Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Is Earth Doomed?

Are we all doomed? Is earth about to be absorbed in a manmade black hole? Will a strangelet turn the earth into "strange matter"?

Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho are convinced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will produce a minature black hole that will suck up the rest of the planet and are attempting to use the American court system to shut down the project. They have filed a lawsuit against the European Centre for Nuclear Research, or Cern, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the National Science Foundation.

Although the U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over Cern, action prohibiting U.S. agencies from participating could stop the project.

The concerns of Wagner and Sancho aren't new. Alarmists expressed similar concerns about the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) on Long Island, N.Y., in 1999. That facility began operation in 2000 and we're still here and, if theories about black holes are correct, we are not inside a black hole.

The LHC is no more likely to destroy the planet than the RHIC. The ability of humans to destroy life as we know it other than perhaps with an all out nuclear war, is greatly exaggerated. We are more likely to wake up Mothra or Godzilla than we are to turn the earth into a black hole.

We live in a age in which the movie industry likes to scare people with disaster movies. Unfortunately, people like Wagner and Sancho as well as Al Gore cannot separate the real world from the make believe world of the movies in which humans have the ability to create major disasters through very minor activities.

The suit against LHC should be thrown out of court, but the lawsuit could succeed because American judges sometimes suffer from the delusion that they can decide scientific theories by listening to lawyers argue in court. Five scientifically ignorant U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled in Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al . that the carbon dioxide humans and other animals regularly exhale through their normal breathing process is a air pollutant. This same carbon dioxide is essential for plant growth which in turn provides the food animals need to live.

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