Will Scotland (and England) be spared as the Earth ends?
Being part of an island nation, Scotland (still attached to England of course) might just float away, and survive the beginning of the end of the earth next week, currently scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 10, 2008.
That’s the date currently set for the Large Hadron Collider to begin operation. The LHC is exactly what its name suggests – a large collider of hadrons. Strictly, LHC refers to the collider; a machine that deserves to be labelled ‘large’, it not only weighs more than 38,000 tonnes, but runs for 27 kilometres (16.5 mi) in a circular tunnel 100 metres beneath the Swiss/French border at Geneva. You may have seen it featured in a couple of programmes aired by the BBC this week, as part of their Big Bang special.
You might also want to hurry up and read Why the fascination with the end of the world?, which is a fairly comprehensive summary of all the naysayers and their prophecies of doom, and will be available at least until Wednesday. I suspect it may still be available after Wednesday, as none of the prophecies about the ende of the world that it describes seemed to be anything more than the ramblings of the demented, or really smart people that worked out how to sell a book, attract donations, or just plain con people out of their money.
Large Hadron Collider startup
Everything is now ready for the first injection of proton beams into the LHC on the 10th September 2008.
This major milestone in the LHC project will be covered live by international broadcasters. UK media organisations will be at CERN and at a simultaneous media event in London.
CERN will webcast the startup (the link is on the CERN “first beam” page).
BBC Radio 4 will devote a day of programming to the LHC, including covering first injection of beams live on the Today programme. See the BBC website for programming, background etc.
Dr Tara Shears talks about some of the scientific questions that the LHC project will help us answer, on the www.labreporter.com website.
Woe, Woe, and thrice Woe – The end of the earth is nigh (again)
But a handful of scientists believe that the experiment could create a shower of unstable black holes that could ‘eat’ the planet from within, and they are launching last-ditch efforts to halt it in the courts.
One of them, Professor Otto Rossler, a retired German chemist, said he feared the experiment may create a devastating quasar – a mass of energy fuelled by black holes – inside the Earth.
‘Nothing will happen for at least four years,’ he said. ‘Then someone will spot a light ray coming out of the Indian Ocean during the night and no one will be able to explain it.
‘A few weeks later, we will see a similar beam of particles coming out of the soil on the other side of the planet. Then we will know there is a little quasar inside the planet.’
Prof Rossler said that as the spinning-top-like quasar devoured the world from within, the two jets emanating from it would grow and catastrophes such as earthquakes and tsunamis would occur at the points they emerged from the Earth.
‘The weather will change completely, wiping out life, and very soon the whole planet will be eaten in a magnificent scenario – if you could watch it from the moon. A Biblical Armageddon. Even cloud and fire will form, as it says in the Bible.’
He said that attempts were still being made in the European Court of Human Rights to halt the experiment on the grounds that it violated the right to life. The court has, however, already rejected calls for a temporary delay in the project, and it is unlikely to come to a speedy decision about whether the CERN experiment should be halted for good.
Meanwhile Dr Walter Wagner, an American scientist who has been warning about the dangers of particle accelerators for 20 years, is awaiting a ruling on a lawsuit he filed a fortnight ago in his home state of Hawaii.
He fears the experiments might unwittingly create something he calls a ‘strangelet’ that could result in a fusion reaction that might ultimately turn the Earth into a supernova, or an exploding star.
But Dr Evans, the leader of the project, who has devoted 14 years of his life to building the vast particle accelerator, is dismissive of the doom-mongers.
The A-Bomb was supposed to do this too
Your scribe won’t be dropping his trousers and kissing selected parts of his anatomy goodbye on Wednesday, but he will be despairing of how easily the nuts ans pseudo-scientists can gain the ear of the establishment and be given a hearing. It’s even sadder if they were once professionals that should know better.
When the Manhattan Project was nearing completion during World War II, there was a group predicting that the first detonation of an atomic bomb would destroy the Earth, setting fire to it in a series of uncontrollable atomic reactions triggered by the bomb, which would eventually consume the planet. This was, to a degree, understandable at the time. Nothing like this had ever been done before, there was no natural counterpart to refer to, and if you ignore quantum physics (and the small, but possibly significant aspect that the Earth is not made of something like uranium 235, a fissionable material), then the chances of that first bomb setting up and uncontrollable chain reaction do indeed start to have the ring of truth.
While I may have studied quantum physics for a couple of years, the stuff of LHC operation is way over my head, but I suspect that the same poor science forms the same basis for the doom-mongers of the LHC to make their crazed claims. Most noticeable in their mutterings is the long time-scale involved in their predictions – very handy for them since it means that if they are wrong, and nothing happens, everyone will have forgotten about them (so we won’t see them lined up against a handy wall), and if they’re right, we’ll all be too busy trying to survive, and won’t care about them as they wander about waving signs saying “We told you so!”
I also suspect – if they are actually correct – that the timescale involved in the ceation of a “spinning-top-like quasar” in the centre of the Earth would be somewhat more rapid than they suggest, and if did come to pass, the Earth would be devoured on the timescale of an atomic reaction (which is, after all, what they are predicting) not an oceanic hurricane or weather front.
For my part, I’ll simply be keeping an eye on the LHC for the next decade or two (or three or…) to see if it comes up with any evidence of the Higgs boson or BEH Mechanism, popularised as the “God Particle”, a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics; the only Standard Model particle not yet observed.