CERN’s LHC is making the news again as the project runs into yet another snag. With the program about to go back online after two failed attempts to find the boson or “god” particle, workers at CERN were shocked to find that a bird had dropped a bit of baguette into the $10 billion machine earlier today. Had the machine been activated without removing the obstruction it would have gone into “shut-down mode.”
CERN has been met with criticism, although it is also one of very few final steps toward finding the “god” particle that could bring about a new golden age. But the program has been met with some stiff opposition. Some say the device, if activated would create a black hole that would eventually destroy the entire universe. Another group of scientists have suggested that the LHC is causing a time shift of “bad luck” that will stop the program from going online, so the future can save itself. Although if black holes as theoretical objects do exist elsewhere in the universe, why were they not stopped by the same reverse time flux? Regardless, it seems even the birds are against the LHC these days. A lawsuit was filed against the program earlier this year, and a website is currently up where people post their concerns for the program, both based in science and fiction. Perhaps, then, it’s necessary to take a serious look at the pros and cons of the LHC in practical terms.
First, when dealing with the LHC, we have to understand exactly what it’s doing. Essentially, conditions within the machine are set just right so they are similar to the conditions of the universe when the big bang happened. Data collected from this machine will be as important to science as Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiment. With this information, mankind may finally unlock the secrets to free energy or improved methods of space travel and planet colonization. Essentially, there’s a very understandable reason nations across the world have banded together to put this device together and spend tens of billions of dollars doing it.
The LHC won’t be doing anything that doesn’t happen elsewhere in the cosmos, it will just be observing these conditions and collecting data. Based on an understanding of the math behind black holes, the chances of one caused by the LHC enveloping earth are about the same as one spontaneously appearing out of nowhere for no discernable reason. And that hasn’t happened in the entirety of this planet’s history so it seems we’ll be okay.
Strangelets are another concept that have gotten quite a bit of media attention. The fear of a dangerous strangelet is that it will convert everything it touches into “strange” matter, eventually touching all matter on Earth. This is unlikely, however, as the RHIC in Brookhaven hasn’t created such a particle, though it would be far more likely to do so. The Brookhaven Collider has been working for years without destroying the world, and therefore this scenario seems unlikely. In addition, the strange matter created in the LHC would be comparable to Cosmic Ray strange matter which Earth interacts with all the time.
The real question becomes why is the LHC having such a hard time? It’s one of the first major scientific tests to have major publicity as well as a long waiting period where no one knows exactly what will happen when it goes off. It’s hyped up to the point that several will likely be disappointed when it doesn’t swallow the earth. Still, there’s no need to worry. Between recent activity in the Yellowstone Caldera and the mysterious behavior of the sun in recent years there are plenty more doomsday scenarios far more credible to go around, and without disrupting a major scientific breakthrough. These interruptions in CERN‘s research, however, are for the birds.