As we draw closer to the official “switching on” of the Large Hadron Collider, the mainstream media is increasingly running stories on the possibility of the destruction of the universe. A quick summary:
- Are we all going to die next Wednesday? – The Daily Mail
- Scientists get death threats over Large Hadron Collider – The Telegraph
- Large Hadron Collider will not turn world to goo, promise scientists – The Times
- End of the world due in nine days – The Sun
I can see the appeal of such stories. EARTH SUCKED INTO BLACK HOLE!!! is an impressive headline, and sure to shift a few newspapers. Unfortunately for editors, it’s just not going to happen. The LHC Safety Assessment Group have reviewed the dangers and found that there are “no reasons for concern.”
The LHC is the largest particle accelerator ever built, but that doesn’t mean that the collisions within it have never taken place before. In fact, cosmic rays have been colliding in the Earth’s atmosphere for billions of years, and have already generated the equivalent of a million LHC experiments. As you have probably notice, the planet still exists. Staggeringly, more than 10 million million – that’s 10,000,000,000,000 – LHC-like experiments are conducted every second across the universe.
The same goes for microscopic blank holes, which the media believe could sink to the centre of the Earth and consume us all. If that were true, it would have already happened, either here or else where in the universe. The continued existence of dense bodies such as neutron stars rules out this possibility, as they would attract “natural” microscopic black holes and be destroyed. Other exotic phenomena such as strangelets (hypothetical lumps of “strange matter”), vacuum bubbles and magnetic monopoles have also failed to occur during cosmic ray collision, so they’re ruled out as well.
All of these occurrence are what I mentally lump into the “too interesting to actually happen” category. They join things like alien invasions, teleportation and mind-reading. When you can make a decent sci-fi flick out of the concept, it probably isn’t going to happen.
So, why isn’t this being communicated by the majority of the mainstream media? The legal case filled by the likes of Professor Otto Rössler probably doesn’t help. Rössler, along with other scientists, submitted their case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the LHC violates the rights to life and private family life which are provided under the European Convention of Human Rights. “Look,” says the media. “Even the boffins think this collider thingy will blow up the world. Someone stop the mad scientists!”
I have to wonder how many retractions will be printed come next Wednesday, when newspapers find that their offices are still around. Somewhere between none and zero, I reckon. The event will be ignored by the public at large, many of whom will say “oh, they just got lucky,” and continue to believe scientists will destroy us all.