The Big Day is nearing and the reports are piling up. I think it makes sense that many of the blogs as well as ‘news reports’ still link the event to the famous doomsday scenarios, because if not, would anybody listen or read ?
We are too engulfed in sensationalism, and the idea that we could destroy our own planet for the sake of scientific curiosity also carries a certain, very popular, stigma about scientists (just read Angels and Demons from Dan Brown).
Well, we didn’t destroy the earth with RHIC and we’re not going to with the LHC. The problem is that we have learned in the last century that nature can never say ‘never’, and that we will always have to work with probabilities. Now probabilities can be infinitely small, but how can you get that across ? Even my mom would say: ‘So you’re actually telling me it could happen ?’. Well, mom, no.
My friend and theory colleague, Sean Gavin, came in yesterday and said that some of his friends had calculated that it is actually more likely to spontaneously combust rather than being killed by a life-threatening black hole from the LHC. We are from Motown where we know a lot about combustion, so here is a comparison that I like, because, although the idea of spontaneous combustion of humans was prominently featured in the movie ‘Spinal Tap’, you might remember that it really only affects drummers of heavy metal rock bands !! So no ‘sudden bang’ for most of us.
But seriously, it is important to keep modern science in check and have independent groups look at ongoing research. Renowned scientists have done that in the case of RHIC and LHC and have published their results and findings, all of them coming to the same, less sensational, conclusion that there is no threat. It is then rather useless and even reckless, though, to generate fear and panic in people based on a scientific advance that likely will unravel mysteries about the universe that date back all the way to its creation. This is a day for excitement and celebration, because humanity has had the ingenuity and developed the technology to bring us closer to a very fundamental understanding of the universe we live in.
And quite frankly the most engaging and entertaining piece of news I have seen and heard in time for tomorrow’s start-up was the LHC rap on YouTube, which has now been viewed in excess of 1.3 Million Times ! Right on Kate !!