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We scare because we care June 30, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.

I love this movie, Monsters, Inc. It, along with a documentary Office Space, describes our everyday life so well… So today I was reading CNN to get my daily dose of scare to find that CNN also decided to get on the bandwagon and comment about the safety of the LHC in the piece called Some Fear Debut of Powerful Atom Smasher (the coolest thing is that the name of the file in the reference is “doomsdaycollider.ap”). It is of course reassuring that after reading the article the readers are invited to learn more about the subject (look for the reference “All About Atomic and Molecular Physics”) — which shows certain lack of understanding of energy scales involved on the side of the robot which automatically suggests relevant material — of course competent journalists would never never make such a mistake (I also love the phrase “The two largest detectors are essentially huge digital cameras, each weighing thousands of tons, capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.”)… 🙂

Ok, to be fair, the article is actually not that bad. What makes me uncomfortable is people who learned about Newton laws and think that they know all about the Universe — to be comfortable enough to file a lawsuit to stop LHC from turning on (see, for example, “facts” from http://www.lhcfacts.org). What drives them? Need for nation-wide attention? A. Einstein’s fame? Desire to sell their books? Wait, they don’t (yet) have any books to sell on that subject. Ok, I don’t know… Most of the people who filed a lawsuit in Hawaii to stop LHC (look for Walter Wagner) are not physicists, but people who studied “life sciences.” How can they imagine to be competent enough to claim that LHC will destroy the planet? I’d say, there are many other controvesial subjects they could have contributed to (closer to their speciality) — for instance, study relation of lung-related health and proximity of coal-fired power plants among others…

Really, why bother with LHC if one can simply buy almost all particles that will be produced there? They are just $9 apiece… 🙂



1. jtankers - July 1, 2008

I think your title explains the motivation.

Personally I was particularly motivated when I read CERN’s public relations department and physicists give reasons for safety that had already been rejected by CERN’s LHC Safety Assessment Group after nuclear physicist Walter L. Wagner pointed out the technical problems to CERN.

(Hawking Radiation is disputed as “no compelling theoretical case for or against radiation by black holes” and cosmic rays striking Earth do not prove safety because if stable neutral micro black holes were created, they would travel through Earth and exit at relativistic speeds).

Now CERN has presented a credible and detailed new safety report with arguments for safety based on Netron stars and cosmic rays. And while I am very thankful for the creation of this important report, I can not ignore what CERN’s SPC Committee writes in their validation report:

“A powerful argument applicable also to higher energies is formulated making reference to observed neutron stars, but this argument relies on properties of cosmic rays and neutrinos that, while highly plausible, do require confirmation, as can be expected in the coming years.”

I am concerned, but sleeping better now that the issue is being addressed more as a scientific safety concern and less as a public relations concern.


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