Large Hadron Collider switch-on fears Are completely unfounded


Lhc 20080804
We had a commenter that was really upset about the Large Hadron Collider (or as I like to call it, the biggest refrigerator ever made). I also received a few emails, with the same concerns. Here’s what the commenter said and below that, the latest from Science Daily…

This experiment is sick and those that think it a joke are sick. The scientists are terrorists in threatening mass destruction. They have no right to veto my existence, the lives of my children, life on earth in all its wonderous beauty and complexity. They have no right to threaten the people of Earth with mega death. The experiment has to be stopped at all costs. No data or knowledge is worth this kind of risk. Science has reached its limitation. People were quite happy in the past with simple pleasures. No one needs this science or data. we have too much already. Humans need to return to simple and sustainable living and not be threatened by a minority of freaks with over sized brains and no appreciation of Nature and everyday things like mountains, birds, insects, flowers or the sunrise.

And here’s a snippet from Science Daily & The Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions. Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, September 5, 2008.

A new report provides the most comprehensive evidence available to confirm that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)’s switch-on, due on Wednesday next week, poses no threat to mankind. Nature’s own cosmic rays regularly produce more powerful particle collisions than those planned within the LHC, which will enable nature’s laws to be studied in controlled experiments.

The LHC Safety Assessment Group have reviewed and updated a study first completed in 2003, which dispels fears of universe-gobbling black holes and of other possibly dangerous new forms of matter, and confirms that the switch-on will be completely safe.

The report explains that if particle collisions at the LHC had the power to destroy the Earth, we would never have been given the chance to exist, because regular interactions with more energetic cosmic rays would already have destroyed the Earth or other astronomical bodies.

The Safety Assessment Group writes, “Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth – and the planet still exists.”

I think the problem is that when you ask a scientist “is there *any* chance things could go wrong” – they will always say well, sure a 0.000000000x chance… it’s not zero, but it’s also not exactly like pulling the slot machine handle when this machine is fired up either. I do agree with the commenter though, “they have no right to threaten the people of Earth with mega death”.

46 thoughts on “Large Hadron Collider switch-on fears Are completely unfounded

  1. Morder says:

    …yet the commenter proceeds to use the technology advanced by science…computers, he probably has a cellphone, electricity and so on…if he truly wanted to go back to that society we would never know about it.

  2. samurai1200 says:

    I didn’t know the Amish used computers!!! I learn something new every day….

  3. not anti science says:

    I think the LHC is neat and salute it’s switch on.

    However isn’t part of the point about this thing that we don’t know exactly what it will produce? Otherwise the need for it would be non-existent. It is only because we’re not sure what will happen that we need this thing, right?

    I am not too scared about the LHC turning on, but it seems strange to me to say the following:

    “The standard model is incomplete and incorrect and we’re not sure how to solve it. Turning on the LHC might give us new information to change the standard model. According to the incomplete, incorrect standard model this is safe to do”.

    It’s self referential. I suppose that .0000000X chance is to account for that (i.e. how wrong is the standard model), and I accept that, but I can understand why some people don’t.

  4. DJFelix says:

    What scares me is that the scientists have agreed not to simulate a nuclear explosion similar to the types of explosions caused by military grade nuclear devices. They have agreed to … for now. What bothers me is that they will eventually change their mind, and they will test it. According to Einstein, the result will be similar to a nuclear explosion.

    At least it’s not next to my house. I do feel bad for the people living next to it though, but there’s not much I can do to stop it there. They almost built that thing in Dallas, but enough people listened and we got it stopped. I would be worried about my own personal safety if it was physically closer to my house. My only concern is that the over-zealous scientists at the LHC will trigger a nuclear explosion and kill a lot of people. Nobody wants that.

  5. Mr. McFly says:

    “People were quite happy in the past with simple pleasures. No one needs this science or data.”

    People also used to live to the ripe old age of 28 and were 4 feet tall.

    For those of us not living in the dark ages, flip the switch and watch the light!

  6. jtankers2 says:

    Recent quotes exaggerate a bit.

    The LHC will certainly not destroy the universe! But the effects on Earth decades or centuries from now, not so sure…

    What is of concern is that CERN appears to argue that safety is certain when in fact they do not know this and they have not reasonably and credibly refuted the physicists who challenge safety assumptions.

    CERN states that the fact we are still here proves safety. It does not according to several safety papers refuting CERN’s safety.

    The main issues are two, credible theories predict micro black holes will grow rapidly if created, and slow moving micro black holes have never before been created on Earth.

    (Cosmic ray micro black holes would travel too fast to be captured by Earth, but collider created micro black holes would be created from head on collisions and some would be captured by Earth).

    The biggest issue here may be credibility. Regardless of whether the LHC proves safe or not, we will need to review the arguments CERN made and the alleged misinformation given to other physicists and the media about the credibility and certainty of safety arguments.

    There is still a small chance that CERN will agree to Dr. Plaga’s danger mitigation proposals or that a safety conference will more properly address safety before high energy collisions begin.

    We likely have many months before high energy collisions begin (CERN tends to exaggerate how quickly they can begin collisions).

    Even after high energy collisions begin, it could be many years before we know if we gave Earth a chronic disease.


  7. jtankers2 says:

    0.000000000x chance… it’s not zero?

    A recent speech at Oxford university estimated a 1 in 1000 (.001) chance that CERN made fundamental mistakes in their safety arguments.

    Other physicists calculated that CERN did make mistakes in their safety arguments, if correct and they appear highly credible to my analysis, that leaves the probability of danger closer to 1 chance in two (.5).

    This is your Earth too, if you want more safety study first, it is your right to require this!


  8. Anonymous says:

    DJFelix, I’m not at all sure what you’re referring to. Can you provide a link that talks about what these “nuclear explosions” are and how they might be triggered?

  9. Austringer says:


    “while head-on collider collisions have net collision impact speeds at almost twice the speed of light…”

    Uh, I’m willing to be a physicist didn’t write this.

  10. ehrichweiss says:

    I’m not one to stand in the way of science but they truly don’t know what will happen and their “theories” are only hypotheses at this point. If they are wrong and we create mini blackholes that don’t evaporate, we won’t have to worry about how science is superior to religion or what-have-you because the concept of science will die along with everything else. Murphy’s Law applies here.

    I’d rather they have more research before they start.

    @Austringer: why do you say that? Nothing is factually wrong with that statement. They are having 2 particles, both moving at the speed of light, collide with one another head-on. To the observer that would appear as twice the speed of light.

  11. Robert says:

    jtankers2 seems to be living in a world where the earth is the centre of the universe and these black holes will follow the earth around or maybe sit in the back of someone’s cupboard for a couple of years.

    “To the observer that would appear as twice the speed of light.”

    The observer has nothing to do with the outcome. The statement is pure sensationalism. But you all should have come to expect that about anything that’s called itself “*facts”.

    “They almost built that thing in Dallas, but enough people listened and we got it stopped.”

    I love the way you say that proudly.

    “However isn’t part of the point about this thing that we don’t know exactly what it will produce?”

    In the same way that we don’t know what will happen when we roll dice.

    I’m a bit disappointed by the attitudes people are showing here – but I probably shouldn’t be. I guess this is the dark side of an amateur scientist/engineer community. Goes along with that bloke a while back who claimed to have proven the existence of universal aether by using some botched laser pointer and webcam CCD experiment. I guess when science becomes so abstract it’s hard to get people to listen to why they are wrong.

  12. meh says:

    Note to future scientits and engineers: give your massive, complex, and misunderstood projects cute and fuzzy names. Don’t make it sound like something from a bad sci-fi flick.

    Also, your chances for success in this sort of research are directly proportional to the amount of blinkin lights and little knobs on your big black box. Bring in pre-school kids and let them flip some switches, even if they do nothing at all. Sit back and enjoy the good press.

  13. wonko says:

    I am wondering what the difference between “death” and “mega death” is. In both cases isn’t the end result the same? Well at least for the individuals involved.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Death is when you go to that happy place in the sky while your body gets put in a wooden box underground.

    Mega death is when the LHC is discovered to have excellent acoustic properties once the large equipment is moved out and is used to subject the /entire planet/ to thrash metal concerts for ever and ever. No big-brained freaks have the right to impose that on my children.

    (Wikipedia has an entry for a more sober definition of mega death at although, it must be said, I rather prefer the one above.)

  15. digger says:

    A scientist working at the biggest refrigerator in the world was quoted as saying:

    “Look, it’s a 10^-19 chance, and you’ve got a 10^-11 chance of suddenly evaporating while shaving.”

    There are already uncounted gamma ray interactions with the earth each year. If man is to understand the universe, progress must happen. I think that the same sort of folks said that letting women vote would lead to complete and total anarchy in 1910.

  16. NickZane says:

    “they have no right to threaten the people of Earth with mega death”. Of course they do! :) Idiots need to shut up and die. Sorry, was that too harsh? ;)

  17. Jack says:

    I hate when people try to bring in the idea that scientists and engineers can’t appreciate the beauty of nature, or that they despise such things. It’s precisely because they DO appreciate such beauty and appreciate it to a very deep level that such research as this is done. I like the way my favorite physicist, Richard Feynman, puts it:

    It’s a sad to see people proposing a total stop to the advancement of science and knowledge. Yes, there may be a phenomenally small chance of dangers involved. But does that potential danger outweigh the gains we will make? No.

    Being human is at the core a desire to understand. Whether that translates to a search to understand God, a search to understand how to win at a game of cards, or searching to understand the underpinnings of our universe, mankind is destined to continue that search.

  18. Well says:

    Theoretically it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate a particle to the speed of light. (The mass becomes infinite if a matter reached the speed of light. The energy required to ‘push’ that matter would become infite too.)

    Also, about the twice-the-speed-of-light-thing, two things colliding head-on usually stop(or slow down). I don’t think it works the other way for particles.

  19. RainyDayInterns says:

    Look what happens when there are more “stupid” people then “over-sized brain” people voting…we end up with a “stupid” decider. How’s that working out?

    It will be nice to see intelligence win the day every once in awhile…and to get to say “I told you so :-)”

  20. Andrew says:

    I mean it isn’t exactly easy listening music but as a guitarist I must say, the complex (and fast) guitar solo trading and syncopated riffs are something to be appreciated.

    Ohhh, I’m sorry. You’re not talking about Megadeth the band. You’re speaking about nuclear physics and the theory that tiny black holes could appear as a result of the giant centrifuge. You’re talking about science on one hand as if you have a clue and dismissing it along with anyone with a large enough brain to comprehend it on the other.

    It’s too bad they don’t teach science in the US anymore. It’s a real shame these proud fools banded together to become a nation of ignorance. They’ve become the largest consumer nation in the world and as a result are making other nations like China, India & The Middle East very wealthy and powerful.

  21. Jack says:

    Andrew: Amen brother!

    I especially like how you put this: “You’re talking about science on one hand as if you have a clue and dismissing it along with anyone with a large enough brain to comprehend it on the other.”

    I hope for a day when science education is a priority for Americans, but doubt that day will come anything soon. Seems like we’re falling behind the rest of the world at an exponential rate.

  22. kingv100 says:

    I think we should be threatening more people with Megadeth.

  23. Anonymous says:

    if ur truly religious u probably should be the least worried person about science eitherwise turn aethiest cause u just dont have faith in ur own religion. my prediction of this experiment…sound of a popcorn pop a spark…and the whole world looking in awwe…even myself..

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