First, a little background:
There is a tiny bit of concern about the formation of tiny black holes and strangelets and other odd phenomena that waver between reality and imagination, but rest assured, CERN issued a report in June asserting that all is just dandy.
My interest in the project is less the doomsday prophesying than our response to the prophets.
How much risk is acceptable?
Last year they center had an accident with one of its large magnets:
"Last Tuesday we took a pratfall on the world stage," said Fermilab Director Pier Oddone in a message posted yesterday on the lab's Web site. "What the analysis shows so far is that something extraordinarily simple was missed in the design. We do many very complex engineering projects successfully that require sophisticated engineering skills and advanced computing tools. We test the complex features we design thoroughly. In this case we are dumbfounded that we missed some very simple balance of forces."http://www.photonics.com/content/news/2007/April/4/87089.aspx
Dumbfounded by simple Newtonian physics.
The current start date is September 10--I don't think I'll assign any homework that night, just in case.
Hyundai (at least in the New York metropolitan area) is offering an end of the world sale based on the launch date for the LHC.
"It's probably the closest to God that we'll get."Jos Engelen, Cern's chief scientist
quoted by Ian Sample
"In the beginning: scientists get ready to hunt for God particle"
The Guardian, November 20, 2006
And we trust his group to tell us if it's safe.
Now I am not going to lose any sleep over the possibility of a doomsday scenario (though I might wear a tinfoil hat to bed), but there are some issues that bear discussion:
- Americans paid over a half billion dollars towards constructing a machine that has a leading international physicist who runs the project talking about getting chummy with God
- There's been little talk about how much risk is acceptable when physicists try to get chummy with elemental particles
- Even the brilliant among us can mess up--if Dr. Engelen wants to bring God into this, maybe, just maybe, God had a hand in the exploding magnet
It's a discussion we should all be having.