Watch out everyone, the worlds ending. Sorry about that.
Sep 1 2008
THE biggest scientific experiment in history has been hit by a last-minute legal challenge - amid fears it could cause the end of the world.
Opponents of the Large Hadron Collidor claim the machine may create a mini-black hole that could tear the earth apart.
The Â£4.4billion machine, the most expensive experiment in history, is due to be switched on at the European Nuclear Research Centre - CERN - in Geneva, Switzerland, in nine days' time. Those behind the project hope it will unlock the secrets of how the universe began by replicating the conditions of the Big Bang.
The machine will smash pieces of atoms together at high speed and generate temperatures of more than a trillion degrees Celsius. The collisions will create temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the sun in a space a billion times smaller than a speck of dust.
But opponents fear the worst. An application for an emergency injunction was rejected on Friday and now the case will continue under human rights laws.
German chemist and academic Professor Otto Rossler, one of the project's opponents, said: "CERN has admitted mini black holes could be created when the particles collide - but they don't consider this a risk. "My calculations have shown it is quite plausible these little black holes survive and will grow exponentially and eat the planet from the inside.
"We do not believe the scientists at CERN are taking all the precautions they should in order to protect human life." Professor Rossler claims in the worst-case scenario, the Earth could be "sucked inside out" within four years of a mini black hole forming. He argues the research violates the right to life under the European Convention of Human Rights. The legal challenge is against the 20 countries, including the UK, behind the project.
Scientists involved in the project have dismissed concerns as "absurd". Particle colliders have been used by scientists for over 30 years without any noticeable harm to the planet. This latest machine, however, is the largest and most powerful ever constructed. Built 300ft beneath the French-Swiss border, it will fire particles round its 17-mile circumference 11,245 times per second before smashing them into each other.
The machine will be activated on September 10, although it will be several weeks before the first particles are collided. Scientists hope that, among the debris thrown off by these collisions, they will find the elusive Higgs boson thought to be responsible for giving every other particle its mass, or weight.
The CERN facility faces a second lawsuit due to be heard tomorrow, filed by environmentalists in Hawaii. But a safety report published this year gave the project the all-clear. It said nature produces higher collisions than the collider is capable of when cosmic rays hit the planet.
CERN spokesman James Gillies said: "The case contains the same arguments we have seen before. "We are now concentrating on firing the first beams around the collider and then on fine tuning it until we can get collisions - when the science will start."
Source: Daily Record Online
What do you think about, A) this amazing use of particle acceleration and B) the technically plausible but remarkably unlikely end of the world scenario it might create?