Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Large Hadron Collider world’s largest particle accelerator

It must be unequivocally stated at the outset that the chances of the danger described below actually happening is extremely remote. Having said that, however, it is a fact that two people in the US are pursuing a lawsuit in a federal court in Hawaii to stop scientists from turning on the world’s largest particle accelerator later this year. The men believe that the Large Hadron Collider, as it’s called, which is capable of recreating conditions that existed a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang could also create a small black hole capable of swallowing up the Earth and, in time, parts of the universe too — if not the whole of it.

The scientists involved with the construction and deployment of the $8 billion project that has the potential to revolutionise physics and our understanding of the universe, don’t deny that black holes might, in fact, be created when the machine’s cranked up. But they say these will be microscopic in size and will decay and evaporate in next to no time before any serious swallowing can begin.

However, a spokesperson of the Collider group also said: “Assuming our wildest fantasies, how much matter can one of these black holes consume in a second, in a year or even in several billion years? A black hole we make would only consume a tiny fraction of a gram of matter from Earth. There’s no possibility of causing any damage to the Earth.”

The scientists are almost certainly right — especially since they speak after having addressed such concerns by initiating two safety studies earlier and a third anonymous one last year. Nevertheless, where the well-being of the Earth is concerned (actually its very existence in this case) along with all life on it, no amount of safeguards is too much. One has only to see the havoc of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels indiscriminately to realise that unchecked by-products can have a runaway cascading effect. In this case it won’t even be like a factory that can’t dispose of its by-product. Instead, the by-product will dispose of the factory — and everything else.

It is, of course, a grand tribute to human intelligence that scientific endeavour can unlock the ultimate mysteries of the universe and, in doing so, relate itself to the rest of existence. But it would be far more than merely ironic to find that in trying to discover our beginnings we deliver our ends.


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