April 03, 2008
"It's the end of the world." "Again!?!"

What do you do when you think someone may bring about the ultimate destruction of the earth and possibly the universe as we know it? File suit and hope for the best.

More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can't afford their mortgages and in some places now they can't even afford rice.

None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth -- and maybe the universe.

Scientists say that is very unlikely -- though they have done some checking just to make sure.

The world's physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a "strangelet" that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called "strange matter." Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

I'm fascinated by the idea of an environmental impact statement for this project. Is there a section to fill out about the risk of creating a black hole? I have to admit, that would impact the environment.

Snark aside, it's an interesting story, and these plaintiffs have some history of pursuing similar injunctions. Read it and see what you think. Thanks to Melissa for the link.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 03, 2008 to Technology, science, and math

So they want to apply US environmental laws to a project in Switzerland and France? Good luck -- we have trouble applying them here.

Posted by: Christof Spieler on April 3, 2008 6:47 AM

As I noted several days ago, we have to be careful about the possibility of creating strangelets.

Indeed, we may need to put physicists to work on creating some anti-strangelets, given the current state of the world. :)

Posted by: Kevin Whited on April 3, 2008 7:52 AM

...will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang...

Oh yea? I didn't see them. Did you?

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 3, 2008 11:24 AM
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