Hey all –
Read a fascinating article in the New York Times yesterday about a lawsuit two men have brought against the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN). It seems the plaintiffs are concerned that once it comes online CERN’s Large Hadron Collider–built to smash protons in hopes of recreating energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang–might accidentally create a tiny black hole that could swallow the Earth, or spit out a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of “strange matter.”
While the scientists are convinced that this won’t happen the fact that they have done some calculations to consider the possibility is a bit unsettling. It reminds me of that bet that two of the scientists on the Manhattan Project made just before the first test detonation of the a-bomb that the explosion would ignite the Earth’s atmosphere, killing everything on the planet.
The article does touch on some of the philosophical and ethical issues around estimating the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.
You can find the whole article here.