normal laser pulses 10 billion times more energy than they started
out with. And then, all that laser energy gets fired
into a gold canister about the size of a pencil eraser, which contains a target pellet filled
with hydrogen. The beams heat up the pellet inside to over
3 million degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to make it implode in just the right way for
the hydrogen atoms to start fusing with each other. The chain reaction releases energetic, radioactive
particles like neutrons — ideally with more energy than what the laser beams put into
kickstarting the reaction in the first place. That’s what physicists call ignition. There’s just one small problem. The NIF hasn’t achieved full ignition yet
— at least, not the kind that gets us more energy than we put in. And even if the NIF does achieve ignition,
there are still a whole load of problems to tackle, like how to extract that energy efficiently
and deal with all your expensive equipment being irradiated by the same particles you
want to get energy from. But researchers are working on it, and eventually,
that giant building full of glass could lead to power plants that use nuclear fusion. So, NEPTUNE and the NIF are plenty big in
their own ways. But neither of them qualify as the biggest
experiment humanity’s working on. That award goes to the Laser Interferometer
Space Antenna, or LISA. It’s a proposal to use three small spacecraft
arranged about 1.6 million kilometers away from each other in space — four times the
distance from the Earth to the Moon! The spacecraft would shoot laser beams back
and forth to measure gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time generated
when massive objects like black holes accelerate — when they’re merging, for example. In 2016, researchers detected gravitational
waves for the first time using LIGO, a similar, but much smaller experiment set up here on
Earth. The waves came from two relatively small black
holes suddenly merging — the whole thing took less than a second. And detecting them involved measuring a change
in distance of only one ten thousandth the width of a proton. So there’s a reason it took us so long. LISA’s designed to detect gravitational
waves that are even more subtle — ones that come from events that can last for minutes
or even hours, like when the much-more-massive black holes in the centers of galaxies merge. LISA probably won’t make it off the ground
until about 2034. But in 2017 NASA completed a mission with
a sort of mini version of LISA, called LISA Pathfinder, that showed the technology can
function well enough to make measurements in space. So while it won’t technically be on Earth,
when it eventually launches LISA will be the biggest observatory we’ve ever built … by
far. And at 1.6 million kilometers across, that
is going to be a tough record to break. Speaking of game-changing upgrades: We’ve been updating our old, cumbersome
website, SciShow.com, to a sleek, user-friendly Squarespace site. Picking a template was the hardest part because
there were so many options we liked. But once we finally settled on one, it’s
been easy to add our own style to it. We’ve added a custom SciShow banner and
pictures of our staff in our about page. Importing images and adding and updating text
has been incredibly easy, and pretty fun. We’ll keep you posted on how our site develops
in an upcoming video where we add pages for each of the SciShow channels. And if you have a million dollar idea—or
even, like, a thousand dollar idea—you’ve been meaning to launch, now’s the time. Use Squarespace to bring it to life, and go
to squarespace.com/scishow for a free trial. Make sure to use the offer code to support
this channel and save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain. [♪OUTRO]

Comments 100

  • We mentioned that NASA completed the LISA Pathfinder mission — and although NASA did contribute, the European Space Agency (ESA) was actually the main leader behind the project!

  • Picard better than Kirk!? Do you really want to go there!? 😉

  • waiting for lisa😍😆

  • Dude, those live feeds need Flash player? Also, hell yeah, Team Picard, baby!

  • Thank you for putting imperial conversions. It takes away from the content having to do mental math.

  • How long must we feed money into NASA? I dont like the CGI :[

  • Of course, Picard is the best captain EVER

  • I know it's a list about the biggest experiments, but what about tokamaks! They are way closer to fusion than the NIF

  • Where did you get your lizard lapel pin?

  • What is the protocol if someone dies on the ISS?

  • "Picard was a better captain than kirk." THANK YOU

  • If you count LISA you can also count experiments like EHT (event horizon telescope). EHT is (was?) Earth-sized if you think of it as one "machine".

    At least the title is not clickbaity and says 3 OF the biggest experiments, not The 3 biggest experiments. Kudos for that 🙂

  • Oh look, a squarespace video with a bit of content in the middle.

  • kirk vs picard ?!?!?!?! are you trying to get ppl killed?

  • Once again…. I mention that Kilometers is pronounced with the accent on the FIRST syllable.

  • Youre tearing me apart LISA

  • 1:20 you misspelt "Kilometre" and "Fibre" … Canadian experiments get proper spelling … it's why you include "miles" afterwards .. for the ignorant folk

  • Neptune…wait when Spongebob hears about this.

  • Cool cool cool… More jobs for awesome kids. Science leaders!!

  • The results were faked. They didn't find Higgs.


  • How happy do you think the scientist was that made NEPTUNE?

  • I have a question about energy ; What happened to cold-fusion and those free-energy prototypes ? … Would this topic be interesting enough for your team to tackle ?

  • Picard was infinitely better than Kirk!

  • there's a LISA-The Room joke in there but I couldn't find it

  • Super important question: Is that lapel pin a Galapagos iguana, and where can I get one?

  • new haircut who dis. and good vid

  • Did he just say live stream, oh he BETTER HAV…. Oh cool thanks

  • You're tearing me apart, LISA!

  • did't they do a video saying the higgs had been disproved

  • i have a question, if black holes or singularities stop logic time and space from working, how come they can move through space? why doesnt the area they pass through just remain a torn piece of space where nothing makes sense, like a rip through paper? how does the space that occupied the singularity perviously go back to how it was before?

  • Another experiment that's bigger than any, except ESA's LISA : the event horizon telescope http://eventhorizontelescope.org
    And in that category there's also ALMA and SKA (the square kilometre array)

  • What about ITER which sounds to me the heaviest fussion experiment and going by JET in Oxfordshire, England it will probably be the most succesful

  • 0:31 funny Higgs Boson! XD hahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • No love for the Very Long Baseline Array or the Event Horizon Telescope?

  • why does Neptune's cables remind me of Afghanistan? Coincidence?

  • How does on go about laying fiber optic cable 2 miles deep?

  • What about NASA's MMS (Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission), four satellites launched by NASA in 2015. They were ultimately placed in a 1,580 by 95,010 mile orbit, and are being used to measure the reconnection lines of Earth's magnetosphere. Perhaps it's not as big as LISA, but it's certainly bigger than LHC, NEPTUNE, or NIF.

    BTW, Hank, et al, some are suggesting that a possible objective of this mission is to discover whether wormholes are being generated at these magnetic reconnection points. Is that a possibility?

  • 1. Mispronounced the word 'Boson'.
    2. Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), IceCube neutrino observatory and a handful of other experiments are also huge.
    3. There is much larger experiment called International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA) that uses pulsars in our galaxy as cosmic clocks to detect nanohertz gravitational waves. But if we include this, we have to include the entire field of astronomy.

  • Kirk is totally better than Picard 🙂

  • Alright! My name shall henceforth be Laser Interferometer Space Antenna!! Lisa ftw

  • I'm apparently leaving the ground in 2034… See y'all in space, losers! Srsly tho, it's weird to share a name with a space thingy.

  • Honoured, in good company! NEPTUNE (North East Pacific Time-Series Underwater Experiment) is part of Ocean Networks Canada's deep sea infrastructure gathering ocean data on all three coasts to help scientists, leaders and communities to #knowtheocean. Find out more on our website: www.oceannetworks.ca and follow us on our YT channel!

  • What I learned from this video: EVERYTHING IS DONE WITH LASERS

  • Garbage only garbage. Not interssed in rhis

  • Why the Kirk shade????

  • Hank: "There's a real Wall-E and a fake Wall-E…"
    Me: well of course the movie Wall-E is the real one……
    30 seconds later
    Me: …..oh.

  • if fusion is going to be mentioned i think ITER should be here instead of NIF, its way bigger and more likely to be successful

  • thank you SO MUCH for that webcam link… i love this kind of thing 🙂

  • so they made the death star weapon >????????????????????

  • Anybody else heard the 'thump' at 3:47?

  • Is that an iguana pin on Hank's lapel?

  • Higgs Boatswain, really Hank?

  • THANK YOU Scishow team for including "american" measurements in parenthesis. Helps me a ton to absorb more of the information and with learning metric.

    Also… Team Picard, woot woot!

  • Special mention the SKA and IceCube 🔬

  • Searched through the comments looking for Muscle Hanks comments but couldnot find him😂

  • My scientific theory, is that Squarespace sponsors everything. I opened a can of green beans yesterday and instead of the normal hiss, it said "Brought to you by Squarespace."

  • Hank is the best

  • Why using squarepace if you could set up your own site using free wordpress engine?

  • Piccard was not better than Kirk. Yes, I'm old enough to be your mother. 😉

  • nuclear reactor waste is dangerous for 100s of thousands of years – not decades

  • Better captian…..give me admeral preston cole or grand admeral thrawn anyday

  • Intended for whomever is interested..ie all that etc..putting an alternator/ elec motor..onto a turbo w a grearbox..or the more prefered idea using a supercharger..and just calling it a charge boost..i dont want it..references..bathroom hand driers..yeay

    Also..the transmission just a generator..cabled to the diffs..w a motor atached into/onto them..

    Smaller bolts on the main caps of engines..alowing a standard 4 to 8 +

    Using a supressor design as a muffler

    And aa i said before..having no use..use em or dont..i give no efs

  • All vehicles all/4wd

    4wd having actual 4wd..

    Electric heater cores

    High carbon blocks..saving weight etc..

    Hubs at corners

    Painted or w e sheet metal headliners

    Actual gauges

    Metal seats w removable padded covers..

    Idling only w/e mileage at +/- what is possible..especially for gov state city

    Frames that dont move, w the badass bose

  • Picard a better captain than Kirk? You must be kidding. NG crew were constantly disobeying orders and then getting away with that insubordination because it “worked out in the end”. That’s a sign of weak and ineffective leadership. Kirk was a far better captain.

  • The REAL biggest experiment we live in is: "life experiment" driven by Earth!

  • Correction. We are not species, we are kind.
    Dogs, Wolfs, Foxes are all the same kind of animal. And to prove that, they can breed.
    Humans have no animal they can breed with, thus proving we have no ancestors.
    Thus, intelligent design makes more sense then any theory of evolution which was proven to be a hoax multiple times during it being invented by sick minded bastard named Darwin.

  • NASA??? Lisa Pathfinder was an ESA mission with a NASA payload!! And LISA Is also an ESA led mission with potentially some NASA contributions. Sorry to disappoint, but the biggest experiment ever is European!!

  • #TeamKirk

  • "…the biggest 'exspearament' humanity's working on…" I love pronunciation errors…Except "nukular". 😉

  • If communication between things is counted as "structure" (LISA, I'm pointing at you), then you could say that Voyager 1 & 2 and the Earth combines as a structure.

  • Picard better than Kirk?!! Burn the heretic!!!!! 🔥👹🔥

  • At least Captain Kirk never played the flute.

  • LISA is not one large piece of equipment tho. It's more like 3 separate devices working together as one. May qualify as "the largest experiment setup" but not as the largest singular piece of experiment equipment. American pride aside, there's still no beating CERN in that regard.

  • i've got a million dollar idea…SOLAR FREAKIN' ROADWAYSA!. it won't produce millions, but it WILL cost millions.

  • The deep sea ocean floor is a myth.

  • Picard better than Kirk?!! BURN THE HERETIC!!! 😋

    PS Will someone please teach this guy how to say the word experiment?

    PPS Kudos on being able to pronounce the word nuclear correctly!

  • how about the asteroid belt telescope?

  • DID you just say PICARD was BETTER?! than KIRK?!

    cuz u dam right he is

  • My boi Piccard getting the recognition he deserves.

  • Sorry, but why not use the nuclear fusion engine we have access to for free some 93 million miles away? It runs 24/7/365 and radiates 360° in all directions: X, Y, and Z… The NIF is a pointless​ and ultimately useless red herring.

  • Lisa should be a tetrahedron in order to properly detect gravitational waves regardless of the X, Y, Z orientation they occur in. Four line of sight orbiting satellites around the moon should do it.

  • "….Picard was a better Captain than Kirk"
    Say what?
    Shatner made Kirk one of the most known characters in TV history and the original series spawned more shows than any other TV show in history.
    Picard has two famous things… "Make it so" and Face palm memes… Without Kirk, there would be no Picard.

  • Anyone else notice that the neptune connection path looks like the island of cyprus?

  • The Higgs Boson is myth.

    Change my mind.

  • 0:14 I approve of this particular shade. XD

  • I love this show so much!
    But. You need to update yourself on Nuclear fission waste. We actually have ways to use almost all of the nuclear fuel. Liquid Flouride Salt Thorium Reactors. It’s something you guys should look into!

  • What kind of drugs are you smoking to call Picard better than Kirk?!?!!

  • I hate when people talk about the nuclear waste and don't mention how small that waste is, and the safety of iot's transport and storage.

  • Wait. Did he say Picard was better than Kirk??

  • Misleading and dishonest title. I'm very dissapointed.

  • NIF's main goal isn't civilian power research, but instead to perform research into pure fusion weapons.

  • Neutron stars, not black holes.

  • TIL theres a scientific SOSUS of the coast of Vancouver Island.

  • Viable fusion energy is always 30 years away.

  • Is fusion energy actually possible because there will be a way in which when you fused something together to get energy you can then defuse or split to get energy again and it kinda violate the law or energy conservation so… either it’s impossible or it’s the hacking code to unlimited energy

  • Sisco was better than Picard.

  • I may be thinking about this incorrectly, but if fission releases more energy than it requires, shouldn't fusion be impossible to harvest energy from due to it taking that energy for the transformation to happen? I mean we shouldn't be able to combine and divide atoms for energy because then that would mean infinite energy from splitting and fusing atoms, right?

  • First time I've heard my hometown be mentioned in a sci show video.

  • I don't know what about the internet? Signals essentially circle our planet an incredible number of times it could (over time) be the largest experiment we've ever done. Because the internet is an ongoing social networking platform and information sharing "web" 1.6 million km is doable

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