Have We Finally Built
The Doomsday Machine?
By James Donahue
Scientists for the Fermilab
and CERN laboratory in Europe have nearly finished building a massive Hadron Collider near
the French-Swiss border that some physicists worry may have the potential of destroying the world.
There is so much concern
that the builders of the machine are facing litigation in federal court that attempts to stop anyone from ever trying to use
it. Plans are to startup the collider later this year.
It is called a collider
because the machine is designed to conduct high-energy particle collisions, thus helping scientists understand such mysteries
as how the universe was formed, the nature of dark matter, black holes and whether other dimensions exist.
The case in Hawaii’s US District Court has been filed by Walter Wagner, a
former nuclear safety officer and Luis Sancho, who worry that when the machine starts smashing protons together it might produce
a black hole that will consume the earth, and maybe our solar system.
Wagner and Sancho argue
that scientists at the European Center
for Nuclear Research, or CERN, might also produce something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet
into a dense, dead ball of “strange matter,” or create massive particles that start a runaway reaction converting
atoms into other forms of matter.
The giant Hadron Collider
will, when completed, be capable of achieving some amazing things. Physicists from around the world have spent 14 years and
$8 billion constructing the machine designed to recreate energies and conditions believed to have occurred a trillionth of
a second after the Big Bang.
Researchers say they
want to create this effect, then examine the debris for clues to the nature of mass and new forms of nature. They say deadly
doomsday chain reactions as described by Wagner and Sancho are unlikely, but they may be asked in court to prove it before
they ever get a chance to operate this machine.
The lawsuit charges that CERN has failed to provide an environmental
impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The court is asked to issue a temporary restraining
order that would put the operation of the accelerator on hold until a full environmental review can be completed, including
answers to the questions of a potential doomsday scenario.
While the case sounds bizarre, it is a serious issue that has concerned
scientists and scholars for several years. The issue is how too estimate the risk of groundbreaking experiments like this,
and how to decide if they can be conducted safely, without putting a lot of people, and perhaps the entire world, in jeopardy.
We recall similar concerns expressed among scientists during production
of the first atomic bomb. The worry then was that the splitting of atoms of plutonium to produce such a massive explosion
might cause a chain reaction that would consume the entire world, turning it into a second sun.
Because the debate occurred behind closed doors, during the dark
days of World War II, the public had no knowledge of the bomb or concerns as to any possible danger associated with that first