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Strasbourg clears the last hurdle to LHC September 1, 2008

Posted by dorigo in humor, news, physics, science.
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The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has rejected today the appeal by a group of doomsday-scenario aficionados led by Markus Goritschnig, who claimed the experiment violated Article 2 and Article 8 of the European Convention for Human Rights, which grants the right to live and the right to the respect of human and family life, respectively.

I am so fed up with such claims, soooo fed up, that a small but non negligible part of me is actually rooting for black holes being actually produced by LHC, for Hawking radiation being a gross mistake, and for the very first black hole created at LHC startup to swallow our whole solar system. It would be a reasonable punishment for the opposers of the LHC if, after losing all their battles, they were finally torn to smithereens by a black hole. Of course, the fact that the rest of us would also have to die the same horrible death is a small price to pay for being direct observers of such a sublime punishment – death by the very device they claimed to fear, because their claim was groundless, despite being true.

Comments

1. goffredo - September 1, 2008

You are over-reacting!
I think that court expenses should be paid by those that bring these cases to Court and loose them.

2. Tony Smith - September 1, 2008

Although the LHC Doomsday People lost in the Court in Strasbourg,
it seems to me that their level of popular support might be correlated with the level of math illiteracy in the general public.

The Doomsday People web site at http://www.lhcfacts.org says:

“… AOL News Poll: Is the giant particle smasher worth the risk?
No: 61%, Yes: 39% with 259,307 total votes.

BBC on-line Poll: Is it Worth the Risk?
Yes 54%, No: 46% …”.

Given a correlation with math illiteracy, those poll results indicate to me that about half (46% to 61%) of the people would suffer from math illiteracy.
From the nature of the two polls, it might be that
the British have a slim majority who do not suffer from that malady,
while nearly 2/3 of Americans suffer from it, which leads me to wonder about the fate of a suit in the USA against the LHC.

According to a 19 August 2008 article by Alan Boyle on the web at cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com
“… Look for Nobel laureates and diplomats to weigh in as a key federal court hearing nears. The hearing is scheduled to begin in Hawaii on Sept. 2, just a week before the official startup of Europe’s Large Hadron Collider. U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor will consider whether to dismiss a civil lawsuit claiming that the machine could destroy the world. … The plaintiffs in the case …[are] Walter Wagner and … Luis Sancho … When CERN didn’t respond [to the suit] they filed a motion seeking a default judgment … A hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for a default judgment has been scheduled on Sept. 25 …
Even as the hearing date nears … Wagner … is gearing up for a new challenge to LHC operations, on the grounds that the builders haven’t fully considered the possibility that a wayward beam of protons could touch off an explosive “fusion propagation wave” … [based on]… a report,known as LA-602 …[by] Edward Teller and two other physicists … discussing the idea that nuclear bombs could set Earth’s atmosphere on fire. …”.

Tony Smith

PS – As to LA-602, a 19 June 2008 entry at http://www.overcomingbias.com said:
“… Teller and Konopinski had been assigned the task of disproving a crazy suggestion by Enrico Fermi that a fission chain reaction could ignite a thermonuclear reaction in deuterium – what we now know as an H-Bomb. Teller and Konopinski found that, contrary to their initial skepticism, the hydrogen bomb appeared possible. … Teller then suggested that a hydrogen bomb might ignite a self-sustaining thermonuclear reaction in the nitrogen of Earth’s atmosphere. This also appeared extremely unlikely at a first glance, but Teller and Konopinski and Marvin investigated, and wrote … LA-602: Ignition of the Atmosphere with Nuclear Bombs …
the authors went through the math and concluded that there were several strong reasons to believe that nitrogen fusion could not be self-sustaining in the atmosphere: it would take huge energies to start the reaction at all; the reaction would lose radiation from its surface too fast to sustain the fusion temperature; and even if the fusion reaction did grow, the Compton effect would increase radiation losses … LA-602 concludes: “There remains the distinct possibility that some other less simple mode of burning may maintain itself in the atmosphere… the complexity of the argument and the absence of satisfactory experimental foundations makes further work on the subject highly desirable.” …”.

3. dorigo - September 1, 2008

Hello Tony,

thank you for the extremely interesting quotes, especially the last one.
I tend to agree about your estimate that about half of citizens of western countries have no interest for the advancement of pure research. I do not know whether one may call them a bunch of ignorants just because they do not support particle physics, however… But that’s debatable😉

Cheers,
T.

4. DB - September 1, 2008

T.,
I share your frustration but I think it’s important that such challenges be taken and be seen to be defeated in the highest courts. I don’t mind if the taxpayer sometimes has to foot the bill, in a case deemed to be “in the public interest”. This, believe it or not, enhances the public credibility of science, and reassures the public that ultimately, science is not out of control but is subject to the same legal constraints that ordinary citizens have to obey. It’s not much different to the role courts in the US play in knocking down the attempts by religious extremists to undermine the teaching of theories of evolution. In the 20th Century, courts have been science’s greatest ally in fight against ignorance and fanaticism.
Science isn’t above the law, and its ability to pass the scrutiny of the finest judicial minds carries much more weight in the public’s mind than a bunch of fanatics from both sides going at each other in some public forum.

5. dorigo - September 1, 2008

Jeff, I am over-reacting, sure… But it would really be hilarious, wouldn’t it, if those crazy claims ended up being true🙂

Cheers,
T.

6. dorigo - September 1, 2008

Hi DB,

yours are good points, and I have to agree, it is a healthy fact that courts of law can be put in the condition of having to rule on scientific issues. That’s until they will be ran by fanatics too… But let’s be positive, and hope things are actually improving.
Cheers,
T.

7. strozzapazzi - September 1, 2008

That small part of you is the little lubos you have inside, wishing a black hole would crush the skulls and organs of your foes… sic…

Fortunately, your sane side seems to be the one in control of your blog… so far…

8. tulpoeid - September 1, 2008

I tended to take the whole mini black hole thing lightly, until the usual exclamations upon hearing my affiliation with cern (“Ohhh, so is this true? is it 30 km long? will you create antimatter? is it under the earth?”) were replaced by more exotic ones (“Ohhh, is this about the lawsuit from Hawai?”). And then I formed a theory by which I stand more and more firmly every day of these black hole-laden days.
Apart from a bunch of luneys, I think this is the general public’s main effort to connect. They know something great is about to happen and it’s been in the making for so long, but they don’t know the details of it and they know that even beginning to understand the actual process will take a serious amount of personal study. Being it my personal faith that the ultimate goal of science is exactly to feed the general public with info (and knowledge), I view all this mini-frenzy affectionately. It _is_ an effort to connect. A tremendous threat, which most likely will never turn true, is a safe way to share the feeling, a sense of involvement, and history. Throw in (if even verbally) some mysterious objects that can take you to another dimension and that have been described by a disabled pop-culture idol, and it’s just the perfect mix.

9. one jack - September 1, 2008

The catastrophic scenarios at the LHC have been carefully addressed in several CERN reports, that I have partially read. All that is fine but am I the only one that, without disrespect meant to the LHC folks, thinks 14 TeV is not that much energy after all? As compared to the Tevatron for example.

With good luck, a few thresholds are going to be crossed, some funny new stuff will show up, and that should be it. Dramatizing about all these grandiose dreams of finding new universes, extra dimensions, high-multiplicity black-hole events, the key to the ultimate theory, God particles, geeeezzzz!, isn’t that just good old wishful thinking.

Maybe both the public and the professionals have much too high expectations about the LHC.

10. Alejandro Rivero - September 2, 2008

In the CERN cafeteria, next to the board of the solar energy club and all these announcements, there was a collection of press clipping. The best, a “genuine” interview to a “mad scientist from CERN” speaking about how proud was about being near to the peak of his career and finally destroying the world, which is the most valuable goal a mad scientist can aim to. Or something so. Perhaps it was from The Onion?
In any case the guy did not show any trouble about the possibility of Superman or Batman or any legio of heroes finally coming to trap him in the last moment. I can tell in advance that a place where your salad is paid by weight is not a place where Bond is going to come.

11. jtankers - September 2, 2008

I reviewed the published LHC safety reports, rebuttals and comment papers by CERN, Dr. Rossler, Dr. Plaga and others.

My conclusion is that neither side knows with reasonable certainty what will happen, the safety opposition admits this, CERN does not. Destruction of Earth has not been excluded to the satisfaction of credible experts.

The proper course of action is a safety conference as Dr. Rossler calls for and safety mitigation procedures as Dr. Plaga calls for, not the sprint that CERN calls for.

When credible experts warn that there is a potential for planetary destruction, the proper course of action is not to try to discredit the opposition personally and claim your own theories are virtually infallible.

That is arrogant, reckless and foolish. In a word, crazy.

12. Tony Smith - September 2, 2008

jtankers said “… neither side knows with reasonable certainty what will happen, the safety opposition admits this, CERN does not. Destruction of Earth has not been excluded to the satisfaction of credible experts.
The proper course of action is a safety conference as Dr. Rossler calls for …”.

The view of jtankers has two components:

1 – “… Destruction of Earth has not been excluded …”.
In fact, that is exactly the conclusion of Teller et al in LA-602, where they say “… There remains the distinct possibility that some other less simple mode of [nitrogen] burning may maintain itself in the atmosphere …”.

2 – The failure to absolutely rule out any disaster scenario means that the experiments should NOT be done.
About that, Eliezer Yudkowsky said in his “Overcoming Bias” article I quoted above:
“… LA-602 began life as a classified report, written by scientists for scientists. … LA-602 does not begin by asserting any conclusions; the report walks through the calculations – at several points clearly labeling theoretical extrapolations and unexplored possibilities as such – and finally concludes that radiation losses make self-sustaining nitrogen fusion impossible-according-to-the-math, even under the most conservative assumptions. …
To put it bluntly, LA-602 was written by people curiously investigating whether a hydrogen bomb could ignite the atmosphere …
[whereas]
between the 1940s and today, society has developed a “Gotcha!” attitude toward risk. You can’t admit a single particle of uncertain danger if you want your science’s funding to survive. These days you are not allowed to end by saying, “There remains the distinct possibility…”… So no one can do serious analysis of existential risks anymore, because just by asking the question, you’re threatening the funding of your whole field.
The number one lesson I [EY] take from this whole issue is that where human-caused uncertain existential dangers are concerned, the only way to get a real, serious, rational, fair, evenhanded assessment of the risks, in our modern environment, Is if the whole project is classified, the paper is written for scientists without translation, and the public won’t get to see the report for another fifty years. …”.

In my view,

I agree with jtankers about 1, that risk does exist at some level,

but

I disagree with jtankers about 2, that any level of risk, no matter how low, means that experiments should not be done,
and
I agree with Eliezer Yudkowsky about 2, too many pro-experiment reports are as he said “… produced by authors who were already sure that the …[experiment]… couldn’t destroy the Earth, the problem-at-hand was explaining this to the public …”,
so that the reports are not detailed investigation of all relevant data with unbiased conclusions unafraid to state the existence of a risk (even if very small),
and
it is sad that the only way a really fair accurate report can be issued is to keep it secret from a public too paranoid to handle realistic discussion of risk.

Tony Smith

13. Joe - September 2, 2008

There is a curious connection between the LHC doomsdays debate and the global warning debate. In both cases, one side argues that human activity can change the Earth on a very large scale. And in both cases, the other side cites that whatever we humans can throw at Earth, nature has done it before and done it much more forcefully. In the LHC case, cosmic rays are cited; in the climate case, past CO2 fluctuations are cited. In both cases, the science is uncertain: In the LHC case, nobody can calculate a sharp safety limit for hadron colliders’ energy, except for saying it’s very very high. It does not help that there is no framework in which to even calculate such a limit. In the climate case, nobody can really model the global climate, just subsystems, and it does not help whether accurate modeling is even possible. The main difference is that global warning is a slow process and reversable, while the creation of a black hole capable of damaging earth cannot be undone, and the destruction, once under way, is not easy to stop.

14. Joe - September 2, 2008

One more thought — the irony of the LHC safety issue is that, if we know how to compute a sharp bound for what’s a safe energy for such experiments, we won’t need to do the experiment at all. I guess in the future such experiments will be carried out on the moon or some other distant place of low economical value — it’s likely we might create a blackhole before we really know how to calculate these things.

15. dorigo - September 2, 2008

Strozzapazzi, don’t we all have a little Lubos inside ?

Tulpoeid, I think you have a point. The public who are sensitive, for the good or the bad, to the science we make at CERN and elsewhere, try to stay in touch by reading what the press feeds them with. And they will be happy with black hole stories. I am more concerned with the vocal minority that is serious about crusading against science.

One Jack, I agree. I even put ready money on the fact that the LHC won’t discover anything new. And indeed, a x7 increase in energy cannot be called “groundbreaking advance”. However, we are the victims of our own advertisements. Maybe even a bit too much of it has been done with the LHC. I hope the interest will be kept high in the future with less content-free stuff.

Alejandro, LOL!

Jtankers, who defines what a credible expert is ? You ? Sorry, but credible experts have decreed that the risk is negligible by all standards. You are allowed to object, but you are not allowed to seek other credible experts once those originally identified give a response you do not like.

Tony, I think one important difference between Teller’s study and the present concerns is that we are doing science, they were working for the department of defense.

Joe, I view your parallel as a bit of a stretch. There are strong evidences for the human cause of global warming, while there are all evidences against the possibility to produce black holes, and their stability.

Cheers all,
T.

Cheers,
T.

16. Luboš Motl - September 2, 2008

Dear Tommaso,

what you have inside is more likely to be a small Woit than a small Lubos. What you and strozzy papparazzi contain has to be crushed by a black hole, indeed.

Best
Lubos

17. anomalous cowherd - September 2, 2008

jtanckers [from an LHC alarmist website] writes:

“Destruction of Earth has not been excluded to the satisfaction of credible experts.”

I know of no one [credible expert or otherwise] who has proposed scientifically defensible criticisms of either the CERN safety studies,
or the independent safety assessments [such as that from the Albert Einstein Institute (the MPI for gravitation) of Rosslers erroneous claims]. LHC collisions are of a kind that has been occuring naturally all over the cosmos, and if there were any danger from these collisions we would have seen the effects of the same physics astrophysically.

Credible experts are people who do actual, verifiable, calculations based on established experimental facts. I have yet to see any of that from the anti-LHC safety critics.

18. anomalous cowherd - September 2, 2008

Re: Strasbourg Clears The Last Hurdle To LHC

Prof. Dorigo

You shouldn’t forget about the lawsuit in Hawaii. While it can’t stop the LHC, it could, if successful, prevent our american colleagues from participating in the experiments. I can imagine how thrilled Fermilab management would be about that, not to mention DOE…

If I remember correctly litigation starts this week. I’m looking forward to coverage of the court case, as apparently one of the litigants already has a long and extremely colourful history in the american court system. Should be fun!

19. Tony Smith - September 3, 2008

Tommaso said (in comment 15) about secrecy of scientific papers:
“… one important difference between Teller’s study and the present concerns is that we are doing science, they were working for the department of defense …”.

However, consider an Andrew Jaffe blog post entitled “Stealing data?” in which Jaffe says:
“… members of the PAMELA collaboration have been out giving talks, carefully labelled “preliminary”, showing the kind of excess cosmic ray flux that dark matter might be expected to produce … Cirelli & Strumia have written a paper based on those numbers … extracted from a photo of the slides taken during the talk … This makes me very uncomfortable … a photograph of the slides sounds more like amateur spycraft than legitimate scientific data-sharing.
Indeed, it’s to avoid such inadvertent data-sharing … that the Planck Satellite team has come up with its rather draconian communication policy (which is itself located in a password-protected site): essentially, the first rule of Planck is you do not talk about Planck. The second rule of Planck is you do not talk about Planck. And you don’t leave paper in the printer, or plots on your screen. …”.

It sounds to me as though “science” is now pretty much as secretive as “defense”, without the justification of military security.
I guess bureaucracies just love to control everything they can, including information. It is not hard to understand why,
but
it means that the difference between “science” and “defense” in today’s world of bureaucracies is small or nonexistent.

Tony Smith

20. B D O Adams - September 3, 2008

I’d hate for the anti-science guys to be right. I’d prefer it if the
earth was destroyed by a nugget of strange quark matter from outer space, which we would have known how to destroy, if only the LHC had run, and found out the mechanics of the unknown material.

21. anonimo - September 3, 2008

… my comment is anonymous … i know … look, i’m sorry about the unpleasant asymmetry it leaves – i find your blog informative, i’ve spent almost 10 years of my life on physics at a graduate and postgraduate level, i know first hand how hard physicists, often, work, and i’ve been a summer trainee at fermilab … so … i know how hard people work there, if not all, many of them, and their sacrifices, those many. i leave all the minuses apart, it’s not the point here.

what above … just to say that i have some shallow first hand knowledge of your field … and i respect it.

but …

… i think that a few points which have been made above in the previous comments are quite irrational, and you and your field should mind them … in an ideal world … which is not ours … your funding and your very existence as a field, your jobs, could be put at risk by the approach you keep on this issue, and similar issues.

of course … the topic is very speculative … black holes … hawking radiation … no direct experimental proof … no realistic way to study them in a lab on earth in a _controlled_ environment.

it _seems_ that an _extremely_ marginal risk is there, it does exist, it’s just _extremely_ marginal.

but …

the point is not only how unlikely it is, but, i think, the point is also _how_ one is going to face the problem once it arises.

as pointed out above … even if i don’t know how meaningful the comparison with the risk of global warming can be … in the *extremely* unlikely case a black hole is produced … it can’t be undone … and please bear in mind that no black hole has ever been studied in a controlled environment, neither it can be, for the obvious limitations of the planet we inhabit.

the lack, the impossibility may be, of direct, hands on, knowledge on the behavior of black holes, and the fact that the extremely unlikely problem, once arisen, looks untreatable, unsolvable, given our little knowledge of the problem … all of that, pardon me, it does counterbalance, somehow, the extreme unlikeliness of the risk itself.

in brief … it not just how unlikely the risk is, it is also about how treatable the problem is – if the unlikely risk became reality.

and … in this speculative frame … that problem would not so slightly affect me, and all the other poor beings of this sad planet – our disappearance … it could be such a relief for the cosmos … may be. i think it would be also quite sad … isn’t it ?

so … given that the – extremely unlikely – problem would affect us all … i think that …

you could allow a – strictly speaking – “non expert” like me to express his opinion, given that i live here on earth too, like all of you … and that my taxes partially fund your jobs and research ( which makes sense, the financial support to basic research, i mean )

i think also that …

public debate on such topics should be MANDATORY … unless one prefers a more or less diluted form of fascism, technofascism ? … of course … the public at large should acknowledge the expertise of the experts, and should feel the duty to improve the public basic scientific knowledge and the scientific knowledge on the specific topic which is debated … yep … that would be in an ideal world …

so … i don’t think that the approach “WE’re the experts, YOU *just* shut up” would be rational, even acceptable, when we face a potential – even if *extremely* unlikely – global and *untreatable* problem for the planet we us all inhabit.

and …

i don’t really think that classifying such debates on such topics, as pointed out at #12 above, would make any sense from a non totalitarian point of view. it wouldn’t solve anything, it wouldn’t be acceptable.

thanks for letting me express my opinion.

p. s. : has any of you paid any attention to that exposé … pulitzer prize winner … “the plutonium files” by Eileen Welsome … quite a different topic, historical context, and so on … sure … but … i think it could tell a thing or two about the overconfidence of “experts”, about the environment of classified research, about the lives and the pains of some common people … out of the ivory tower … it’s an interesting read.

… in the end … should we disappear in such circumstances … well … it would be worth a mention in a different “hitchhiker guide to the galaxy” written by “someone else” at another location in the Galaxy.

saluti

22. anomalous cowherd - September 3, 2008

21. anonimo writes:

“so … i don’t think that the approach “WE’re the experts, YOU *just* shut up” would be rational, even acceptable, when we face a potential – even if *extremely* unlikely – global and *untreatable* problem for the planet we us all inhabit.”

I think that you are missing the point in two respects:

[1] The point of the LHC safety analyses was NOT: “We’re the experts”. Rather the approach of the safety analyses was: “Nature is the expert”. Collisions at LHC energies have been happening for billions of years
as cosmic rays impinge astrophysical objects [neutron stars, white dwarfs, main sequence stars, planets…]. If planet-eating black holes or strangelets could be produced in such collisions, naturally produced ones would be eating stars and planets all over the cosmos; the fact that we do NOT observe this to be the case is what assures us that the LHC won’t destroy the earth. Nature has already done that experiment all over the universe. In short we’re safe because physics works the same everywhere in the universe; there is nothing in it specific to planet earth.

[2] Now what IS specific to planet earth is biology. Every living thing on earth shares the majority of it’s DNA with every other living thing on earth. And the mechanisms of gene expression, RNA transcription, protein synthesis, etc… are the same in all living organisms on earth.
Furthermore the DNA code is programmable; the sequence of instructions has evolved the small differences necessary to produce the biological diversity we see today. Given the combinatoric possibilities it is extremely unlikely that the same set of instructions is coded in the same way anywhere else in the universe. Now that humankind has the ability to manipulate this code, we have acquired the capability to create a “global and *untreatable* problem for the planet we us all inhabit”, to use your phrase. Yet biotech companies
all over the world are experimenting with, and commercializing, genetically modified organisms with little public oversight [not to mention governments “weaponizing” naturally occurring organisms like anthrax], with little expressed concern on the blogosphere. I appreciate your sentiment, that we should make every effort to preserve this unique planet, our common home. But I would be more impressed if you expressed your concern by addressing the developments that potentially represent an actual threat, rather than just following the star-trek-fashionable [but entirely nonsensical] imagined threat from LHC physics.
P.S. And don’t even get me started on climate change, habitat destruction, and species extinction.

23. Guess Who - September 3, 2008

Hey anomalous, long time no see. I have a couple of questions. In #17, you say:

LHC collisions are of a kind that has been occuring naturally all over the cosmos, and if there were any danger from these collisions we would have seen the effects of the same physics astrophysically.

The standard rebuttal to that is that those naturally occurring collisions are not at rest in the planet’s CoM frame, so mini black holes or other nasty collision products do not fall to the planet’s center. How do you respond to that?

A slightly more sophisticated skeptic might also ask if we would be able to observe a planet being eaten by a mini black hole. Would there be a clear signature?

In response to #22,

If planet-eating black holes or strangelets could be produced in such collisions, naturally produced ones would be eating stars and planets all over the cosmos; the fact that we do NOT observe this to be the case is what assures us that the LHC won’t destroy the earth.

the skeptic might also point to the cataclysmic astrophysical events which we do observe all the time (gamma ray bursts come to mind) and ask how you rule out that they are, at least occasionally, caused by the processes in question.

If you can provide good, concise answers to that you will have made a pretty solid case, I think.

24. anonimo - September 3, 2008

anomalous cowherd, thanks for your comment – i’m still online so i leave a brief clarification of my anonymous comment, which sounds laughable … i know … but i hadn’t planned to leave any further comment, because for various reasons i’m online twice per week, and because i already expressed what i wanted to say in a too lengthy way may be … and i’m not an egocentric … and this is not my blog … i have none indeed. i left i comment because i did want to leave it on this topic.

to reply – briefly ! – to you comment, i thank you for that … the topic for me here is not the LHC “threat” … i’m not obsessed by it … i know about the “cosmic rays” reasoning you quote … it looks reasonable to me … it makes sense … but it is far away from a *controlled* experiment. I previously wrote that i *believe* in the experts – since … i’m none of them … one could qualify me as a student – and … am i wrong … the experts say that the risk is *extremely* narrow. I don’t believe that it is possible to say that there’s NO risk, but i don’t want to repeat what i already wrote, briefly … it’s not only the extremely narrow risk which is to be taken into account, it is also how *treatable* the problem is and how narrow is the time window to react to face the problem once it has arisen. I didn’t want it to be an obsessed comment exclusively focused on the LHC “threat”, rather, i intended it as a comment on the approach to any global risk, especially those of them which are less treatable and which are more or less unavoidably related to basic research … i’m not that sure they are or should be unavoidably related to basic research … but i try to stay on topic and to reply to your comment.

i agree with you that there are many topics which should raise *serious* concerns, and which should be DEBATED, rather than *classified* given that some of us like to think we are citizens of democracies – are we ?

just to be clear … no conspiracy theories … but … i think that … as a matter of fact …

yes, i agree … bioweapons, … how deep has been the serious and responsible coverage and debate – “conspiracy” blogs apart – has taken place on the anthrax case, for example, on bioweapons …

look, i don’t know if you have read it, but … “the plutonium files” did shock me … the topic and what’s exposed, which relies on Freedom of Information Act declassified documents and on the documents released to the public by the 1994 – 1995 United States Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments … what i’ve read … it is shocking … widely backed by declassified documentation … and i had never heard anything about it before finding the book by chance, a year ago, while searching for Richard Rhodes’ 3rd volume on the “Arsenals of Folly” …

so … bottom line, i agree with you that we need public debate on these topics, the public need to improve their basic knowledge to be able to take part to a meaningful debate … yep … it sounds utopia … but i don’t think – at any point – one should revert to classification … unless we plainly admit it’s technofascism we’re talking about.

it really wasn’t intended as an LHC obsessed comment.

saluti

25. one jack - September 3, 2008

Guess Who, I didn’t understand your first question. The CoM frame of the colliding protons is the same as the rest frame of the Earth (to a good approximation, neglecting the Earth’s rotation). That’s precisely the point of building colliders.

How does that make the experiment more dangerous than an ultra high-energy cosmic proton impinging on the upper atmosphere? Because the mini black hole, being at rest, will fall on the floor? Is that what you’re asking?

26. anomalous cowherd - September 3, 2008

23. Guess Who writes:

“If you can provide good, concise answers to that you will have made a pretty solid case, I think.”

That case has already been made IN DETAIL in the LSAG [LHC Safety Assessment Group] report. It is the second LHC safety assessment commissioned by CERN. You can download a copy of the LSAG Report yourself from the page:

http://environmental-impact.web.cern.ch/environmental-impact/en/
LHCSafety/LHCSafety-en.htm

That page gives a summary of the report, but to download the full report yourself click on the link “LSAG Report” in the last paragraph.
Also in the last paragraph are links to 4 other reports examining LHC safety. Finally as background to the LSAG report there are the papers by Giddings and Mangano:

1) Comments on claimed risk from metastable black holes.
Steven B. Giddings, Michelangelo L. Mangano . Aug 2008. 3pp. Temporary entry
e-Print: arXiv:0808.4087 [hep-ph]

2) Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes.
Steven B. Giddings (UC, Santa Barbara) , Michelangelo L. Mangano (CERN) . CERN-PH-TH-2008-025, Jun 2008. 96pp.
Published in Phys.Rev.D78:035009,2008.
e-Print: arXiv:0806.3381 [hep-ph]

27. anomalous cowherd - September 3, 2008

23. Guess Who – September 3, 2008 writes:

“If you can provide good, concise answers to that you will have made a pretty solid case, I think.”

That case has already been made in great detail by the LHC Safety Assessment Group [LSAG]. Theirs is the second report in a 5 year span commissioned by CERN to assess the safety of the LHC. The report is summarized at:

http://environmental-impact.web.cern.ch/environmental-impact/en/
LHCSafety/LHCSafety-en.html

If you click on the link in the last paragraph at the bottom of the page you can download the entire report for yourself. Also at the same place there are links to 4 other independent reports evaluating LHC safety.

Finally as background to the LSAG report there are the detailed studies by Giddings and Mangano:

Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes.
Steven B. Giddings (UC, Santa Barbara) , Michelangelo L. Mangano (CERN) . CERN-PH-TH-2008-025, Jun 2008. 96pp.
Published in Phys.Rev.D78:035009,2008.
e-Print: arXiv:0806.3381 [hep-ph]

Comments on claimed risk from metastable black holes.
Steven B. Giddings, Michelangelo L. Mangano . Aug 2008. 3pp. Temporary entry
e-Print: arXiv:0808.4087 [hep-ph]

28. Guess Who - September 3, 2008

Yes one jack, the CoM frame of protons colliding in the LHC is the rest frame of the planet, unlike the CoM frame of a high energy cosmic ray colliding with a proton in the atmosphere or in the crust.

So the standard skeptic rebuttal is that in the naturally occurring, cosmic ray collisions, whatever is produced by them keeps going at high velocity relative to Earth and may just punch through it once before it escapes back out into space on the other side. Whereas the same stuff would fall to the floor (and then on to the center of the Earth) if produced at the LHC, and then just sit there and accrete mass, or do whatever nefarious thing it’s supposed to do.

By the way, there is some entertaining history about essentially the same discussion being carried out before RHIC started in

http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.4806

29. anomalous cowherd - September 3, 2008

23. Guess Who – September 3, 2008 writes:

“If you can provide good, concise answers to that you will have made a pretty solid case, I think.”

That case has already been made in great detail by the LHC Safety Assessment Group [LSAG]. Theirs is the second report in a 5 year span commissioned by CERN to assess the safety of the LHC. The report is summarized at:

[http://environmental-impact.web.cern.ch/environmental-impact/en/
LHCSafety/LHCSafety-en.html]

If you click on the link in the last paragraph at the bottom of the page you can download the entire report for yourself. Also at the same place there are links to 4 other independent reports evaluating LHC safety.

Finally as background to the LSAG report there are the detailed studies by Giddings and Mangano:

Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes.
Steven B. Giddings (UC, Santa Barbara) , Michelangelo L. Mangano (CERN) . CERN-PH-TH-2008-025, Jun 2008. 96pp.
Published in Phys.Rev.D78:035009,2008.
e-Print: arXiv:0806.3381 [hep-ph]

Comments on claimed risk from metastable black holes.
Steven B. Giddings, Michelangelo L. Mangano . Aug 2008. 3pp. Temporary entry
e-Print: arXiv:0808.4087 [hep-ph]

30. Guess Who - September 3, 2008

That was not exactly concise, anomalous.😉

You could summarize the astrophysical argument like this: yes, bad stuff produced by cosmic rays hitting Earth might just fly through it, but there are much denser bodies around, like neutron stars, and those would capture such collision products. Since they are still around, there is no bad stuff to capture.

The skeptic could still ask if we really know enough about the lifetime of neutron stars (actually measured, not just predicted) to make the argument tight, and again point to gamma ray bursts as possible, naturally occurring disasters triggered by high energy collisions.

One thing which I don’t like about the CERN page which you linked to (http://environmental-impact.web.cern.ch/environmental-impact/en/
LHCSafety/LHCSafety-en.html) is the short section on “vacuum bubbles”.

If we live in a metastable vacuum and a vacuum of a more stable (lower lying) vacuum is nucleated within it, the bubble will expand. The general scenario is that the expansion accelerates to the speed of light within a microphysical time, so you would actually never see the bubble wall coming at you: by the time you see it, it hits you and you die. So I’m afraid the argument which ends that section (“Since such vacuum bubbles have not been produced anywhere in the visible Universe, they will not be made by the LHC”) is just plain wrong.

31. anomalous cowherd - September 3, 2008

Guess Who – September 3, 2008
“So I’m afraid the argument which ends that section (”Since such vacuum bubbles have not been produced anywhere in the visible Universe, they will not be made by the LHC”) is just plain wrong.”

No, the argument is correct as stated. If such a bubble had been nucleated within the visible universe [ie. our past light-cone] we would be destroyed, which means we wouldn’t be blogging. The fact that we’re blogging about this, then means that “such vacuum bubbles have not been produced anywhere in the visible Universe” [ie. our past light cone].
Since there have been astronomical numbers of collisions at LHC energies in the visible universe [ie. our past light cone], and since NONE of them have produced a bubble that ate us, one can only conclude that collisions at LHC energies DON’T produce universe-eating bubbles…

The page that I gave you to link through to download the LSAG document, is a summary for the general public. If you are confused by the language in the non-technical summary, you should download the full LSAG document and read the appropriate sections, plus the references contained therein.

32. Guess Who - September 3, 2008

Well, the past light cone is pretty big, so you’re right, the likelihood of the LHC triggering a phase transition to a lower lying vacuum is minuscule. (Fun, somewhat related aside: hep-th/0612137).

So there are reasonably concise answers about vacuum bubbles and about mini black holes and strangelets. But I still don’t know what to tell somebody who reminds me that we register several gamma ray bursts a week and worries that some of them may be triggered by high energy collisions.

33. anomalous cowherd - September 3, 2008

“But I still don’t know what to tell somebody who reminds me that we register several gamma ray bursts a week and worries that some of them may be triggered by high energy collisions.”

Tell them that there are perfectly good astrophysical models for gamma ray bursts.

34. dorigo - September 3, 2008

Well, thanks all for this interesting discussion, to which I regret of having been unable to participate.

One point: the pp CoM frame of LHC is at rest on the Earth’s rest frame, but what makes black holes are not protons, but quarks or gluons. And the CoM of a parton-parton collision is NOT at rest. To find a CoM which moves at small speeds -say, smaller than the earth’s escape velocity of 11 km/s- you’d have to sift through tens of thousands of collisions.

Cheers,
T.

35. adventfred - September 5, 2008

all those colliding they say happpenin in nature dont happen in a confined space or cramed space so something could happen an remember this is on earth not in space

36. adventfred - September 5, 2008

Man’s technology has exceeded his grasp. – ‘The World is not Enough’
Nobel Prize hungry Physicists are racing each other and stopping at nothing to try to find the supposed ‘Higgs Boson'(aka ‘God’) Particle, among others, and are risking nothing less than the annihilation of the Earth and all Life in endless EXPERIMENTS to try to solve theoretical problems when urgent real problems face the planet. The European Organization for Nuclear Research(CERN) new Large Hadron Collider(LHC) is the world’s most powerful atom smasher that will soon be firing subatomic particles at each other at nearly the speed of light to create Miniature Big Bangs producing clouds of Micro Black Holes, Strangelets and other potentially cataclysmic phenomena.
The CERN-LHC website Mainpage itself states quote: “There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions,…” This stunning admission is because they truly don’t know what’s going to happen. They are experimenting with forces they don’t understand to obtain results they can’t comprehend. If you think like most people do that ‘They must know what they’re doing.’ you could not be more wrong. Some people think the same thing about medical Dr.s but consider this by way of comparison and example from JAMA: “A recent Institute of Medicine report quoted rates estimating that medical errors kill between 44,000 and 98,000 people a year in US hospitals.” The second part of the quote reads “…but what’s for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator,…” A molecularly changed or Black Hole consumed Lifeless World? The end of the quote reads “as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe.” These experiments to date have so far produced infinitely more questions than answers but there isn’t a particle experimentalist physicist alive who wouldn’t gladly trade his life to glimpse the “God particle”, and sacrifice the rest of us with him.
This quote from National Geographic exactly sums this “science” up: “That’s the essence of experimental particle physics: You smash stuff together and see what other stuff comes out

fully accept very high energy subatomic particles do occur in nature (although their frequency of occurrence isn’t very high, (by high I mean we don’t seen billions of very high energy particles per square micrometre every nano second, but the occasional few definitely do occur, however they are lone particles).

However, we will have high concentrations of high energy particles in the LHC *in a very small space*

I am going to play devils advocate for a moment, but in the interests of scientific debate, (of which critical evaluation is a vital part), we need to consider what is possible within the LHC.

One thing I’m very interested about is the kinds of group particles collision interactions that are possible.

For example, imagine two cars driving head on into each other while both are travelling at say 100 Mph … and you get to see the collision in slow motion video from a side on (say 10 metres away) perspective. Now imagine watching the video as the two cars first start to crush and crumple up into each other, as they get squashed together and torn apart by the collision. Now imagine as these two cars are mostly though the process of crushing together and getting torn apart, that a 3rd car then slams into the back of one of the cars. (Or another two car collision occurs at the side of them and their debris is spraying into each other debris).

If this was a particle accelerator and the cars were particles, then the detectors would most likely pick-up an interesting (but less frequently occurring) collision.

The frequency of this kind of group interaction is less than simpler two particle collisions, however its not impossible. So you end up with showers of debris and occasionally we my see something very interesting in the debris. That “something very interesting” event could be caused by these kinds of rarely occurring types of group collisions. And don’t forget that the extra (3rd or more) “cars” don’t need to hit the first two “cars” … their debris can hit other debris etc..

So what if something dangerous was formed in one of these rare showers of group collisions?

Also the whole point of particle accelerators is the beams are designed to focus into a small an area as possible, to maximise the chances of collisions. That works for single collisions, but what about group collisions?

Also Hawking radiation is not 100% proven as fact … its still currently a theory and holes in that theory have been already suggested.

Also the lifespan of a black hole is very likely to be dependent upon its mass, which means a group collision is very likely to exist for longer than a simple collision

A rare group collision merger only needs to exist long enough for it to impact onto some solid part of the machine, for us to be in a potentially very dangerous situation. We are then left hoping that as it impacts, it cannot merge with any else. But if it can merge, then we have the risk of a self-sustaining reaction of continuing mergers, regardless of even if Hawking radiation is proven correct.

Group collision mergers have not been considered for the LHC and we cannot predict with 100% safety all possible interactions.

A particle accelerator is in some ways a blunt instrument when it comes to controlling the exact interactions. We cannot prevent group collision mergers and at ever greater energies, group collision mergers are likely to become more common and more varied.

37. james - September 6, 2008

this isent a joke,.this is really gonna happen ..
and its suddenly crept up on us because it hasent had much tv coverage for fear of panic and demostrations , then it would of had to been cancelled.. most people i know dont even know about these experiments. or what the LCH EXPERIMENT IS ?

for those who dont know its a giant partical exelorator or atom smasher as its sometimes called ., they send the atom paticals one way and send some the opposite way in a circular tube at nearly the speed of light and crash them into eachother but dont worry the scientists said its safe , but could cause micro black holes and other earth threatning substances!!

im all for science but not when it takes the risk of lives.. and especially taking the risk of the whole planet! these scientists assure us its safe.. they cant even agree what excactly will happen.. some say there wont be black holes ,some say there will ,some say they will fizzle out some say they will swallow us and everthing else up.

smashing atoms , micro black holes, starlets, funny matter?? any one of these things could end it all,, yeah right really sounds safe this experiment these scientists couldent even spot a simple design fault of the LHC equipment,.. and they are telling us they can predict the experiment its self on theories? theories can be wrong.! and what ive read different scientists have different theories on this ., these scientists actually want black holes to appear and will go to the extremes to get em.. relying on a theory of hawkings radiation theory (from mid 1970s) thats says micro black holes will only excist for very short time..
well bet your life on it? well thats ok if willing too scientists we all know how u go to extremes in the name of science. but dont bet my life and everybody elses,, and specially dont bet the whole world on it ., im not that interested about the start of the universe if it means an experiment like this.. im sure everyone agrees.. cant we just wait for better safer tecnology than smashing atoms!

what most of you out there proberly dont know is there are 85 nations ready to have a go on this toy,, each with there own experiments of who knows what.,for years to come just to frieghting to think about., and there are plans in the near future (if there is one) to make this thing bigger and even more powerful..
also a thought,., why has usa money gone into this too but not built in there country,obviously they dont trust it. and why is it built underground if its surpose to be safe?

This LHC is not like any other partical/atom smasher it is far more dangerous and powerful
These experiment just arnt worth it. . i think its been everybodies dread that some day scientist will try this kind of dangerous experiment like this i cant beleive our goverments of 10 yrs ago surported this and our goverments of today are still going along with it., and the law ,where is the human rights this is the biggest human right violation ever to exist. its threating our very existance ,, and what for just abit of knowlage? goverments and law dont let these scientist blind u with equations and telling u its safe.,, its obviously not safe to mess with these most dangerous forces of nature.in the universe.
KICK OFF THIS WEDSDAY 10 TH SEPTEMBER., THEY SWITCH IT ON .,800AM someone stop this!

38. Guess Who - September 6, 2008

James, I’m fascinated.

You are implicitly assuming that “scientists” (particle physicists really) are suicidal madmen who wouldn’t hesitate to kill themselves, their own families and everybody else just in order to run a particular experiment, although the ensuing End Of The World will obviously prevent them from actually experiencing the experiment being run.

I wonder where this bizarre image of “scientists” came from. I can understand “stuffy, arrogant nerds”, even “parasitic jerks”, but suicidal madmen?!?

39. Fred - September 6, 2008

“… and its suddenly crept up on us”

James, you missed your calling as a writer for the RNC. But have no fear, if your comic book visions come to fruition you won’t have to worry about paying the bills after GW’s “suicidal madmen” unleash their fatal atoms. This should give you the perfect opportunity to blow your life savings this weekend with peace of mind. No matter the results, you have the comfort of knowing that your personal molecular structure will never escape the physical universe as we know it. Too bad, but you’re about 40 years too late to be a candidate for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test bus tour. On a more serious note, I have read several accounts of LHC scientists receiving death threats. Incredible.

40. Guess Who - September 6, 2008

Death threats? Now I’m totally confused.

Suicidal Madman: When this here partical exelorator lights up, my dream will finally come true. I’ll be so dead!

Concerned Layman: You madman, I’ll kill you!

Suicidal Madman: Thanks!

41. Roadmap and links to broadcasts of the September 10th event « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - September 8, 2008

[…] if we have to die, let us see how it is going to happen in some detail. First of all, you might want to check the […]

42. adventfred - September 8, 2008

2 days guys maybe this is how god wants us to die then he will take whoever has to go to heaven

43. changcho - September 10, 2008

If it really will be the end of the world, then as long as James and jtankers pray really hard it’ll be Ok…

44. oh-oh - September 10, 2008

what will the terrorizers do if they get a hold of this giant collider? huh? how long before “build your own hadron collider in a suitcase” plans start showing up on the world wide internets? this is bad news. what are you going to do when osama has a black hole pointed at your town? damned swiss should stick to making toblerone!

45. dorigo - September 10, 2008

Oh-oh, that’s brilliant! A hadron-collider suitcase. I should like to complement that with a pixel detector watch and a miniature plug-in Cockroft-Walton for higher performance.

And then, armed with my terrible weapon, I would be free to aim it at mosquitos and FRY them. Buahahahahaha!

46. adi - September 11, 2008

14 billion years ago, big bang begin occurs on small matterial (coin), same as in september 2008 (coin), the big bang will be back again, whole can be destroy, TO STOP LHC!!

47. dorigo - September 11, 2008

Dear adi, the fact you know that the big bang occurred 14 billion years ago is a result of scientific investigations. Do you realize you would not be able to start your sentence, talk about big bang, and anything else, had we not been experimenting to find scientific truth through rational investigations ?

Why do you people need to get in the situation of needing hadrotherapy before you can realize that science can do a lot of good to your life ?

Cheers,
T.

48. adventfred - September 12, 2008

yes science does good just look at the movie i am legend we did that good !!!!!hooray for science


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