Pharyngula

It’s the nature of these things to trivialize. Yet again, media hysteria fuels the absurd fear that flipping a switch in Switzerland will Destroy The World…and they’re running a poll to let non-physicists guess at the risks. This one has two polls: “Is the gaint[sic] particle smasher worth the risk?” and “Which do you think is more likely to destroy the world? Human actions or natural disaster?”

Go ahead, vote. Everyone’s opinion is of equal value in matters of nuclear physics.

Comments

  1. #1 alex
    June 30, 2008

    how does one smash a “gaint particle”?

  2. #2 MarshallDog
    June 30, 2008

    For the collider question, I wanted to answer, “What risk?” and for the second question I wanted to answer, “Human actions leading to ignorance of natural disaster” but for some reason they didn’t have those answers.

  3. #3 Matt Penfold
    June 30, 2008

    I think those who files the suite in Hawaii have a worse understanding of geography than they do of physics. Anyone who thinks a court in the US has jurisdiction over France or Switzerland clearly has deep problems on the intellectual level.

  4. #4 Patches
    June 30, 2008

    This is what you get from the “if I can imagine it, it must be valid” understanding of science held by an an alarming number of people. These people are why things like ice canopies and hydrological sorting aren’t immediately laughed off the table.

    “Gosh, those scientists are so stupid that they haven’t figured out in decades what a guy at a computer thought up in two seconds, and they need ME to tell them how wrong they are!”

  5. #5 Glen Davidson
    June 30, 2008

    Um, yeah, our accelerators are going to make black holes that eat up the entire earth, while extremely powerful cosmic rays do not.

    I’d relate this to B. Stein’s stupid statement: “…Science kills people.” Apparently it has the magical powers that religion lacks.

    And the polls are too dumb for me to want to vote in them. All we really know is that if we don’t destroy civilization, a supervolcano will at some point (unless we learn how to control them). And we are a force of nature, which is not so important to the false dilemma (I could use their definition for that either-or question), as to point out that nature and “natural humanity” may conspire to wreck the world together.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  6. #6 the PC apeman
    June 30, 2008

    “World” is ambiguous in the destruction question. I suspect they meant the end human existence and not the disintigration the planet or the universe. I doubt human actions could accomplish the latter two – the more direct meanings.

  7. #7 Chris
    June 30, 2008

    Is a “Whoops, we weren’t expecting *that*!” outcome so unlikely?

  8. #8 Sigmund
    June 30, 2008

    I voted against the LHC.
    It’s not that I think there’s a real risk of global destruction, but lets face it, it employs lots of engineers and physicists so its bound to be a nest of creationists!

  9. #9 Greg
    June 30, 2008

    The poll really isn’t specific enough. I don’t think humans will destroy the world. We may make it inhabitable for ourselves, but it will still be here. I am torn how to answer that question, because it is obviously related to to LHC and climate change denialism.

  10. #10 Canuck
    June 30, 2008

    I don’t want to answer because the questions are biased to start with. Take the first one: “Is the gaint particle smasher worth the risk?” How do you answer that? What risk? I don’t think there’s any risk at all, so the question isn’t valid from my point of view. You might ask “Is it worth the money?”, but that’s kind of hard to answer in any meaningful way.

    And for the second one:
    “Which do you think is more likely to destroy the world?”
    The answers are: Natural disaster or Human actions.

    I don’t quite know what they mean by “destroy the world”, so that’s a problem right off the mark. But if we take it to mean “wipe out the human race”, which is what these anthropocentric types probably mean, then I’d have to answer “Human actions”, but definitely NOT this collider. It’s going to be other shit we do to foul our nest, and we’ll likely take down a lot of other species before we finally poison ourselves.

    But then, polls don’t do very well at considering nuance, do they.

  11. #11 Capital Dan
    June 30, 2008

    WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

    I saw this in a movie on the SciFi channel once. I think they open a black hole, and a monster comes out and destroys annoys St. Louis.

    I think there may have been a tornado involved.

    But, it was bad! The mess was incredible, and…

    Ack! Nevermind.

  12. #12 Schmeer
    June 30, 2008

    I took the word “destroy” to mean completely and utterly obliterate. Since we have nothing to rival a Vogon constructor fleet, I would say the sun is most likely to “destroy” the Earth.

  13. #13 Mena
    June 30, 2008

    The world may be ending but at least julia4u2010 got her free gas card in time.

  14. #14 MartinM
    June 30, 2008

    Is a “Whoops, we weren’t expecting *that*!” outcome so unlikely?

    How on earth are we supposed to quantify the likelihood of unknown outcomes? The best we can do is evaluate the known possibilities, and make our decision on that basis.

  15. #15 RickD
    June 30, 2008

    Since people are asking what the risk is, I thought I’d elaborate.

    There is a slim, but non-negligible, probability that if the particle accelerator generates too much energy, it will open a rift to an alternate dimension.

    At which point we will be invaded by evil, goatee-wearing humans bent on our destruction.

    Fear the Goatee!

  16. #16 Nick Tacik
    June 30, 2008

    Claim by scientist supported by evidence, and well-reserached theory: “You scientists are so elitist!”

    Claim by crackpot with no supporting evidence or theory: “He must be right!! The world is doomed”

    I really don’t get why people are so stupid.

  17. #17 Celtic_Evolution
    June 30, 2008

    “speeding through a vaccuum that is colder and emptier than outer space”

    Ohhhh… I like that one. Why not follow it up by stating that the resulting explosion will be hotter than the color of thought. :S

  18. #18 Jason
    June 30, 2008

    The result is depressing –

    No 61%
    Yes 39%

  19. #19 JJR
    June 30, 2008

    I nominate the name “Gaint Particle” for the next big discovery in subatomic physics to come out of this particular supercolider, as a joke referencing this stupid poll.

  20. #20 rob
    June 30, 2008

    i think george carlin put it well:

    imagine how dumb the average person is. by definition, half the population is even dumber.

  21. #21 Ed_CO
    June 30, 2008

    Anyone who knows anything knows that it is a 100% certainty that in a few billion years the sun will expand and cook the earth to a cinder. And even if we move the earth in a couple hundred billion (or trillion?) years not even white dwarfs will be outputting any heat. So obviously everyone will answer “Natural Disasters” will destroy the earth right?

  22. #22 Feynmaniac
    June 30, 2008

    Go ahead, vote. Everyone’s opinion is of equal value in matters of nuclear physics

    I agree PZ. Physics has been run by a dictator of reason for the last three centuries and what has it produced? Classical mechanics, Maxwell’s equations, relativity and quantum mechanics. pffff…

    It is time to liberate physics and spread democracy throughout the sciences. For far too long science has been run by “experts” who do “experiments” and make “theories”. That’s elitist. Now it will be done by popular vote.

    Does entropy always increase in an isolated system? Can a particle be described by a complex wave function whose square represents probability amplitudes? Will a “gaint” particle accelerator create a small black hole that will destroy the world despite the fact that all particle physics think this is extremely unlikely and even if created the micro black will likely evapoate via Hawking radiation?

    The voters will decide.

  23. #23 Glen Davidson
    June 30, 2008

    I would say that if there were a meaningful risk to the world in building the Large Hadron Collider, public input would be not only reasonable, but should decide the matter.

    This, though, is more like the psychic who “saw” that a man was molesting a girl whose name starts with “V”. Worthless.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  24. #24 Nick Gotts
    June 30, 2008

    At which point we will be invaded by evil, goatee-wearing humans bent on our destruction.

    I think this may have happened already… only the neocons cheated by shaving off their goatees!

  25. #25 J
    June 30, 2008

    I think this may have happened already… only the neocons cheated by shaving off their goatees!
    Notice that you choose neocons instead of Islamic fundamentalists. Just as usual, of course.

    See, you want to have it both ways. You want to persist with these cheap tricks while reserving the right to howl misrepresentation when confronted over them.

  26. #26 xebecs
    June 30, 2008

    I saw this in a movie on the SciFi channel once. I think they open a black hole, and a monster comes out and destroys annoys St. Louis.

    Damn, and they just got a new public library.*

    *Tags: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Steve Martin, Terre Haute

  27. #27 Jams
    June 30, 2008

    This dovetails with a recent post about where science blogging is going and issues around adding weight to information.

    Like democracy, and polls, and the like, everyone’s opinion is more or less treated equally. Clearly, we live in a world where all opinions are not equal.

    What’s one to do when democracy is stupid, and experts are not to be trusted? I’m open to alternate ideas. Anyone heard of any?

  28. #28 Chris
    June 30, 2008

    I think the reason people might not be convinced about the safety of all of this is because the scientists love to boast about how powerful the collider is, yet they repeatedly say that this is completely unknown territory and they have no idea what is going to happen.

    Being told that the destruction of the universe is “unlikely” isn’t too comforting to John Q Citizen.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    June 30, 2008

    Do we know when exactly this thing is going on line?

    Is this linked to Zimmer and Plait’s five oclock event?

  30. #30 Azkyroth
    June 30, 2008

    Apparently these dipshits think the Doom series has significant predictive value. I say we never let them live that down.

  31. #31 Dahan
    June 30, 2008

    Define “destroy” please…

  32. #32 No One of Consequence
    June 30, 2008
    After all these years of comic books promising us this fate, we finally have AUTHENTIC EVIL SCIENTISTS out to destroy the world.
  33. #33 MrQhuest
    June 30, 2008

    I stumbled across this a while ago. It seems somehow relevant.

    http://qntm.org/?destroy

    How to destroy the Earth. Not just civilization, or humans, or the biosphere, but the Whole Thing.

    MrQhuest

  34. #34 Jonsi
    June 30, 2008

    I’m confused…72% claim human actions will end the world. I thought 40% of people believed the end of the world will happen with the second coming of Jesus. So is the poll suggesting that particle accelerators are the equivalent of the Tower of Babel? That would explain why physicists speak in tongues around pretty girls.

  35. #35 JY
    June 30, 2008

    I think this may have happened already… only the neocons cheated by shaving off their goatees!

    Notice that you choose neocons instead of Islamic fundamentalists. Just as usual, of course.

    Well, obviously the Islamic fundamentalists haven’t shaved off their goatees, because they have beards to hide them in.

  36. #36 Holbach
    June 30, 2008

    That second question should have been posted: “Human Actions: or “Religious Actions” If you figured in the threat from islam and the threat of hell from Phelps, than the answer is definitely “Religious Actions”1 Shit, why don’t they pose these questions realistically?

  37. #37 qbsmd
    June 30, 2008

    The poll asked about the end of the world, not civilization or human life. This is also relevant because the fears is that the LHC will destroy the earth. If they meant something else, that’s their fault. They asked what they asked.
    I’m counting the expansion of the sun into a red giant, and any planetary collision as natural disasters.

  38. #38 Nicole
    June 30, 2008

    If it was going to be that catastrophic, the dolphins would have left by now. And the bees.

  39. #39 Lord Zero
    June 30, 2008

    Maybe bees are not dying of disease but instead
    are leaving… anyway, mouses should be leaving too.

    Why a particle smasher would destroy the world
    in the first place ? i dont get it. Its some
    kind of ID dogma or something alike ? Its beyond me.

  40. #40 J
    June 30, 2008

    Well, obviously the Islamic fundamentalists haven’t shaved off their goatees, because they have beards to hide them in.
    Actually, Islamists were an even easier target for him, as he wouldn’t have had to add the shaving part.

  41. #41 Rey Fox
    June 30, 2008

    Nick? I think you might want to look over your shoulder. J is stalking you.

  42. #42 brokenSoldier, OM
    June 30, 2008

    See, you want to have it both ways. You want to persist with these cheap tricks while reserving the right to howl misrepresentation when confronted over them.

    Posted by: J | June 30, 2008 1:17 PM

    Besides the fact that the comment you’re trying to ‘discredit’ was a joke in the first place, I don’t see why you have a big problem with behavior like this.

    You do it all the time.

  43. #43 Midwestern Gent
    June 30, 2008

    This poll is proof that Wikiality operates at a quantum level.

  44. #44 SC
    June 30, 2008

    Hey, brokenSoldier. Good to see you back.

  45. #45 horse-pheathers
    June 30, 2008

    I work with someone who helped build one of the calorimetry experiments at the LHC so I’m really getting a kick out of these replies….. ;)

    Seriously, the LHC poses no realistic danger. We’re bombarded with particles of significantly higher energy than the LHC can achieve and have been since the Earth was formed. While these high energy collisions are relatively rare, over the last four and a half billion years there have been a _lot_ of them, more than the LHC will ever generate in its lifetime, so the very fact that the planet is still here and that we’re even around to build the LHC is proof positive that the LHC is safe to fire up.

  46. #46 MikeM
    June 30, 2008

    Maybe, FINALLY, we’ll solve the 42 puzzle.

  47. #47 Richard Smith
    June 30, 2008

    Personally, if there’s any direct danger to the Earth from a black hole, I think that RickD was close, but missed it by a single letter. We need not fear the Goatee regarding dark, deadly holes, but rather the Goatse!

  48. #48 J
    June 30, 2008

    Besides the fact that the comment you’re trying to ‘discredit’ was a joke in the first place, I don’t see why you have a big problem with behavior like this.
    I have a problem with it because:

    (1) The “joke” wasn’t the smallest bit funny. Clearly he was only trying to spread political propaganda. (To be fair on him, I’m sure he does this unconsciously.)
    (2) Why pick on neocons when Islamic fundamentalists were such an obvious target? The latter do have goatees, and they really do want to bring about the destruction of the world, or at least the world of the kuffar.
    (3) In a recent thread I upbraided him for exactly this kind of behaviour, which he self-righteously disavowed.

  49. #49 Anon
    June 30, 2008

    Hmmm, I do feel that people fail to realize just how difficult it is to destroy this huge chunk of mass we call the world.

    It’s just not very feasible.

  50. #50 DiscoveredJoys
    June 30, 2008

    Damn! I’ve now got to exist in an indeterminate state until they switch the gaint accelerator on.

    Still, that nice Mr Schrodinger has left me a cat to stroke in the meantime.

  51. #51 GDad
    June 30, 2008

    Chris @7:
    “Is a “Whoops, we weren’t expecting *that*!” outcome so unlikely?”

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  52. #52 MikeM
    June 30, 2008

    Before you all head off to vote on the poll, though, I recommend a pass through Exit Mundi.

    Thoroughly tongue-in-cheek, quite entertaining. Goes well with red wine.

  53. #53 BruceJ
    June 30, 2008

    Absent a fleet of Vogon Destructor ships, neither natural disaster or human activity is going to “destroy the world”. Seriously fark our itty-bitty part of it? Oh yeah, but the planet is going to sail on serenely in orbit until the sun goes out.

  54. #54 Cyrus
    June 30, 2008

    The safety of the collider, which will generate energies seven times higher than its most powerful rival, at Fermilab near Chicago, has been debated for years. The physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million – long odds, to be sure, but about the same as winning some lotteries.

    I don’t understand why the article compares it to the odds of winning a lottery. They’re only talking about building one particle accelerator, not 50 million, so we’re pretty safe. You might as well worry about a microscopic black hole passing through the reactor of a nuclear power plant or something. (I’m not a physicist so that might be completely impossible, or might be common and completely harmless, but as long as we’re trying to come up with unlikely hypotheticals…)

  55. #55 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    June 30, 2008

    In a display of books, one was titled ‘101 things we can do to save the Earth’ an acquaintance said, “do you think we can save the Earth?” I said, “Earth will save itself, whether we are included is another question.”

  56. #56 Mena
    June 30, 2008

    J, if he was trying to spread political propaganda, he would have posted this link:
    http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/2008/06/two-great-men-stand-up-for-marriage.html
    So see, he’s not.

  57. #57 Facehammer
    June 30, 2008

    J reminds me of a neocon (who is adamant that he’s a plain old conservative, and definitely not a neocon, oh no) on another site I drivel all over occasionally. In that he has absolutely no sense of humour and a pathetically thin skin inflamed by the merest hint of disagreement, and has a habit of latching onto one person or idea and never, ever letting go.

    I swear they were all produced asexually from a single ancestral crashing bore. Thank fuck their spores rarely seem to disperse to Britain.

  58. #58 JeffreyD
    June 30, 2008

    J – re your droppings above, you are not funny, or interesting, or clever, or thought provoking. you are a one trick, one comment person. you know little about the world and your bigotry is unpleasant. you are a turd in the punch bowl, a sure stop to any fun at a party – charmless and graceless. your every comment just sucks the life out of a thread. you are thin skinned, lightly intellectually endowed, twisted by your hatred, and apparently unable to lift yourself out of a morass of fear and loathing of your own devising. Finally, you are guilty of the ultimate “sin” in my view – you are BORING. Were I a nice person, I would find you sad, but I am not so I find you pathetic.

  59. #59 Charlie Foxtrot
    June 30, 2008

    Voted to see the results…

    *facepalm*

    *headdesk*

  60. #60 Ichthyic
    June 30, 2008

    I think those who files the suite in Hawaii have a worse understanding of geography than they do of physics. Anyone who thinks a court in the US has jurisdiction over France or Switzerland clearly has deep problems on the intellectual level.

    I could imagine two reasons for filing the suit where they did:

    1. There was no protocol in place for those intending to file the suit to claim standing in Europe.

    2. They want to raise a ruckus and hopefully stem funding coming from the US for the project, which is substantial.

    I still wonder how they can claim standing, period.

    How can one claim standing based on fictitious predictions?

    It would be like someone filing a lawsuit to stop a nuclear power plant because it would attract potential terrorist activity.

    no, wait, it’s even worse than that – It would be like someone filing a lawsuit to stop a nuclear power plant because it would attract potential alien invasion forces.

  61. #61 Crudely Wrott
    June 30, 2008

    A moment ago the results were:

    LHC worth it? No: 61, Yes: 39, and
    Death from? Humans: 72, Nature: 28.

    My votes were opposite. I was rather surprised to see the results but then this is a poll of those who choose to respond to questions that require a simple and un-nuances answer. Possible answers are limited to yes, no; this, that. Still, the implication of the above ratios is interesting.

    It suggests that the respondents were likely to consider an experiment of this scope and promise to be “worth the risk” only 40% of the time. This when in fact far less than 40% of the general population realize the existence of a risk let alone understand the facts involved. That is, considerably less than 40% of are qualified to express an opinion that has any persuasive substance to it.

    And the response to the second question just begs the question, How, having had so short an introduction into planetary atmospheric behavior, and its interactions with all the other influences both known and unknown, do over 70% of respondents consider humanity a greater threat to (face it, human, existence) than what the planet itself and its immediate and not so near environment can throw at it (civilization and good manners and cheap gas, et cetera).

    How many of these respondents are familiar with the shield of volcanic outflow that covers a significant portion of Siberia? How many could give a clear outline of the current state of the atmosphere based upon the latests knowledge? Not many, I’ll wager. No matter! Politics is more important! It’s not what you do, it’s how you perceive others perceiving you that counts and will insure jobs and lots of tax money for those who don’t have jobs.

    Ahem. Sorry. The point is, of course, that to live and enjoy freedom and pursue happiness in a world dominated, DOMINATED, by science and its spinoff, technology, you better know the basics! And if you want to influence other people in a way that is ultimately, well, useful, then you better have your poop in a group, your turds in a heard. That is, have facts and sources at hand and engage brain before opening mouth.

    Anyway, I voted and I feel just a little better.

  62. #62 brokenSoldier, OM
    June 30, 2008

    I have a problem with it because:

    Posted by: J | June 30, 2008 3:09 PM

    It doesn’t matter why you have a problem with it. Again, you have entirely missed the point of what was said. For your benefit, what I stated was simply that you criticize others for certain behavior while ignoring the small fact that you do those very same things yourself, for whatever reason.

    And we call that – you – a hypocrite.

  63. #63 windy
    June 30, 2008

    Why pick on neocons when Islamic fundamentalists were such an obvious target? The latter do have goatees

    They’re more likely to make you shave it off.

  64. #64 Crudely Wrott
    June 30, 2008

    As you have probably guessed, I didn’t mean that the world at large hurls threats such as “civilization and good manners and cheap gas, et cetera” against “(face it, human) existance.” Rather that civilization and good manners and cheap gas, et cetera are the targets. And I did mangle a parenthetic phrase, too. Dammit.

    I keep telling myself to not forget to allow for the Oops Factor. Do I listen? The evidence would suggest that I don’t but I would swear that I did.

  65. #65 Benjamin Franklin
    June 30, 2008

    Ah, J – put a keffiyeh in it!

  66. #66 Ichthyic
    June 30, 2008

    @63:

    “I felt like telling them there were no Kalashnikovs in Muhammad’s time either, but I wanted to keep my life.”

    ah, we’re doing SO well spreading democratic ideals in Iraq.

    :/

    Have I ever mentioned how much I despise Neocons and Chimpy McGrin?

    I think, perhaps, at least as much as Nick does.

  67. #67 Rob
    July 1, 2008

    Personally, I think it’d be great either way. It’s likely we’ll end up learning a lot about the universe and in the infintesimal chance that it does smash the planet, that’ll leave some sort of trace. What a tourist attraction the remains of our planet would be to visiting aliens! When they ask themselves, “Why would a people punch a hole through the space-time continuum,” I hope the resounding answer from that tear comes, “Because we can!” Badass!

  68. #68 DLC
    July 1, 2008

    Right… a crank comes up with “it’s going to destroy the world!” and the freakin news not only takes him seriously but posts the story under the category “science.”
    What is it with the “science as boogeyman” thing going on ?

    We may be doomed but it will be because we doom ourselves back into the dark ages.

  69. #69 genesgalore
    July 1, 2008

    current human actions are a natural disaster.

  70. #70 Andreas Johansson
    July 1, 2008

    (2) Why pick on neocons when Islamic fundamentalists were such an obvious target? The latter do have goatees, and they really do want to bring about the destruction of the world, or at least the world of the kuffar.

    You may want to look up the word “goatee”.

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