BBC BLOGS - Today: Tom Feilden
« Previous | Main | Next »

The end of the world is not nigh

Tom Feilden | 07:29 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

cern203.jpgDon't panic!

The world is not going to end when scientists switch on the Large Hadron Collider (the giant atom smashing machine buried under the Swiss Alps) on Wednesday. That's the verdict of an exhaustive safety assessment.

Some scientists have voiced fears that switching on the LHC could trigger a black hole that would swallow the planet (and the rest of the solar system for good measure) in a matter of minutes. Led by a German chemist, Otto Rossler, they're using the European Convention on Human Rights to try and block the launch - which is due to be covered live on the Today programme.

The LHC is the biggest and most complex scientific instrument ever built, and at £4.4bn, it's also one of the most expensive experiments in history. It's designed to smash together beams of protons travelling at nearly the speed of light triggering a massive release of energy....so massive that it will recreate the conditions that existed in the universe just a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

Physicists hope the results could help solve some of our most fundamental questions about the nature of the material world, reveal the secrets of dark matter, and even point the way to a theory of everything.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions


Today's report provides the most comprehensive assessment on the safety of the project to date. It shows that the LHC almost certainly will produce microscopic black holes (perhaps at a rate as high as one every second) but that these will be so small and unstable that they vanish as quickly as they form.

The scientists point to the evidence from cosmic rays, which regularly produce much more powerful particle collisions than the LHC as they bombard the earth....and we haven't been swallowed by a black hole yet.

For more information on the LHC go to Radio 4's Big Bang website.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    On the LHC's own website, which is still up, (see http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html)
    It says:
    'According to the well-established properties of gravity, described by Einstein’s relativity, it is impossible for microscopic black holes to be produced at the LHC.'
    It then goes on to say that speculative theories suggest that mini black holes could be formed, but will immediately evaporate. It is quite a long way from this position to the report today, reported by Tom Feiden above, that 'It shows that the LHC almost certainly will produce microscopic black holes'.
    If the scientists (or their public relations people) can change their minds and give out contradictory pieces of information on their own official sites, what does this communicate to lay people and supine people?
    I'm not particularly scared but I am irritated. I can't help thinking back to the situation at the first A-bomb test when some scientists wondered whether it might catch the atmosphere alight - but they did it anyway.

  • Comment number 2.

    Physicists do not understand the limitations of empirical science. They should not be entrusted with a risk assessment of this importance.
    The main plank of the legal argument that this is safe is completely flawed. The conditions in this experiment are not the same as for cosmic ray/particle events which they say have been happening safely and with which they have been compared in the official risk assessment. For one thing, the cosmic particles are in free fall under a weak gravitational force and are effectively not in a force field. The particles in LHC are under a variety of intense magnetic fields, bombarded by photons of electromagnetic character absent from similar collisions in space. Secondly the large cosmic partcle collisions take place in a low density enviroment far away from other matter, whereas these take place surrounded by metal and within the earth's crust. Both of these parameters could introduce unknown particles and forces ( eg 1000% more gloun influnce for example). Thus to say that this experiment will be safe is completely reckless. The cosmic particle comparison is disastrously flawed.
    How dangerous could this be?
    If conditions are similar to a mini big bang but with an unexpected twist, unexpected events could occur.
    Examples:
    1) a singularity in space time is formed. Our region of the universe collapses.
    2) time reverses and a big crunch is initiated.
    3) a supernova like event is triggered.
    4) a local event is triggered such as a meltdown of France/Switzerland/the Alps
    5) An intense electromagnetic catastrophe is triggered leading to an event similar to a neutron bomb explosion.
    6) The production of a new type of radiation could occur, poisoning the planet and our atmosphere far more than acid rain.
    The probability of these events cannot be scientifically predicted. The naive glee of Physicists with a new toy is being allowed to risk the destruction of life on this planet.
    Mark Jones (Science teacher and Philosophy graduate)

  • Comment number 3.

    Surely there is some conflict of interest - the small cabal of physicists who actually understand this beast are not going to readily admit that it might blow up the Universe - they are all far too excited anyway. If it was any other risky escapade in any other sector of society people unconnected with it would do the safety report, however all the particle physicists in the World ( with a couple of exceptions ) are involved in this one and positively bursting for it to go ahead. We just have to trust their unbiased judgement.
    I have also read that Hawking radiation ( that causes black holes to disapear) has never actually been witnessed, is an unproven theory, and is not universally accepted. Having learnt that there is the theoretical possibility of a black hole coming into existence every second ( when previously this was denied ) I feel somewhat uneasy, abit like when we invaded Iraq.

  • Comment number 4.

    The biggest problem with scientists is that they seldom believe they are ever wrong and quickly sweep it under the carpet when proven so. On a personal note I don't have a problem with taking risks, even very big ones, on my own behalf; but it is so wrong for an elitist band to make a decision on behalf of all of us.

    Of course if we are still here the day after, we'll be told "We told you it was safe" and then they use that to justify bigger risk taking. Just like the dangerous kids game of "Chicken"

    You cannot take risk out of any equation, and "Smith" seemed to think you can. We live with risk every day, there is never a zero risk. I'd feel a little happier if they had run a risk analysis based on the actual probability rather than talk down to what they seem to think are the uneducated masses. What an arrogant lot!

  • Comment number 5.

    The point is that they don't know what will happen! Thats what scares me!
    Messing about with the unknown is especially risky on this scale!
    They are risking the whole universe!
    If we survive it is unlikely that their questions will be answered
    Probably raise more questions that will need more experiments
    Who has paid for this Cern project anyway?

  • Comment number 6.

    Surely if everything that can happen does happen then there is some universe where this will be a catastrophic event. Let's hope that it isn't this THIS universe.

  • Comment number 7.

    The idea of understanding more about the point of the creation of our universe of course is scientific but it also opens up the whole debate on being able to draw a line round our universe.In any experiment that pushes the boundaries you are going to find out some things which are unexpected.
    We have confidence in the due deligence of our scientists just as in the manhattan project. However we know that secrets exist about things that went wrong in this nuclear area in the past. Atolls that remain contaminated and army personnel who still make claims.Given that such unpredented cooperation is going on at CERN and such a large budget has somehow been assembled you have to feel that the benefits of the research will outweigh the negative impacts (what ever they are) by a large amount.
    In the sci fi book Bugz:contact which I wrote and published this week (www.thebugz.com) CERN in 2042AD is the focus of a epic adventure. It is a yarn but a lot of what goes on might have some truth.
    1) opposition to CERN by eco terrorists
    2) Yes an opening to a black hole is opened.
    3) We talk of the potential of affecting our climate by using the Nauntum world which exists beneath Quarks,Muons etc
    For me it isnt about Wednesday as much about where is the end game on this ?
    and if it is to congratulate Higgs.
    Well I think it has a bigger wider plot then that and more resource will be needed and where could it end ?
    basically us humans directing more of our own destiny like climate or curing cancer.
    In affect getting nearer to being 'the gods'.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello and i know this thing is great for research and knowledge. but i was wondering if this thing explodes will it accidentally trigger a nuclear war between russia and the united states as i do know tensions are running high right now and that would be a terrible big bang theory.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hey look on the bright side. If this thinkg takes out the planet, I get to die knowing Alistair Darling will NEVER get his hands on the inheritance tax he's waiting to collect.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why did we never detect radio signals from other civilizations in the universe ? Because every civilazation that is able to build a braodcasting service will also be able to construct a hadron colleader to end their existance.

    The mathematical proofs for harmlessness of strange matter, black holes etc may all be correct with respect to the matter being explored. But did they consider all side effects that may happen in the LHC experiments too ?

    Remember that Christopher Columbus was right assuming that he can find India sailing west. What he could not forsee was the continent of unknown America between.
    Some indians may still worry that they had been detected (and eliminated) this way.

    If you want to know what may happen, if the scientists of CERN are wrong in their assumptions about Black Holes, please ask for my thriller Atlas ohne Schweiz ( 'Globe without Switzerland', available only in German).

  • Comment number 11.

    I sincerely believe that there should be a limit to our quest to know or understand the unknown. Delving too deep in to the root of many issues like creation of life,begining or end of the world should be conciously excluded from creative persuit of human quest for knowledge. If not, undesirable consequences are more likely defeating the very purpose. For ex, if we go to the root of creation of life,reversly,the procees of death can also be understood. This will eventually open the secret to eternal living. What will happen to our planet if this happen?. The world is already paying a big price for meddling with the nature in many ways.
    The proposed LHC Collider is another major attempt to intrude in to the secret ways of nature. It is quite possible that it may trigger a major reaction regarding which scientists have no clue whatsoever. Space filled with a combustible gas will not do any harm as long as there is no spark . A tiny spark can cause total explosion irrespective of the size of the material.
    The nature of matter is not fully understood till today and I believe it will never be as long as the observer and the observed are treated as separate entities. When the two become one and the same,perhaps,it may be possible to understand. But, then, we will not be in this physical world when that state is reached. That is what Eastern philosophy say. "One in all, all in one!". This is a riddle that is as difficult as what Scientists are trying to achive in LHC. It says that ultimate or the absolute knowlede is not possible without the destruction of our present form of existance!.
    Therefore, there goes billions of dollars down the drain!.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just wondering if any contingency plans are in place, in case there is any unforeseen leakage from this experiment by way of radiation or magnetic event, that might pose a risk to aviation or anybody using critical sensitive equipment on that day?

    God help us if they get it wrong!

  • Comment number 13.

    BANGING ON BUT NOT SO BIG

    CERN is a wonderful icon for HALF the available science in the area of high energy physics and cosmology.

    There is 50+ years of brilliant science – boasting the odd Nobel Laureate – that runs counter to Big Bang, Dark Matter et al.

    As the orthodox model stumbles daily, and has to apply ever-more bizarre sticking plaster to its wounds, the Plasma (Electric) Universe with associated, self-consistent physical constructs, goes from strength to strength. It is a massive body of knowledge, that branches into rock art, mythology and mans emergence. A media feast.

    BBC – the alternative truth is out there. Your listeners and viewers deserve acquaintance with its wonders.

    ‘Plasma Universe’ http://www.plasma-universe.com/index.php/Plasma-Universe.com

    ‘Electric universe’ http://www.holoscience.com/synopsis.php

  • Comment number 14.

    I feel extremely uneasy about the LHC, but the main thing reassuring me is that surely CERN wouldn't go ahead if they knew it was likely to destroy them all, let alone the rest of the world or universe? Or are they really that blinded by the idea of their fame for potentially discovering new things?

    It is so contradictory for them to state scientific 'laws' in their safety reports yet at the same time say they expect to discover new things through the experiment - how do they know those new discoveries won't upset the entire scientific paradigm we currently understand, thus falsifying the 'laws' that they use to try to keep the fears of the rest of the world at bay.

    The human race is arrogant to think we can understand all the secrets of the universe and plain stupid to risk everything for the possibility of finding out. There is some vested interest here beyond the physicists yearning for deeper understanding of life; for funding for pure research is difficult to come by - what is it 'they' intend to use the new knowledge for? This is a dangerous technology with potentially dangerous discoveries that in the wrong hands could be used for intended mass destruction.

  • Comment number 15.

    Im afraid they will never find what happened after the "Big Bang", because there wasn't one! "In the begining, God created the Heavens and the Earth" All very controlled, and planned.
    Andrew Smith

  • Comment number 16.

    Can't stop thinking about Gordan Freeman...

  • Comment number 17.

    If the 1950s thermonuclear tests in the Pacific didn't trigger an apocalypse, it doesn't seem likely that a well-buried particle accelerator will, either.

    A more likely result of the LHC run will be uncertain, conflicting and ambiguous data. In other words, a very expensive experiment.

    But I'd rather spend money on this than on nuclear warheads.

  • Comment number 18.

    I am not a scientist, but I have been thinking about the creation of the Universe for over 40 years. My conclusions are expressed in the following:

    [This speech was deliver to Thunderbird Toastmasters on January 16, 2006 by Brian Dodd]

    Mister Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and Honored Guest.
    The Little Spark and NOT the BIG BANG

    © September, 2005 by Brian Dodd

    I believe the Universe started from a genesis power and not the Big Bang. I am going to show you my alternative theory to the current big bang theory.

    The Genesis power has no light, no heat, no gravity, no matter and is omni-present. Let us imagine a great void, but the void is filled with Genpower as I call it. The Genpower must be similar to our thought process; and has to hold all the rules of the natural universe, something like the DNA [* (pictures)] in animals. It also has to travel faster than the speed of light to be omni-present.

    To see how the Universe was started from Genpower, put the palms of your hands over your eyes. You see nothing, but after a little while you will see a small light in your mind’s eye. That is how the creation of Universe would have started. So from a little spark in the Genpower terminating in the creation of the smallest nano-grain of matter. You may ask what created the Genpower and started the spark, and I give you the same answer as Stephen Hawking [*] does about the “BIG BANG [*]”, by God.

    The Big Bang, if you do not know what that is, it is supposed to be the moment of the creation of the universe. According to Stephen Hawking and other scientists, the Big Bang started from a singularity of matter of no mass. You can read his views in his latest book “A Briefer History of Time [*]”[ABerHOT].

    The ‘Little Spark’ was more like a tare in the Genpower, and as matter began to form, the genpower began to be turned into matter, and their related properties. Which are the Stong Nuclear Force, the Weak Nuclear Force, Gravity, Electromagnetic Radiation [*]. The ER is further broken down into Radio Waves, Microwaves, Infrared Light, Visible Light, Ultraviolet Light, X-Rays and Gamma Rays [*]. As the genpower began to flow towards the 1st instance of matter, atoms, molecules, and gases; the gases started to form the 1st stars [*] and the alpha galaxy [*]. All around the universe similar tares began to happen.

    These tares began to be the start of more galaxies [*] and then the flow of the surrounding Genpower moved towards each of these galactic creation points. I think that this process is still happening at the global creation boundary. This could well be the source of the background microwave radiation that Penzias and Wilson discovered in 1965, and concurrently confirmed by Dicke and Peebles at the suggestion of Gamow.

    To see how stars are born, look at pictures of the Christmas Tree Cluster [*] from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope [*].

    Light [*] is regarded as a wave or a particle. Since it is affected by gravity, I say it is a particle, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck. By this reasoning I say that light can speed up as it approaches a gravitational source, like a galaxy, stars, or a black hole. Similarly it will slow down as it leaves the effect of a gravitational source, and in the case of the black hole [*] it cannot escape from it.

    Although, lately it has been discovered that gamma ray [*] are escaping from the black holes. [ABerHOT – Pages 76-85]

    There is a star traveling around a black hole [*] at the center of our Milky Way galaxy at 98% the speed of light, that is 182280 miles per second; now that is FAST. [ABerHOT – Pages 79]

    If you ask why are the galaxies moving away from each other, it could be the same reason that gas molecules spread themselves out in a jar or in a blown up balloon. Stars are made up of mostly Hydrogen [*] and Helium [*], which are the two lightest gases.

    The universe started by God using the Genpower, to create all the matter, energy and various forces, including the third rock from the sun. The Genpower contains all the rules of the universe, as well as our DNA and us.

    The Little Spark and NOT the BIG BANG © September, 2005 by Brian Dodd

  • Comment number 19.

    Maybe the 'Original' Big Bang was a scientific experiment that went wrong!?!?!? So they will be starting it all from scratch again, lol.

  • Comment number 20.

    I was interested in Brian Dodds long posting about 'The Little Spark NOT a Big Bang, and his reference at the end to the universe being created by 'God', Brian, lets face it, there is even less evidence of Gods existence than there is for the big bangs.

    Anyhow if things go horribly wrong on wednesday and I suddenly find myself cueing unsuccesfully to try to get through the 'Pearly Gates' Brian can at least have the satisfaction of saying ' I told you so'!

  • Comment number 21.

    I am not worried, I am tremendously excited by the prospect that our weakling compensation culture can still explore frontiers beyond which we know nothing. The human race will very likely come to an end shortly as a result of its inability to rise above our animal nature and curb our tendency to breed until all resources are exhausted and our environment is permanently destroyed. The greatest legacy we can leave behind as our gravestone will be the knowledge that we acquired and our mastery of technology. So either way, hail of X-rays extinguishing all life as a black hole devours the Earth or the discovery of something fabulous like why time only goes in one direction, either way its seeking to learn a little more that makes humans worth something above the rest of creation. This is money far better spent than on wars and I am hoping that the LHC will discover things as important as Einstein or Darwin or Newtons ideas in my lifetime. I cant wait!

  • Comment number 22.

    A commitee of experts, (the FSA) also deemed Northern Rock utterly stable and safe and utterly 'stress tested' before it collapsed.

    From listening to a lecture by the head of the ATLAS program (The LHC particle detector), this accelerator is very different from cosmic rays, and will create particles which existed only at the start of the big bang.

    She also mentions that if there are extra dimensions at the sub atomic level, i.e. that particular theory is correct, gravity would indeed become huge within the detector.

    The truth is they do not know what is about to occur, so any safety report by experts can be taken with the pinch of salt it deserves.

    They run the collisions thousands of times in search of a unlikely event, because at the quantum level the unlikely event is the one they are after to find these new particles.

  • Comment number 23.

    I look at all these Black Holes that are being found in the universe, and I wonder if they happen to be from other civilizations that had got to the advanced point we are at now.

  • Comment number 24.

    well if it does punch black holes in things would this make it the large hadron collander?!

    slightly more seriously though I hope they don't use Windows to run it or we really will be in trouble!

  • Comment number 25.

    In my totally worthless opinion, the most probable outcome by far of the LHC will be that scientific experiments will be done that produce results that defy explanation. New theories will be produced, but the only way of testing them will be to build a new accelerator that will collide particles at hitherto unimagined energy levels. These particles will not be able to go around a circular track like Cern, because their cornering won't be good enough, and an accelerator will be required that is a thousand km long, and is truly linear, so it will have to be done in space.

    And it will cost in excess of - oh - $100!

  • Comment number 26.

    The end isn't nigh - because nobody has looked at CERN's schedule for the LHC and realized that they're not going to COLLIDE particles until October. They plan to fire particles tomorrow but not collide any.

    With as much faith as I have in the Physicists who are heading this experiment up I still feel nervous. If a Black Hole or a Big Bang occur the results will be instantaneous and could , in the blink of an eye, erase us from existence. Just as easily Switzerland could be transported to the other side of the Universe(Or for that matter to another Universe). Surely if they are unsure of the results of colliding particles at these speeds then how have they measured the risk?

    I share many of Coastwalker's sentiments. I would guess that he or she doesn't have any Children, as I do, and I wouldn't share his/her levels of pessimism however. Humans are complicated creatures capable of both the atrocious and the Saintly. Why else would the word "Humane" exist. So I say keep battling to co-exist with nature (including the nature of the universe) and, as part of that existence, keep asking questions and seeking knowledge. Frankly it's in OUR NATURE.

    Rather than worry about this experiment shouldn't we be finding ways to feed and clothe ourselves without making such a disasterous impact on our environment?

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm impressed with the level of cooperation and intellect that has gone into the development of this project but I do have some serious concerns about the ethics of this project.

    What gives these scientists the right to make the only (to our knowledge based on empirical evidence to date) life bearing planet in the universe their personal laboratory? I can only assume that the vast majority of human beings on the planet have no idea of the LHC's existence, since they are too distracted trying to hang on to their own.

    When the whole planet's existence is in question, one can only assume that everyone should have a say in this experiment. If this experiment works, in the short to mid term, only the industrialized western nations will benefit, and only a tiny proportion of the populations thereof will be in a position to understand and utilize the the results. If this fails disastrously, everyone pays, and not just humans.

    Pure human arrogance as usual. Surely there are more pressing issues to solve than this which don't put the enitre biosphere and geosphere at risk (no matter how small that risk is), the solutions to which may allow us to have more (in quantity, and possibly in quality) educated minds looking into this particular problem without having to resort to such drastic means to find answers.

    Maybe this experiment should be considered as being a truly long term, inter-generational project, taking centuries to complete, and be prepared to be finally tested in deep space. At least there would be a chance that the only life bearing planet in existence (as we know it) might remain unaffected if it does go wrong.

    Nothing might happen, and I hope the minority of people opposing this experiment are wrong, but scientific assumptions have been proven wrong before, and sheer numbers of people subscribing to one stance doesn't always give that particular stance validity, no matter how educated the majority is. And in this case they are not 100% certain what will happen or, if something does happen, if they are in a position to stop it

    Cynically, at least all of humanity's problems would be "solved" in one go, which may be the only positive outcome of a disaster arising.


    If there is no Thursday, no one will know. If a far away planet was observing our earth and saw the disaster this could potentially cause, they would have no means of learning from it either. There has to be a better, more intelligent, more forward thinking way than this. For all the sense locked up in those heads designing this, it seems rather cavalier even in scientific terms if, in the worst case scenario, no one or nothing is around to say why or how it went wrong!

    The end of the dinosaurs at least left us fossils and a crater to study.

  • Comment number 28.

    There is an e- petition that the government look into the safety issues. It may be more objective than that done by CERN scientists. It went up about a month ago and was immediately spoiled by its opponents. There are about 25 real signatures so far. Please brave it and sign up.

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/LHC-CERN/

    On the web, aggressive ridicule is being used on objectors, and in the wider media we only see support for CERN. Yet most ordinary humans who know about it seem to be against it, seeing it at best as a pointless waste of resources. Strange.

    This is ongoing as increasingly high-energy experiments are planned later this year and next year. The existence of the Nobel prize also creates ulterior motives in the search for knowledge. Clever is not always good.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi timeonouhands,

    I don't really see the point. It's very much like the Monty Python's People's Front of Judea (or was it the Judean People's Front?) looking into forming a committee to free Brian from crucifixion once he was on the cross!! The petition is to be read on the 29th of April 2009. According to some scientists there might not be a time with that designation!

    Secondly, I think No.10 is more concerned about the real black hole that's formed in the UK economy at the moment to be looking into such esoteric topics seriously, and it's possible they'll use the same scientists that wrote the CERN safety report to boot (or plaigiarise one of the CERN scientist's research assistant's post-doctorate thesis on the "evidence of mass safety in the LHC" as proof!! Ah, that old chestnut!!)

  • Comment number 30.

    Thank you, finially somebody who chooses to talk sense to a nation reading a certain (not to be spoken out loud) newspaper believing that the world is about to end.
    It is a shame that those without high level physics educational qualifications believe they have the standing to take face value headlines and further argue them.

    your blog makes good reading, thank you again.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why Do It , If Its A High Risk We All Got Told At School And Eveyone Was Panicking ! Its My Birthday tomorrow Aswell !!!

  • Comment number 32.

    Yes, I too am very, very anxious about this experiment. No one - and not least the arrogant scientists whose 'toy' this is - can know what will happen if things go wrong, let alone do anything to reverse it. If there is the SLIGHTEST possibility that these 'scientists' will produce a catastrophe and destroy OUR world with their very expensive toy, why do we sit back and do nothing about it? There are billions of us and a few of them: why are we allowing this to happen if we are not happy about it? Are YOU happy that there could be no tomorrow for your family?

    Whether produced by God or not, the universe arrived via cataclysmic forces in a definite order. The toyboys are in fact reversing that order and freeing sub-atomic particles that haven't seen the light of day since the birth of time. And they have no idea what will happen if things go wrong, for sure as hell they wont be able to reverse the process.

    Doesn't that give you just the slightest cause for concern? We are dealing with forces over which we have no control. If you are concerned about this, then the time to act is NOW, before the experiments gear up to even greater ferocity in 2010.

  • Comment number 33.

    Isn't it intersting that the vast majority of posters on this page entitled "The end of the world is not nigh" are in disagreement with the LHC and think it should not go ahead.

    As the old saying goes... "chicken little only has to be right once"

    I think I'll spend the evening enjoying myself and relishing the fact I've always lived for today.

  • Comment number 34.

    Re 15;

    "In the begining, God created the Heavens and the Earth"

    Yes indeed. Using the Big Bang. And wouldn't it be great to find out more about how he did it?

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi RobLaw18,

    Regardless of what is read in the "unmentionable" tabloid, the ethics of this experiment are mainly in question.

    I personally don't read the comics, i mean tabloids, and I considered the Luddite qualities of some of the LHC's critics and the blind faith of some of it's lay supporters. But many of the questions raised are not based on the Sun's article from
    Monday, September 01, 2008 (which I assume you are referring to).

    The ethical question is thus: A small proportion of the world's population has decided to potentially risk the entire world (albeit a small, but cataclysmic possibility) and all it's inhabitants to sate their curiosity. Is this ethical and should they proceed?

    The facts are these:

    1. None of the scientists, for or against know completely what the effects of these experiments will be.

    2. The worst case scenario is considered relatively unlikely but possible.

    3. We currently only know of one planet in the entire universe with life on it....this one. If the worst case scenario does happen, it and everything on it is lost completely. Or at least until someone works out how to undo black holes (from the inside)

    Shouldn't this lead to much greater caution when considering these experiments? Shouldn't it cause you at least to pause and think about it? And shouldn't everyone be entitled to be consulted about how their home planet is being used?

    One does not have to have a degree in physics to question the ethics of this experiment and some who question the LHC's potential pitfalls have the very degrees you mention.

    I suppose you think that higher degree holding physicists have never got it wrong either? Even heavyweights like Hawking and Einstein don't agree on a few points and they can't both be completely right?! Or is that another quantum possibility too? That two mutually exclusive theories can be correct simultaneously?

    Quantum physics eh? Is there nothing it can't solve?

  • Comment number 36.

    itz the end of teh worldz lulz

  • Comment number 37.

    Tom Feilden blogs that the report "shows that the LHC almost certainly will produce microscopic black holes (perhaps at a rate as high as one every second)".

    Unless I misheard, Prof Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith thinks it unlikely that the LHC will produce any such thing. So does Stephen Hawking. So does CERN's safety report.

    The report does claim that, if microscopic black holes are produced, they will evaporate quickly, and if they don't they will accrete matter too slowly to cause a problem. So it offers a three-pronged defence on the theoretical side.

    The point is, if "don't panic" blogs such as this are going to misrepresent the scientific consensus, is it any wonder that the media at large are doing the same? Perhaps a clarification is in order.

  • Comment number 38.

    I am not a scientist, just a lowly law graduate.

    I have witnessed the human cost of this experiment. We are tonight trying to get two very distressed children to sleep. They have been subjected to whispers, rumours, discussions of imminent death, children texting others to say they will not see their friends again. My daughter has vomited three times today from the terror caused by these arrogant, heartless, greedy and selfish experimentalists. They cannot attend school tomorrow, they have not been able to attend music lessons or any other meaningful activity today, despite our attempts to reassure (not very heartfelt in any case). They are utterly distraught.

    Should so, called scientists be allowed to cause this level of distress and misery to so many, so young without being answerable?
    I would like to believe that a good number of them do not have families of their own, as I do not believe their consciences would allow them to continue with this madness.

    I may be ill-informed, I may be acting on "irrational gut-reaction" but this kind of damage is irreversible and completely unnecessary. The people responsible should be tried for crimes against humanity and certainly should not be allowed to continue with an experiment that has been funded by us unwillingly and without any proper consent.

  • Comment number 39.

    If there is the slightest doubt about the repercussions of this experiment, it should be stopped immediately.

  • Comment number 40.

    I am no scientist and i have no knowledge of anything to do with physics, but in my opinion i would like to say i do think this is wrong, what about human rights, as this seems to me that no one in this project has considered that.. IF and i say if something does go wrong and it does create a black hole and sucks the earth into it, dont you think that is a huge risk to take..
    I do feel that your excitement over finding new information is taking things a step to far in this instance, i can not abide it at all, if it was for the greater good with no risks at all then fine but there is risks, a fact you have barely denied.
    I have two children and i would like to see them grow up thanks
    So if something does go wrong , on your heads be it !

  • Comment number 41.

    these questions still remain,

    how much did this project cost and who paid for it?

    how much energy does it use and who foots the electricity bill?

    why is it necessary to know what happened at the 'theoretical' big bang?

    how do they plan to deal with the creation of a black hole or holes drawn to the centre of our planet by gravity?

    how can the experiment be allowed to
    continue when the people in charge of it cant agree on on the risks?

    why was this even built when there are 100s of children dying every day through poverty?

    all you clever folks (with or without a high level physics educational qualification) who have posted, telling us this is a worthwhile undertaking, PLEASE PLEASE answer the above questions and ease our poor uneducated minds.
    thanks in advanced you academical intelligent persons you.

  • Comment number 42.

    Seven hours...will I sleep soundly tonight? Probably not, even if all goes well the risk factor far outweighs anything else.

  • Comment number 43.

    Will we really be safe? :( i dont' want to die yet i'm scared of this.
    What happen if something bad does happen will they be able to stop it somehow and what happen if black holes don't disapear and they just get bigger?

  • Comment number 44.

    I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

    J. Robert Oppenheimer

  • Comment number 45.

    The Devil is in the detail; 10th September 2008 = 10,9,8.......

  • Comment number 46.

    Hmm, it worries me very much that people don't understand the scientific concept of 'risk' - i.e. that nothing is safe - and are spending their day worrying about an end of the world that categorically won't happen. The posters who are worrying themselves and their kids about this need to worry far more about their need to understand the science that makes their fridges, TVs, DVD players, communications and everything else work.

    Seriously, teach your kids about critical thinking, and they won't spend more than a moment or two worrying about the 'risk' from wireless networks, power lines, CERN, and all the other interestingly paranoid things people find to worry about. It doesn't take great intellect to understand why these things aren't worth worrying about, and why things like climate change are, just common sense and analytical thought processes.

  • Comment number 47.

    Before they flick the switch on this thing they need to think deeply.

    "What if something does go wrong?!"

    There are some things in this universe that God intended us not to understand, and this is one of them.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm really sorry #38, but the 'people responsible' for your children's fear is you.

    You, as an intelligent, educated person with access to the internet, can find out in minutes why CERN being switched on isn't going to affect your kids in the slightest, except in that it will probably make their future brighter, more interesting, and more comfortable.

    You could explain that experiments like CERN have directly led to the computers and mobile phones they use today.

    You could calm your childrens fear, and support them to communicate to their worried, texting, friends why they shouldn't be concerned. You could have helped ensure that they understand the world around them and understand that people in general, and scientists in particular, DO question the risks in what they are doing and make sensible decisions based on the resulting assessments.

    Instead you seem to be adding to their worries, not reducing them - as a parent you might want to consider adapting your approach.

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't remember anyone doing a vote on whether we should do this or not?

    Surely that would have been an idea!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    As expected, we are all still here.

    As to be expected, we will all be here when they actually collide some hadrons.

    Like most (if not all people) here, we don't have the knowledge or skills to be able to say exactly what will happen. However, you don't need to be a physicist to look at historical similarities, like the fact we already have been doing this at lower energies for years, fears about nuclear bombs and power destroying the universe etc etc to reasonably conclude that nothing is going to happen.

    Or, perhaps the parallel us (or several us universes) have now been destroyed and we'll carry on as though nothing happened ;).

    Either way, my prediction that we will always be here and that this message will continue to exist, it true.

    Also, I think this is truly an exciting time. Fear of knowledge and truth is a waste of energy. Has any knowledge or truth been so terrible as to not warrant it's discovery? Can we be better off not knowing something?

    Will it bring us closer to god or god particle, who knows, maybe.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    Mantramuse - should we get in touch with you or Claims Direct to sue them?

    I so hate the North American Litigeous society we've immersed ourselves in. Honestly - any excuse for you Lawyers to make a "Quick Buck" and you're on the gravy train in a "proton's circuit of the LHC!" WITH LIFE COMES WORRIES AND CONCERNS - GROW UP AND DEAL WITH THEM RATHER THAN MOANING ABOUT EMOTIONAL SCARRING!!!!

    If you want to do something really noble then go and defend the disabled children of Georgia or the opressed masses of Zimbabwe. If you're not brave enough for that then perhaps you could sue whoever texted your children!

    Sorry - rant over.

    So they've fired the first beam which has done 3 circuits. Did anyone pick up on the fact that they won't be colliding the particles 'til next month?

  • Comment number 53.

    Hi, This is my first ever blog entry - I was moved to register because I was so disappointed at most of the comments posted on what I expected to be an exciting discussion on an amazing event.
    I am not a scientist - I gave up physics after 'O' level - but I'm thankful that I can still get inspired at human endeavour in ANY field - especially a field not my own.

    Surely this is all about what it is to be human, whether in religious terms, for those who have a god, or simply in wonder at the astonishing complexity of our universe? Isn't being curious, simply wanting to understand more for its own sake, THE condition of being human - our defining characteristic?

    The scientists at CERN, who have spent their working lifetimes exploring matters beyond the capacity of most of us, deserve a more open-minded and meaningful debate, than is evidenced by most of the comments here.

    Science, like art and any other form of making sense of our lives, surely demands a capacity to wonder at the world and our place in it, and most of all, a capacity for imagination.

    I can sympathize with those who are worried by a development they don't understand, but not with an apparent desire to almost revel in willful ignorance which is built on an extremely distorted understanding of the nature of risk.

    There is no development without risk. Leaving your house today represents a far greater risk to your safety than anything happening in Switzerland. Probably, so does staying in. That isn't to say that there is no danger, simply that it has been calculated, by people good at sums, to be vanishingly small. Let's have a little trust and keep it in perspective.

    Of course those scientists and engineers have children, and probably grandchildren, and are inspired and by the beauty and complexity of our world - quite possibly more than many of us in more mundane jobs. Their stake in the world is the same as all of ours.

    Arguably, the BBC does more than any other British institution to foster that same sense of wonder and joy at all aspects of our lives, and to make its expression accessible to us all. Its coverage of today's events is terrific; the excitement is palpable.

    How ironic that this blog, such an opportunity to reflect the excitement felt by insiders and observers alike, as well as a forum for informed debate, should become a litany of naysayers and prophets of doom.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi, This is my first ever blog entry - I was moved to register because I was so disappointed at most of the comments posted on what I expected to be an exciting discussion on an amazing event.
    I am not a scientist - I gave up physics after 'O' level - but I'm thankful that I can still get inspired at human endeavour in ANY field - especially a field not my own.

    Surely this is all about what it is to be human, whether in religious terms, for those who have a god, or simply in wonder at the astonishing complexity of our universe? Isn't being curious, simply wanting to understand more for its own sake, THE condition of being human - our defining characteristic?

    The scientists at CERN, who have spent their working lifetimes exploring matters beyond the capacity of most of us, deserve a more open-minded and meaningful debate, than is evidenced by most of the comments here.

    Science, like art and any other form of making sense of our lives, surely demands a capacity to wonder at the world and our place in it, and most of all, a capacity for imagination.

    I can sympathize with those who are worried by a development they don't understand, but not with an apparent desire to almost revel in willful ignorance which is built on an extremely distorted understanding of the nature of risk.

    There is no development without risk. Leaving your house today represents a far greater risk to your safety than anything happening in Switzerland. Probably, so does staying in. That isn't to say that there is no danger, simply that it has been calculated, by people good at sums, to be vanishingly small. Let's have a little trust and keep it in perspective.

    Of course those scientists and engineers have children, and probably grandchildren, and are inspired and by the beauty and complexity of our world - quite possibly more than many of us in more mundane jobs. Their stake in the world is the same as all of ours.

    Arguably, the BBC does more than any other British institution to foster that same sense of wonder and joy at all aspects of our lives, and to make its expression accessible to us all. Its coverage of today's events is terrific; the excitement is palpable.

    How ironic that this blog, such an opportunity to reflect the excitement felt by insiders and observers alike, as well as a forum for informed debate, should become a litany of negativity from naysayers and prophets of doom. The day deserves better!

  • Comment number 55.

    Sorry everyone - pressed the 'go' button accidentally before I'd finished the last sentence.

    Good job I'm not in a position of responsibility...

    Have a wonderful day, and lots of them!

  • Comment number 56.

    The only good news is that France will be sucked in first :-) Good luck all at CERN

  • Comment number 57.

    I think some clarification is necessary here: Firstly, this will in all probability not produce any black holes; and secondly, if it does, they will disappear without causing any alarm whatsoever. We know this because the Earth is bombarded with cosmic rays every day which collide into the atmosphere with far greater energy than what is being generated in this experiment. The only difference here is that we can observe it. Consequently, if a collision of this nature was dangerous, we would have already been affected by one of the countless natural ones which have occurred regularly throughout the existence of our planet.

  • Comment number 58.

    The only real tangible fact that seems to be emerging from all of this, is that the CERN experiments are causing an increasing amount of unnecessary stress and worry.

    As technology becomes more advanced we seem to move backwards in moral terms. The world can only be made a better place by accepting the gift of nature and working with it. Curiosity is healthy but not when it is at the expense of causing everyone else pain (albeit mental pain at the moment).

    I urge everyone who feels this pain to do something about it. I have written to my MP for example.

    Even if we get lucky with CERN, what else is around the corner?

    The world leaders and scientific community have failed in their duty to respect mankind. The media is however doing its job (thanks BBC), I just hope it's not too late!

  • Comment number 59.

    Well we have got through the first few days
    there is an amusing Blog at The Filter which you might like to look at :

    http://blog.thefilter.com/index.php/2008/09/10/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-i-feel-fine/

  • Comment number 60.

    >> Well we have got through the first few days

    Yes but they haven't done the collision test yet!

    It may not end the world but then again....

    Do you want to take the chance?

  • Comment number 61.

    Hi everybody,

    Two things;

    I have heard the Hawking radiation theory is controversial and has not been proven. If not true, does this mean a mini black hole could continue to exist, grow and eventually gobble up the Earth?

    I have also heard that any mini black holes that may have been created by high energy cosmic rays in the past would have got such a whack they would fly off into outer space never to be seen again. (good for us) However, mini black holes created at Cern would not be travelling fast enough to escape the Earth's gravitational field. (oh dear!)

    It was conjectured by the reporter(live coverage program) that Stephen Hawking might get a Nobel Prize if his theory works out.

    If his theory didn't work out - would he be up for an end-of-the-world prize?

    Is 10 billion Euros good value for a black hole?

    If time travel were possible (in say a million years)Why hasnt anybody from the future come back to visit us? - unless we are all dead of course.

    Doesnt the word experiment imply ignorance?

    Here s hoping for a nice outcome

    best wishes
    lowenergylightbulb


  • Comment number 62.

    Do you want to take the chance?

    i for sure wouldnt wanna take the chance its too risky and doesnt bear thinking about ....!!!

  • Comment number 63.

    like many others i am very worried about this....
    i have been literally worried sick by it all, not sleeping very well and im terrified of what the outcome might be!!!

    i sincerely hope that my fears are an irrational fear and to be honest i'm 27 next august n hope to see my 27th bday now im worried i wont make it!!!!

    Maybe that's going a bit far,but that's how frightened i am!!-my worries/thoughts usally are "i wonder how my family n friends are" and just the general stuff what us girls fret about !!

    now its "what if the experiment goes awfully wrong and thus a black created and decides to eat the earth whole?"

    i have a wonderful family and lots of brill friends and i swore i'd always stand by them no matter what how on earth (no pun intended there btw am i supposed to protect them from a black whole in the earth???

    even tho to the scientists my opinon probably counts for nothing as im just a mere mortal , a grain of sand in the whole universe, i sincerely hope they see sense and realise what danger this project could actually bring?

    and yes i do believe that it comes down to human rights because yes we do have the right to life and these scientists are risking it as we speak!!!!

    and u cant put a price on human life even if it is to the sum $10billion


  • Comment number 64.

    Scientists say there is a very low chance of black holes being created. HOW HIGH DOES A CHANCE HAVE TO BE BEFORE IT'S SIGNIFICANT? How high does the chance have to be before you say 'this is too great a risk'? Surely if the existence of our universe is at stake, the risk is too great as soon as it exceeds zero, as soon as black holes being created is at all possible.

    The people at CERN and its supporters are PUTTING HUMAN KNOWLEDGE OF OUR UNIVERSE BEFORE THE SAFETY OF OUR UNIVERSE.

    They say the human race needs to innovate to survive and that this experiment is a possible way to innovate, but seeing as there's a chance the world will be destroyed in the process shouldn't we save this experiment until the human race is in desperate need of innovation?

  • Comment number 65.

    As we're looking at the structures of atoms will we discover how to make even deadlier weopons than we have already, thus bringing those weopons into existence? After all, if we had never found out about nuclear energy then surely the atomic bomb, which has killed horrific numbers of people, would never have been created.

    I am very worried about the collisions on October 10th.

  • Comment number 66.

    There are so many of us who don't want the collision at CERN to go ahead on the 10th October. But it's no good just posting these blogs.

    It's possible to stop the collision going ahead but only if we UNITE.

    Does anyone know an easy way of broadcasting our view to the nation? Once we've done that I think the best thing to do would be to organise a proper petition or vote - one which is easy for those who don't want the collision to happen to support. But this needs to be done quickly.

    We need to show Downing Street how strongly we feel about this and force them to take action.

    Please post any ideas or comments you have.

  • Comment number 67.

    Just a thought here:

    To those of you who are dead set against the LHC... how much research have you actually done? Have any of you looked into the theory and mechanics behind the experiment? Or even looked anywhere beyond the media? If not; do so. Trust me, it will be enlightening. Notice how there are many people on here complaining about what CERN is doing (and using the arguments from tabloid scaremongering basically verbatim), against a handful of people trying to explain what is actually happening. Before adopting a position n something like this, be sure to get all the information...

    And to those of you who complained at the stress - I, personally, lay the blame for that squarely on tabloid journalism and scaremongering. All kids will have been told is that there is a 'black hole machine' that could kill us all (or so my experience has been), and that is just irresponsibility on the part of the person telling them.

    Also; hey look, we're still not dead yet. This reminds me of the millennium, and the crowds of people crying that the year 2000 would herald the end of the world. Only this time, there is something to latch on to (stopping the LHC)...

  • Comment number 68.

    >> how much research have you actually done?

    I have, and their Risk Assesment is a joke! Much of it is based on predictions and modelling. There are also many dubious comparisons. Very little is based on hard fact derived from previous experiments.

    The main reason for carrying out the tests is to see what will happen. If they were that sure they knew what would happen they wouldn't have needed to perform the tests.


    If you want to do somthing about it lobby your MP (I did and I still have no response!).

  • Comment number 69.

    The energies that the LHC will be exploring is still less than what we are bombarded with everyday from Gamma rays. The universe seems pretty stable, so it is unlikely that the LHC will cause any instability.

    Obviously they are going into unexplored territory with their tests and they are hoping to discover something new, but this fear people have is the same as in Columbus' day. You are going to sail right off the edge of the earth. Don't do it!

    If the universe hasn't destroyed itself yet, and nature is far more powerful than we are, then it's safe to say that we're not going to destroy anything more than just ourselves. But it won't be from the LHC.

 

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.