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The Man Who Stuck His Head Inside a Particle Accelerator

So with all the recent news about the Large Hadron Collider, many of you may have this nagging question: what, exactly, would happen if you stick your head in the particle accelerator?

Well, actually, we know the answer to that because someone did stick his head into a particle accelerator. Here's the story of Anatoli Bugorski:

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, apparently, the several safety mechanisms. Leaning over the piece of equipment, Bugorski stuck his head in the space through which the beam passes on its way from one part of the accelerator tube to the next and saw a flash brighter than a thousand suns. He felt no pain.

From what we know about radiation, about 500 to 600 rads is enough to kill a person (though we don't know of anyone else who has been exposed to radiation in the form of a proton beam moving at about the speed of sound). The left side of his face swollen beyond recognition, Bugorski was taken to a clinic in Moscow so that doctors could observe his death over the following two to three weeks.

Over the next few days, 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 the brain tissue. The inside of his head continued to burn away: all the nerves on the left were gone in two years, paralyzing that side of his face. Still, not only did Bugorski not die, but he remained a normally functioning human being, capable even of continuing in science. For the first dozen years, the only real evidence that something had gone neurologically awry were occasional petit mal seizures; over the last few years Bugorski has also had six grand mals. The dividing line of his life goes down the middle of his face: the right side has aged, while the left froze 19 years ago. When he concentrates, he wrinkles only half his forehead.

Link - via Cliff Pickover's Reality Carnival

Previously on Neatorama: 10 Things About the Large Hadron Collider You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask


From the article:

"...though we don’t know of anyone else who has been exposed to radiation in the form of a proton beam moving at about the speed of sound..."

Pretty slow proton beam there. Don't you mean the speed of LIGHT?
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This is beyond interesting.
"Like former inmates, we are always aware of one another," he says. "There aren't that many of us, and we know one another's life stories. Generally, these are sad tales."

Now that he's talking we need to find out why he survived.
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Any physicists here who can provide more information on this?

He allegedly stuck his head into the 'beam' of accelerating particles in a synchrotron U-70. Such a particle accelerator relies on a magnetic field pushing the particles up towards the speed of light within a vacuum. From what I understand, they aren't like car engines where you can just open one up and stick your head in for a closer look. Opening a section with the beam going would mean breaking the magnetic field through removing a section of the torus, while also destroying the vacuum the protons are whizzing through, or so I'd imagine.

So, I'm happy to admit I'm missing something here, but my spider senses are tingling...

Athon
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At the hospital I work at we have a proton accelerator to treat cancer. The beauty of protons are that they decay at a defined rate, and release the energy at a given point. There are special targets that are designed per patient to slow the protons so that they decay at the cancer site. I can only guess that the protons must have traveled through the person instead of stopping and releasing the energy. What luck.
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"the right side has aged, while the left froze 19 years ago"

How long before some rich woman decides they've found the cure for aging? You can look like Joan Rivers.. for free.. just put your head in here!
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I suspect the "not aged" part is more like botox, no movement, no wrinkles since the skin doesn't get folded, hardly the fountain of youth.
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semi;
PROTONS are the positive particles inside every atom
PHOTONS are the quantum particles of light

Photons are the ones that start at light speed, while protons are pretty slow unless sped up by a proton accelerator.
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Not that Wikipedia is the ultimate authority, but this story is confirmed on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoli_Bugorski Tends to lend some credibility to this story.
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hm... amazing story. although I agree with Athon that it doesn't seem to be strictly factual.

his face "froze" 19 years ago?? faces don't freeze unless they.. well, freeze.

I don't think it could be explained by the botox-analogy.. age is more than getting wrinkles. for his face not to age it would have to regenerate cells at the rate of his youth.. and if that was the case - well there's your fountain of youth.
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why arnt there any pictures of his face straight on, showing the old side and the frozen side? i dont know, hard to believe with out much proof.
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I call BS on the story. Having worked on an Accelerator, I can tell you first hand that #1 without the vacuum in place and without the magnets running the beam would have gone nowhere. #2 accelerators have to be supercooled. With a hole large enough to put your head in it would be very difficult to get it very cold.
Now I am no doctor but I would think "a flash brighter than a thousand suns" would blind you perminatley.
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Hobs,

We have read it. We're asking how it is possible, given how they work. It's like somebody saying they opened their car engine one day to watch the combustion take place inside the pistons. Just because Wired and Wiki say it, it doesn't necessarily mean all the facts are straight.

If you're happier not asking questions and simply swallowing all you read, go for it. Obviously because you think we're 'retarted' means you can tell us how the accelerator continues to work without supermagnets, coolant and a vacuum?

Athon
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hobs, you realize that the information on Wikipedia is user generated right? I'm not saying this particular article is true or false, or a mix of the two but Wikipedia is not a legitimate source to start calling people retarded.
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interesting. i don't know if anyone else is thinking it, but I'd say that he was one of those un approved experiments. his family was probbably taken care of as long as he aggreed to keep his mouth shut.
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Wow... misinformation amuck.

A. When a particle collider is shut down, it takes a good long while for the particles within to slow down.

B. Just because a service hatch has been opened, does not mean everything inside of it has stopped (at least the colliders built long ago).

C. Soviet Researchers were hardly known for safety protocols and safe-guards of solid functionality.

D. Soviet Researchers were (are?) kindof known for doing things that weren't so bright (often due to Vodka or wagers).
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Fact check:

600 rads = not a high enough dose to kill a person, especially with local exposure only. He probably received a dose significantly higher than this given his side effects.
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Read the wired article:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/science.html

It indicates it was between 200,000 and 300,000 rads.

"Bugorski thinks of himself as a fortunate exception: a man in reasonable health, able to continue living a full life. For years, he was a poster boy for Soviet and Russian radiation medicine, which was entirely content to take the credit for his good fortune. Last year, though, when Bugorski finally decided to apply for disabled status, which would allow him to receive his epilepsy medication free of charge, the doctors chilled on him.

For his part, now that his fate is no longer secret, he would like to make himself available to Western researchers, but he doesn't have the money to leave the science town of Protvino and go west. He thinks he would make a brilliant object of study for someone: "This is, in effect, an unintended test of proton warfare," he claims. More to the point, he believes, "I am being tested. The human capacity for survival is being tested."
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jack777 wrote:

>PROTONS are the positive particles inside every atom
>PHOTONS are the quantum particles of light

>Photons are the ones that start at light speed, while protons are pretty
>slow unless sped up by a proton accelerator.

I am well aware of the difference between photons and protons. I think a lot about this article is either BS or poorly researched. Did the article not claim he stuck his head inside a particle accelerator?

Have you ever heard of a proton beam that is only 760 mph?
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@Athon, the reason it didnt disrupt the magnetic field was because of 2 reasons:

1) you dont need a complete circut for a magnetic field - its not electricity.

2) that hole already existed, he just stuck his head through it. the accelerator was made to operate WITH the hole
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Semi:

I hate to tell you but these protons do not start out anywhere near the speed of light. The purpose of the huge superconductive magnets used in these colliders is to accelerate protons to as near the speed of light as is possible.

(they never actually reach this speed, but do come very very close)

So in short, yes it's very plausible to encounter a proton beam of 760mph.

There is an excellent video on youTube that explains the mechanics of the recently built LHC. Check it out it will make things very clear for you
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That is the stupidest thing i have ever read.
You can't put you head inside a particle accelerator; it's almost a complete vacuum inside. Your head would explode even before the beam came. Also, no one would be allowed to enter the actual tunnel of a particle accelerator before all systems were shut down and the problem was diagnosed. This story is completely bs.
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Brilliant.

How come no Nobel award for him? silly bugger. Please try to keep people like him away from the LHC. It's an irresistible target for such people to dangle or stick in various bits of their anatomy.
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@Berky93

It's not a matter of whether the magnets form a circuit or not. It's a matter of the magnets controlling the beam to begin with. From what I understand of particle accelerators (enough to know the fundamentals, but not enough the particulars), the magnets keep charged particles moving. It's not as simple as just opening a hatch and watching them whiz by.

Second of all, to accelerate the particles, they can't have large molecules of air bumping into them. Again, they require a vacuum. Opening a 'hatch' of any sort would simply let air in. So before we talk about 'misinformation' or 'retards', how about addressing the basics and providing some facts which address the questions.

Having done a little more homework on the matter, it's looking less likely than ever to me that he stuck his head into a beam of accelerated protons. More possible was him putting his head where it shouldn't be - outside of the chamber - and copping a dose of radiation from particle collisions (if anything at all).

Again - any informed answers would be most appreciated.

Athon
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I'm not a high energy physicist, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but if we accept at least the broad outlines of the story as factual, then let's consider the following:

1. If a proton beam can be shot at someone's head to help treat a tumor, then a proton beam can exist in a non-vacuum, and, at least for a while, outside the confines of a collimating magnetic field.

2. Might older, lower energy accelerator technology than currently being used not have required a vacuum to reach the energies at which it was designed to work?

3. Ditto on the magnetic field...

This seems to be a pretty well corroborated story. Instead of assuming it's wrong ("sounds fishy"), find out how it could be right. Might learn something (like the guy who thinks the LHC is the only particle accelerator in the world).
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This story is almost certainly true. I earned an M.S. in physics and have worked on several experiments at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, VA. (It is the largest "continuous" beam electron accelerator in the world.)

Many people have said that sticking your head into the beam path would involve breaking the necessary vacuum. This is not true. Particle accelerators use magnets to accelerate charged particles to near light speed, and a vacuum is required for this. But in many cases the experiment does not take place inside the beam pipe. Instead, the beam pipe runs right up to the face of the experiment's target. Then the already-accelerated particles exit the sealed end of the pipe, fly through a small amount of "outside" air and into the target chamber (type of target chamber depends on the experiment). If I remeber the story correctly, Bugorski was checking on something in his experiment's target chamber, not on the particle accelerator when this accident occured.
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@Lucifer: Don't you know that in order to get super powers, radiation is not enough? You also have to combine a catalyst, such as the venom from a bite of a very rare and strange spider, for example? :-)
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Ha HA looks like justin777 put all the debate to rest. Sorry but After reading through this it looks true to me.
Russians were not known for being particularly(PUN) safe back then(ever?). And plenty of people have pointed out there are different types of particle accelerators.
Those who call fake so quick are worse than people that use wiki and other sources to confirm stories, because you seem to think that just reading a few articles on a subject gives you authoritative knowledge.
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RM-

How familiar are you with thinking critically? Not very, I assume. The very fact some of us were asking for an authoritative source for confirmation obviously means our few articles didn't make us the authority.

The key here was information. Rather than relying solely on wiki or on the occasional article, some of us were asking for more information to supplement what we already know. Until then, the story remained 'unconfirmed'. Not absolute BS, and not swallowed hook-line-sinker. Just null until we had more info.

For all those claiming 'it's not fake', not one of you seemed to be able to provide answers to the apparent issues. Justin, who had that information, was able to do more by explaining that than by acting like a gullible twat who thinks if the internet says it, it must be real.

A little lesson in skepticism, people.

As you were. :)

Athon
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I think what you are all missing here is the fact that he was performing maintenance. The accelerator was not operational but somehow the safeties failed and it fired.
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I'd like to point out that it was a PROTON not a PHOTON accelerator. They have the ability to be "fired" outside their respective vaccuums and magnets. Likely when/where/how this happened. It's just an article -and one not so well written, omitting facts and speculating- and should be taken as such. Another important point is that this guy didn't put his head "in" something like a bucket, he put it "in" the path of an accelerated PROTON beam.
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While I'm certainly no professional, I don't really find any reason to disbelieve this article, except for the writer clearly mistaking the 'speed of sound' for the 'speed of light'.

It's true that Particle Accelerators rely on supercool conditions and extreme electromagnetism, those conditions are required to achieve precise scientific experimentation. Shooting someone in the face with a supercharged stream of protons, however, doesn't require much precision... relatively speaking.

As long as the magnets were active, there doesn't seem to be much issue with the story, from my understanding.

Also, someone asked if 'time dilation' was the reason his face supposedly stopped aging. I got bored with reading, so I apologize if someone already asked this but, no. Half of his face would need to sustain near light speed for such things to happen. And THAT, I am confident, he would not survive.
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It would be more plausible that this guy was a victim of a massive electrical discharge than someone who made contact with a particle beam. Lots of reasons stated above as to why it's highly improbable that the accelerator was operating at all. More likely, if it was recently operating and came off-line due to a system fault, it wouldn't be the first time inadequate safety precautions were taken for faulty equipment that resulted in someone discharging a highly capacitive circuit through themselves. Everything reported in this story has been associated in the past with high voltage electrocutions.
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This is a plausible story and I have no doubts that it is quite possibly true.

People who understand neither particle accelerators nor proton beams probably shouldn't be commenting so enthusiastically.
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I was skeptical at first, but it does appear to be true. However:

http://www.tpp89.ru/metropol/Personalnyi_cernobyl_anatoliy_bugorskogo.html

is a link to the Russian version of the story where some facts are provided (although some inconsistencies exist there as well)

In this case, the beam was deflected into a small branch for experiments in air (not in vacuum). The previous experiment was not at a high dose, therefore, according to the article, the door interlocks were turned off. (NOTE: door interlocks - are mechanisms that detected when the door is opened and shut off all system that are needed to systain beam in that branch). The warning lights were not flashing because a light bulb burned out. Anatoli called accelerator control to disable beam on that beamline in 5 minutes, but arrived a bit early. Lights were not flashing indicating the beam has been shutoff. Door interlocks were bypassed, so he entered the room. and bend down to check his equipment?

The beam was pencil-sharp (2.3 mm - diameter) and entered the back of the skull exiting around left front nostril. Lucky for him it did not go through any critical organs and was probably of a high energy, which also helped him not depositing all of its energy at the Bragg Peak. (Official quote from his medical records and handicap ID are provided in the article). He felt it immediately but, finished his job, made an entry in the log and went home. In the morning, he went to the hospital with a swollen side of the face. He is fully recovered (except for seizures) and has small spots on entrance and exit of the beam. It is unclear, though probably using the very chamber (dosimeter) he was working on, how do they know the precise dose deposited into him?
Another question: what was the energy of proton beam? At 70 MeV, the depth of the Bragg Peak (a spot where all protons release their energy) is at about 3cm. At 250, it is located at around 30cm deep in water equivalent. In other words, if the energy of the protons was higher than 250 MeV, most of the particles would just fly through his head with very little interactions. Anything less, the entire energy would be deposited somewhere inside his head.
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I do believe that this really did happen, however the 500-600 rads being enough to kill someone is not very accurate. That equals 5-6 gray and would not likely kill a healthy adult. Something more in the 1000 rads or 10 gray of TOTAL BODY irradiation would do the job via the hematopoetic syndrome. A syndrome in which the bone marrow is killed off because of the insult/damage from the radiation and no longer produces red or white blood cells. It is used as a common total body threshold for Bone Marrow Transplantation. However 5 to even 10 gray would not likely kill anyone in a localized exposure unless it were to go through a vital organ. That would certainly have been the end of him if it were to have hit something vital such as the medulla.

Another thing is like Semi said a proton beam would have to be very slow to only be the speed of sound. Speed of light would be more accurate.

As an answer to your question Sasha, the exact energy of the beam is determined by the amount of Voltage applied to create the beam in the first place, which is manually controlled and documented by who ever was running the machine.
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Josh,
Thank you. My question was not how to measure energy, but what energy proton beam actually hit Anatoli. I suspect, judging that the exit site of the beam is mentioned, the energy was higher than 250 MeV, otherwise the entire dose would have been deposited inside the skull, leading to a more devastating outcome.

FYI, beam energy can be measured in syncrotrons by detecting the frequency (number of times proton bucket is flying around the ring per second) and beam position within the beam pipe, to figure out the trajectory length of the bucket. Simple (quantum mechanics) math would than produce beam energy as accelerated.

The same article claims however, that the radiation he received was 200 000 rentgen at entrance and 300 000 rentgen at exit. Not sure how it ranslations to radiation dose in Gy. I agree, the dose of 5-6 Gy localized is not lethal.
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Okay, trying to combine everything said in the comments, leaving the actual article aside for a moment. The difference between PROTONS and PHOTONS does not matter at the moment. Particle accelerators usually shoot PROTONS (except CRT monitors and TVs, which shoot electrons). No, they do not get the protons AT the speed of light. They do get pretty close, though. It seems that the proton beam was directed into an offshoot of the main loop for testing in an atmosphere. The air molecules in the chamber could easily slow the beam down to the speed of SOUND. Thanks, Sasha, for finding that other article.
Putting THAT article aside, I see no reason why protons previously traveling close to the speed of light can't remain coherent in an atmosphere at room temperature. And again, the air molecules would easily slow them down to around the speed of sound.
I think what the article means by the face "froze" was that he can't use it and it didn't change shape. Normal faces grow and develop. They change their shape over time. The side of his face that got shot by a proton beam didn't do that. It was frozen like a guy who had a stroke.

Now, I could very easily be totally wrong about this, so don't flame me for trying to pass myself off as an expert, because I'm not. I'm just trying to combine what's already been said in the comments.
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Medically a lot of the description seems suspect.
Light "brighter than a thousand suns" should have caused severe actinic retinitis to have blinded him permanently.
Then the description of the"path of the beam" seems more like a description of science fiction.
Then "the insides of his head continued to burn" for another two years is either inaccurately stated or is another attempt at science fictioning.
Finally the site of paralysis is on the wrong side.
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Medically a lot of the description seems suspect.

Light "brighter than a thousand suns" should have caused severe actinic retinitis to have blinded him permanently.

Then the description of the"path of the beam" seems more like a description of science fiction.

Then "the insides of his head continued to burn" for another two years is either inaccurately stated or is another attempt at science fictioning.

Finally the site of paralysis is on the wrong side.
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Not having enough knowledge on the subject, and not knowing how many proton's were being accelerated etc, should his head not have been peppered with a line of holes as his head entered the chamber? What are the chances that his head was in that position at the exact moment the proton(s) left the accelerator beam pipe?
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is anyone one able to elaborate on how only half his face aged? Maybe a link to something that has been published that supports a theory on the specifics of how that is possible. - I'm not doubting, just really curious..
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It's a well established fact that news outlets - whether they be bloggers or corporate- are unable to differentiate between the speed of sound, and the speed of light (or in this case matter moving slightly below the speed of light).
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"Light “brighter than a thousand suns” should have caused severe actinic retinitis to have blinded him permanently."

You're assuming that he was perceiving that visual phenomenon with his eyes. Why? A large dose of magnetism or radiation to the brain can stimulate the visual cortex, and he was probably perceiving that, not an actual visible light.

"Then the description of the”path of the beam” seems more like a description of science fiction."

I assure you it's not. There's a defined path along which a particle accelerator accelerates the beam of protons (or other particles), and that phrase is not inaccurate.

"Then “the insides of his head continued to burn” for another two years is either inaccurately stated or is another attempt at science fictioning."

You're making a lot of assumptions that are not supported by biology or medicine. The effects of radiation exposure can indeed continue for some years after exposure, as cells accumulate genetic damage, fail to reproduce, or are functionally impaired. In particular, I'm familiar with cutaneous radiation syndrome, the effects of which can continue for a good while.
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Wtf happens if you stick your dick into the particle accelerator? Will it remain frozen for good after being zapped by speeding protons/photons, whatever?
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Hopefully the income potential for this type of work is high because dude isn't going to get any dates just off his looks alone, especially when the oldy side of this head is like 86 years old and contrasting more grotesquely with the spry younger side as his days progress.

Goes to show you how things can go horribly, horribly wrong with just a moment's carelessness.
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I guess it would be possible to accalerate a beam of protons without superconducting magnets or vacuums, but then it would take a lot more energy to get the beam to an accaptable speed. The speed of sound would seem a bit slow, but the beam could exist and go through his face.
But I don't understand how it could have been burned just through one part of his brain, was the beam turned on while he was putting his head in front of it, and then turned of? Because if he would have put his head inside the beam while it was turned on, it would have more like sliced his head right? unless ofcourse the frequency the protons were released was actually very slow, and that only one proton went through his head...
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Wow, this is harder than proving the planned bring down of WTC - maybe magnetic fields and vacuums were used to achieve free fall speed.

@cjsavvy: permanent semi on one side, it would curve like a banana to the burnt side. Luckily we have proof at wiki.
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Does this mean that if the part of his face "froze" that it stopped aging? And does that mean we could potentially use this to decelerate the aging process?
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What a fascinating article I just stumbled upon. I am trained in medicine and know very little about particle physics. I just wanted to point out that facial hemiparesis ipsilateral to the injured side is perfectly plausible if the injury is of the cranial nerve at any point starting at its nucleus in the brainstem or distally. It is quite likely a peripheral nerve lesion, falling entirely outside the central nervous system.
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