Contrary to the somewhat feverish claims laid out in an recent lawsuit, when our favorite particle-smashing, Force-finding Large Hadron Collider is switched on soon it will not result in the destruction of life as we know it. Such claims are “complete nonsense” say the scientists at CERN, in response to the suit. They should know: it’s their machine, they designed it and they’ve been telling everyone for a while that their research shows it’s safe.
The lawsuit filed by a group of Hawaii residents is alleging that not enough safety checks have been made by CERN to prevent disaster when the LHC goes live in the coming weeks. It may “create unsafe conditions of physics” which may have disastrous effects. How? Well, you may imagine a micro black hole gobbling up everything unstoppably, while a strangelet (a hypothetical clump of particles including strange quarks) may run amok converting all nearby matter into strange matter, also wrecking the Earth.
James Gillies, a CERN spokesman, suggests this is rubbish in this response to the New Scientist: “The LHC will start up this year, and it will produce all sorts of exciting new physics and knowledge about the universe.” It’s no threat at all, he says: “A year from now, the world will still be here.” The LHC is actually designed to probe the boundaries of physics, and while a 2003 safety study did conceed that micro black holes or magnetic monopoles may be formed, they would be short-lived and offer no threat.
CERN physicists will be talking about safety in an open house discussion on April 6. [New Scientist]