The Psychology of Hadrons

Sep 10, 2008 4:25pm

The Large Hadron Collider in the Alps has not destroyed the local universe yet.  But whatever it does for physics, it’s also become a giant social experiment.  Is it dangerous?  You can’t see the subatomic particles it smashes; you can’t see the miniature black holes it supposedly could create (harmlessly or otherwise).  So anxiety hovers. Here is how CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which runs the collider, has tried to reassure people: "LHC collisions present no danger," it says.  "Whatever the LHC will do, Nature has already done many times over during the lifetime of the Earth and other astronomical bodies."  The full text is HERE, including a link to a report by the Collider’s Safety Study Group. The principal doubter in the U.S. appears to be Walter L. Wagner, a lawyer in Hawaii who formed Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider.  Their site is HERE.  "It is not possible to know what the outcome of the experiment will be," it says, "but even CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) scientists concede that there is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet." Biographies say Mr. Wagner majored in biology and minored in physics at Berkeley before getting his law degree.  He and his cohorts are not physicists by profession; they counter that there is a clubbiness in physics. I wrote a POST on the collider in April, and it’s getting a bit of traffic now.  Stephen Hawking, the British physicist, has weighed in: "There is no danger that collisions between particles will cause a rip in spacetime and destroy the universe." Is anyone persuaded?

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