The arguably wacky premise behind a New York Times article this Saturday is that the Large Hadron Collider (LHR)–slated to be the world’s most impressive particle accelerator when it’s up and running later this year–could inadvertently produce an Earth-destroying black hole. Or, that’s at least what a couple of guys in Hawaii think, and they’re pursuing a lawsuit in federal court there to stop it. (Note: the LHR is located in CERN… in Switzerland.)
Despite cries of “propaganda” from the plaintiffs, scientists aren’t having any of that, and are trying to put all of this to rest with plenty of boring science speak:
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
…or it would have been a bunch of boring science speak if the article hadn’t originally read “The Large Hardon Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together.”
Hard-ons? Banging? OK, scientists, now you have my attention. So, what is this Large Hardon Collider thing, anyway?
The LHC is expected to become the world’s largest and highest energy penile accelerator ever assembled. Expected to penetrate new areas, the LHC will produce high speed, head-on collisions between beams of yonic and phallic particles.
When switched on, it is hoped that colliding the hard-on will produce the elusive Higgs Climactic Particle — often dubbed the ‘Oh God! Part’ — the observation of which could confirm the ‘missing contacts’ for my human intercourse, and explain how other elementary parts acquire properties such as [m]ass, attraction, hotness, chemistry, etc.
Check out the link to see a schematic of how the Large Hardon Collider works.
Getting back to the issue at hand (ah hem), though, this lawsuit is as absurd as the Time’s typo was hilarious. Whether or not the LHC could actually produce a black hole (and whether that black hole would survive and endanger the planet) is a scientific question–one that should be (and already has been) addressed by scientific inquiry and scientific oversight panels. None of this has so far cast doubts on the safety of the LHC.
Although it is outlandish, this lawsuit isn’t something that should necessarily be ignored by the scientific community. Science and the courts have a mixed history, which shouldn’t be surprising, since the courts have no basis from which to settle scientific disputes. And, since the science is only ever just implicitly on trial (the explicit question is a legal one, of course), you can’t assume that the court’s decision and scientific opinion will fall on the same side. Flip a coin: heads, Dover; tails, Scopes.
Given the dubious legal basis of the case in question, however, it’s difficult to see how this one could proceed anyway. Besides, with a name so ripe for parody, who wouldn’t want the LHC to stick around for a long, long time.?