Tuesday, 2 September 2008

start of the universe, end of the world?

In trying to understand matter and energy, scientists have discovered four basic forces or interactions (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear interactions). The "Standard Model" of particle physics describes how dozens of fundamental particles (e.g. different types of quarks, leptons and bosons) that make up the more well-known atomic particles like protons and neutrons, and the three interactions other than gravity, "work" together.

Gravity is the odd force out, and only one of the fundamental particles, the Higgs boson, has not yet been observed. It is believed that the Higgs boson holds the key to gravity, and why it is a much weaker force than the others.

Creating the conditions where a Higgs boson (and a few other hypothetical particles and miniature black holes) can be created requires accelerating protons (which are one type of hadron) to speeds approaching that of light, and then smashing them against each other to create, in a small space and for a short time, enormous temperatures and forces such as existed at the very beginning of the universe when the particles were first forming out of energy.

And so the European Nuclear Research Centre (CERN), supported by thousands of scientists and 20 countries, has spent billions of dollars building the "Large Hadron Collider" (LHC) underground in Switzerland - an enormous, 17 mile long particle accelerator that will produce the required high velocities. It is due to open soon.

And now, at the last minute, some scientists are challenging the operation of the LHC in the European Court of Human Rights. They claim the safety of the LHC is in doubt, because it may be able to produce miniature black holes which could then begin eating the earth from the inside due to their intense gravitational pull.

CERN has produced a safety report which concludes that there is "little theoretical chance of the collider producing mini black holes that would be capable of posing a danger to the earth". Doubtless they are correct and their critics wrong, but with the earth itself at stake, one would have thought "little chance" was still a little too much.

But we all trust scientists, don't we?


  1. The doubt is real and CERN's conclusions are biased.

    CERN never formed a requested group to also attempt to prove danger, only a group to attempt to prove safety.

    Supporting reviews from scientists selected by CERN at CERN's request, as acknowledged by CERN's Dr. Ellis is again inherently biased.

    Are you aware of the history of LHC Safety?

    Former Nuclear Safety Officer Walter L. Wagner discovered flaws with CERN's safety arguments. He believes that the Large Hadron Collider could create dangerous particles that might destroy Earth, so he filed a law suit to require proof of safety. [1]

    In response, CERN scientists created a safety report in 2008 that argues no real chance of danger. [2]

    After review, German Astrophysicist Dr. Rainer Plaga argues that CERN's new report does not prove safety. Dr. Plaga proposes that CERN follow additional safety procedures to help reduce the danger, including proceeding slowly. [3]

    On August 14th, CERN's Dr. Jonathan Ellis stated that there is no real danger and they will not proceed slowly, collisions will begin in a few weeks. [4]

    Another German scientist famous for contributions to Chaos theory and a visiting professor of physics Dr. Otto E. Rössler theorizes that if micro black holes are created in the Large Hadron Collider, they could grow large enough to destroy Earth in just years or decades. [5]

    Dr. Rössler requests that an emergency safety conference be held before collisions begin. He is due to meet Swiss President Pascal Couchepin to discuss safety concerns.

    [1] http://www.lhcdefense.org/lhc_legal.php US Federal Lawsuit Filings - Walter L. Wagner

    [2] http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/lhc/Safety-en.html The safety of the LHC, Web Site - CERN

    [3] http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0808/0808.1415v1.pdf On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders - Rainer Plaga Rebuttal

    [4] http://www.lhcfacts.org/?p=72 CERN?s Dr. Ellis tells only half of the story - JTankers

    [5] http://www.wissensnavigator.com/documents/spiritualottoeroessler.pdf A Rational and Moral and Spiritual Dilemma - Otto E. Rössler Safety Counter Arguments

  2. James, thanks for this very comprehensive response. I sure hope for all our sakes they get this right!

  3. "James, thanks for this very comprehensive response."

    Well, it's not the whole story. He names two scientists (Plaga and Rössler) because that's all there are, and they are not experts in the relevant field. Not a single particle physicist has voiced concern. What's more, there claims have been demolished by physicists that actually know what they are talking about.

    Rössler is a very eccentric fellow (he suggested moving the LHC to the Moon) who cannot really be taken seriously. I've written on this in a blog post Large Hadron Collider: What’s the Risk?

  4. Yes, I'm prepared to believe the consensus of scientists, as I said, but I still feel that "little theoretical chance" is not totally reassuring. And James quotes more than two scientists, but only three.

    I certainly don't think it does any harm for these matters to be aired, but I appreciate your confident response. Thanks.


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