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03-29-08, 04:23 PM #1
Lawsuit to prevent universe-destroying black hole from possibly being created by European physicists filed in Hawaii
A black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe--might be created by a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer, according to two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii.
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.
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.”
The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.
Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?
In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, “I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.
Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.
“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.
The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?
According to a paper by the cosmologist Stephen Hawking in 1974, they would rapidly evaporate in a poof of radiation and elementary particles, and thus pose no threat. No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.
As a result, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Sancho contend in their complaint, black holes could really be stable, and a micro black hole created by the collider could grow, eventually swallowing the Earth.
Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”
By DENNIS OVERBYE
New York Times
03-29-08, 04:37 PM #2
Ok, there are a whole lot of "mights" in that statement. And I don't want to hear "it's very unlikely". when it come to something like destroying the earth that my young a$$ happens to be sitting on, I want to hear "There is not even the most remote chance that it will happen".
That's just me though.*************************"It wouldn't take much for me to up and run...to another life somewhere in the sun."*************************"There's something inherently wrong with having to put on a bullet-proof vest and a gun to go to work."-(An old friend)
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03-30-08, 04:50 AM #3
03-30-08, 05:33 AM #4
I have to say that, of all the ways I can think of for the world to be destroyed, this would have to be the most anticlimactic.
03-30-08, 06:16 AM #5
talk about the world turning into a toilet...-=Twan007
Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.
Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in alignment with his employer. Matter of fact, the poster will deny any knowledge of any post... this message will self-destruct in 5 seconds...
03-30-08, 04:42 PM #6Officer First Class
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I just bought some black hole insurance from some guy that is going door to door... I'm set.
03-30-08, 11:31 PM #7
Ummm...ok.Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me
We are who we choose to be.
R.I.P. Arielle. 08/20/2010-09/16/2012
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