I can't decide whether Professor Rossler is a crackpot scientist or a publicity seeker. Either way, the all-knowing phrase "It doesn't work like that" the bane of all crackpot ludites, leaves little doubt that the hadron collider will perform any other way than intended, ne the first atomic bomb (will start on unstoppable chain reaction), the first airplane flight of the Wright Brothers (man wasn't meant to fly), the first fire used by humankind (it'll burn the entire world after it burns you).
In trying to see what other scientists think of Professor Rosseler, I searched on his name and university of origin and hit on 32 sites with the identical phrase in the Sun article;
"Professor Otto Rossler, from the Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen in Germany, is one of the scientists mounting the legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights . . . "
No joy on whether he's a publicity hound or a crackpot. What's he a professor of? Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen is best known for its theological and medicine departments, somewhat for humanities and liberal arts. There's some hard science in there somewhere, I'm sure.
oooooh, neat. Makes for a sensational made-for-tv movie, eh? I think I'll pay may credit card, anyway. Just to be on the safe side.
I love end of the world scenarios. I have my favorite, but I can't say, cos its one of those plots that are living off of the state right now, I'm going to go back for it one day, I swear -- but I'm a total sucker for any and all armageddon schools of thought.
This Doomsday test does fall into my favorite category though: The Tree of Good and Evil --- People are so dang smart they've gone the other way on the intelligence scale and are retards! Mankind will destroy itself eventually.
Oh, and I got a link to this on the MySpace about two months ago. I know the article appearing in the Sun may take a little of its credit points away, but I remember reading into it in Wiki and a coupla other places. So, yeah, if the world ends, no big surprise there, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
(Look for my conspiracy newsletter coming soon to a discreet drop-off near you!)
According to "LHC Facts" the Collider has already started causing collisions--of Wikipedia writers. Its entry has been gotten at by supporters of the Collider; critical comments have been watered down or eliminated, and Rossler's bio has been messed with. http://www.lhcfacts.org/
FWIW Rossler is with the University of Tubingen in Germany, a perfectly respectable academic institution. Yet he doesn't do his cause any favours with an elaborate, purple style of prose--granted, English is not his first language but edumacated Germans can usually write embarrassingly good English in my experience.
They dismiss Rossler as a crank--but Einstein, too, was rejected by peers who preferred not to rock the boat. Just because everyone agrees, doesn't make 'em right.
CERN's own safety assessment says the machine is likely to produce microscopic black holes which "are expected to decay" and "present no conceivable danger". Yet the purpose of the experiment is to discover the inconceivable. Just because they can't conceive danger, don't mean it ain't there. (pdf of their report is here: http://lsag.web.cern.ch/lsag/LSAG-Report.pdf)
And, the report was written by CERN scientists--with how much real independence of view? Were they truly empowered to challenge the status quo? Could they really have said, "Wups, let's not switch it on. Sorry folks, we've just wasted 2.5 billion pounds."? Why didn't they invite the independent thinkers, the Einsteins of our world--Rossler for example--to join them and challenge their risk assessments, perhaps to conceive dangers they haven't thought of?
I guess we should have had a flash fiction contest with the trigger "Big Bang Day", closing date 10 Sept to coincide with the end of life as we know it--sorry, to coincide with when they switch it on. It might have been our last contest ever ...
If they're wrong, and our neck of the universe goes bang, I guess they will at least have solved our problems of climate change, overpopulation, terrorism, what to make for Wednesday night's dinner ...
Cheerfully defying the world to end, Pat
P.S. on the Sun: yes, it's not one of our most intellectual papers. In fact, we tell jokes about Sun readers which are not complimentary about their intelligence, and consider "Sun reader" to be an oxymoron.
Today I already suspected the impending doom of the world, before reading that article, since my computer just downloaded the install of Windows Service Pack 3. I am in the process of backing up my hard drive. I have traumatic memories of installing Service Pack 2.
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It's a roughly 100 page paper in which the authors (physicists) investigate everything we know about black holes of this nature, and, even if the collider DOES create stable mini-black holes, based on everything we know, the time it would take something like that to do any measurable impact on the earth would be longer than it will take for the sun/earth/solar system to essentially die anyway.
"this study finds no basis for concerns" -- carefully put, in the uncertainly-certain language of scientists covering their asses. It means that if there is a basis, they didn't find it, not that there is no basis at all for concern.
"there is no risk of any significance whatsoever from such black holes" -- to put it another way, there is a risk but only a small one--we think.
If physicists were that sure of their math, they wouldn't need to build the darn thing. They'd know the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. But according to the BBC TV show I watched hosted by a CERN engineer--one who had no concept at all of how what he said might be alarming to lay people--they have absolutely no idea what will happen when they switch it on.
At one point one of them said in a radio interview, "There's a less than 0.05 percent chance of a big bang." They've since stopped saying that because, I guess someone told them, if the chances of a jetplane landing safely were only 0.05 percent, nobody would fly--that statistic translates to roughly one crash per week at Heathrow.
And, do physicists never, ever make mistakes? I have enormous respect for NASA and their achievements, but even NASA makes mistakes--and it makes them after the thorough kind of risk analysis CERN claim to have done.
I've worked with too many large organisations with vested interests and too often heard "It'll be okay, trust me"--Bang--"Wups, sorry, didn't think o' that, won't happen again ..." to fully trust that we'll see Wednesday lunch-time.
There's a kind of supreme arrogance in saying, "We're going to create micro-black holes but don't worry folks, we done a risk analysis and the world is safe as far as we can tell and anyhow, there ain't nothing you can do to debate or stop it and anyone who disgrees is 'fringe'." None of our scientists appear willing to allay our fears by explaining themselves properly, instead contenting themselves with, "It's complicated, you don't understand."
So, Tuesday night, I'm gonna raise a glass to guesswork, in the hope that this time, they're right.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited September 08, 2008).]
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited September 08, 2008).]
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited September 08, 2008).]
quote:At any rate the odds that CERN will destroy the world are zero. Or, I suppose technically, One in a Trillion.
Nobody is prepared to stake their reputation on its safety.
The best we've seen is the statement by someone claiming to be an independent reviewer that there's no significant risk.
If science wants to defend itself against superstition, ignorance and intolerance it should take opportunities such as this to explain itself in terms we can understand instead of branding critics as idiots who should be cast out like devils.
Foe years they've told us that black holes are big and bad. Then they blithely tell us they're going to make a few in a machine they don't fully understand.
We're told they're small--so are viruses; I want to know why I should trust scientists who admit they don't know what will happen when they switch it on.
I think science needs a course in avoiding PR collisions, curbing its arrogant dismissal of us ordinary folks, and making the costs of research proportional to expected learning. Because what I've learned from this is that we should probably have spent the money learning how to feed people, generate clean energy and convert CO2 into O2.
"If you're playing the odds, then say it's perfectly safe. If you're wrong, who will know?"
Well quite. But they don't.
Maybe they have a secret report that says there's a chance they'll blow us into the next plane of existence--which could involve those extra dimensions they've been muttering about. In which case we'd know, but on a higher plane ...
The LHC passed the first significant phase of startup testing successfully in August. Wednesday, September 10th is when a beam of hadrons will be circulated through the entire LHC. In late October, the first proton-proton collisions are scheduled in a full scale operation. So "we" won't really know any earlier than October 21st if we are, in fact, doomed. Don't sell all your assests and take off for Tahiti yet.
Hom many Large Hadron Colliders does it take to light a campfire?
I don't know about any of you, but I have been trying my damndest to get in those 64 Kama Sutra positions. (Almost threw my back out on the last one.)
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I once read a book that said Nostradamus predicted the end of the world, by nuclear war, by the end of that year. I remember worrying at the end of the year that it would break out then...I thought in the last half hour that it would happen any time.
Midnight came and went, as did many other years. I haven't believed in the end of the world since.
Should the Rapture come, I'll take this matter up with the Lord...until then, I'm not believing anyone's prediction.
As for this...at most, it'll create a couple of black holes that evaporate in billionths of seconds...more likely it'll break up some of the smallest-known particles in predictable and predicted ways.
Supposedly the Higgs-Boson was originally called the "Goddamn Particle" but the editor of the book demanded a name change.
I guess, Talespinner, what I'm unclear about is whether you just want to make the technical point that there is a danger, regardless how small, or if you want the entire experiment set called off altogether.
Regarding blackholes, all a blackhole is (basically) is an event horizon where nothing can escape its gravitational pull, not even light. But that doesn't mean a black hole has infinite range of effect. For example, the nearest blackhole to our sun isn't sucking us in. Or better yet, the center of our galaxy is thought to be an enormous black hole, yet the galaxy survives just fine. A microscopic black hole just can't effect such a huge amount of mass at such a great distance.
But the odds of any blackholes being created at all are very small. But should we be able to create a few microscopic ones that would be very exciting, and we would learn a lot, so you ought to cross your fingers that we can. Also these blackholes will vanish the instant they are created.
Should the world come to an end it would be instantaneous, so we'd all die at exactly the same time. But that's ridiculous.
Playing the odds is something we do every day. Within the next 24 hours you will probably drive, or ride in, a car on a city street and/or a major highway. The probability you will die in a horrific car wreck is minor, though plausible, yet you risk that event every day, even for things as insignificant as a quart of milk, or a fastfood hamburger.
The risk here is significantly smaller, and probably non-existent, and we stand to gain a lot more than a quartt of milk or a cheeseburger here. Even though the potential loss is much higher, the risk factor is zero--despite the whining of some attention-starved pseudo-scientists.
I just double checked my facts, again, and this is basically what we have.
1. Let's not forget that it will take months to get the LHC up to full power.
2. The Particle Accelerator is unlikely to create any black holes. We hope that it will because we could learn a lot, and there is no threat. But just as likely no black holes will form.
3. If a particle accelerator can create a black holes large and strong enough to harm us, then cosmic rays have been doing that since forever, and they have yet to destroy us.
4. If a black hole forms it will be microscopic and disappear almost instantly due to hawking radiation.
5. If they form, and hawking radiation happens to not exist, then the blackholes (which will be moving at relativistic speeds) will escape earth and basically fly away before any harm could be done.
6. If a stable blackhole forms and stays, it would take a long time to be large enough to effect us, perhaps over a million years.
7. But should everything go wrong, somehow, then we all go out in style. But the odds here are approximately 1 in 50 Billion, though the figure I read might have been 1 in 500 Billion, can't remember.)
The only thing scientists are somewhat concerned about is if there is a power failure or a magnet failure, and the beam is not discharged properly, the machine itself might be damaged in the sum of hundreds of millions of dollars. But that's no threat to you, except for maybe losing some tax money.
[This message has been edited by Zero (edited September 09, 2008).]
I'm a passionate believer in science, rationale and education, and using such for the collective benefit of humanity.
I teach risk management for information security and I know for a fact there ain't no such thing as zero risk, especially when dealing with new science and engineering. NASA's engineering risk management processes are amongst the best in the world, but even they screw up from time to time--and they aren't risking the whole planet, nor even a large chunk of France and Switzerland: they point their rockets over the Atlantic in case of mishap. (Anyone remember the Titanic, or the Zeppelins?)
Everyone seems to agree, sooner or later, that there is indeed a risk, and then they claim it's a small one. Given that they have no idea what will happen when they switch it on, I do not believe they have any basis for saying it's a small risk. But, be that as it may, what qualifies scientists to decide to take the risk, however small, on behalf of all of us? Right now, since they can't tell us the expected benefit, I'd say don't take the risk. Spend the money instead on research that will help the poor eat, or the rich make energy cleanly.
What pains me is that scientists have squandered an opportunity to explain their science, and allowed the rumour mill to take over. They should not be surprised that people are scared of black holes. Nobody notices the details, they just hear 'black holes' and think of being sucked into an impossibly deep gravity well.
Scientists have only themselves to blame for this. Instead of labelling critics as cranks they should seize the opportunity to get us, the people paying their enormous bills, as excited as they are about finding out some new stuff.
But what do we get? On BBC TV, an enginner leaping about in subterranean tunnels with a crazed look in his eyes, waxing lyrical about megavolts and terrabytes, low temperatures and high investments, and then some nonsense about first there was nothing, then there was a big bang--like he knows!
I find the arrogance of too many scientists, their disdain for popularising science, their assumption that their work deserves large gobs of money (it's the most expensive machine ever, apparently) profoundly annoying, especially at a time when in the UK at least, kids are less and less interested in scientific education--because it's made to seem so difficult.
I looked for risk assessments, found a couple, and found myself unable to verify their independence. If they'd called Feynman I'd have been happy, but sadly, he's gone. I've noticed that large organisations only do rigorous risk assessments after something goes bang, and in this case that might be too late.
Also, humans are not controlling it, software is, and a more unreliable means of control I cannot imagine. (Look at the London Stock Exchange yesterday. Biggest trading day anyone can remember for a long time and the system packs up.)
The fuss has drawn my attention to how much it cost--billions--and for what? I have yet to hear a scientist explain the benefits of these colliders beyond raw knowledge. Knowledge is fine, and worth spending money on--the American space programme is a fabulous testament to that--but billions? On God particles? If it's going to help us understand fission, or develop a space drive, or deal with climate change, then I'm for it. But to develop an abstract theory that few understand and even fewer can explain to the rest of us--right now, I don't believe we can afford the luxury.
So yeah, if it were me, I'd tell 'em to keep it switched off for three months, get a properly and transparently independent risk assessment done, go on a PR course and explain themselves to educated laymen--and then, having explained the benefits of their expensive new toy to us wot paid for it, ask, kindly please, if they could switch it on.
But, I know, they'll switch it on, the TV presenters will go 'Oooh' and 'Aaah', the scientists will grin crazily and frown thoughtfully, and the rest of us will be none the wiser.
Edited to add: if anyone can explain in lay terms what we expect to learn from it, I'd be fascinated.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited September 09, 2008).]
Talespinner, thank you for the thoughtful response.
The better we understand the natural rules that govern reality the better we can manipulate our resources for the benefit of all. Understanding chemistry allowed for better mining, understanding biology allows for better medicine, and understanding physics has allowed faster, safer travel across the world and beyond it.
From these experiemnts we can make inferences regarding the plausibility of time travel, and the beginning of the universe, and the existence of other dimensions, just to name a few.
Or what about antimatter? Why is the majority of the universe's make up matter and not anti-matter? Where did it all go? Understanding the nature of antimatter, and possibly developing it, could provide a source of extreme energy.
We always stand to gain from scientific discovery.
I find it interesting that a party of individuals could trust scientists when they say a black hole exists, but not trust scientists when they say (under specific conditions) that no danger exists.
I agree with you that nothing is "no risk" on an ultimate level. Everyone stands to lose something in any situation. But looking at it through a specific lense, some things actually are no risk.
If you were to do a hundred jumping jacks there is no risk that you will destroy the world.
Sure you'll be moving around particles, and perhaps in a great deal of time that event will be significant based on chaos theory, but your actions have no probability (or at least negligible probability) of destroying the world.
So what about two hundred jumping jacks? Three hundred? A thousand? A million?
Some effects are just impossible based on certain causes.
The LHC cannot cause the effects people are blathering about. It cannot destroy the world.
When they say mini black holes could form their talking about insignificant blips of reality that light cannot bounce off of. These are so small and moving so fast that before they could mature into something larger they will be far far away. Assuming they don't disappear instantly, as they're expecting to do.
No disrespect, but believing that any microscopic event horizons formed by the LHC, which is still a huge maybe, could consume the world is insanely misinformed.
Accelerating particles involves a lot of energy, but the only danger of this highly focused energy is what it might do to damage the instruments and equipment. And that is the risk. Will millions of tax dollars be wasted by destroyed high-precision equipment? Probably not. There are multiple fail-safes in place.
And I would trust computers over people any day, when it comes to tracking and managing things smaller than I can see, and moving around 300,000 kilometers per second, and making hundreds of thousands of decisions in no time at all. When computers err it's only because the people behind them design them poorly. Computers are not capable of independent mistakes. Faulty hardware yes, badly designed software yes, but not mistakes. Mistakes belong to us.
I will buy into the argument that perhaps the money could have been used better in another way. I really can't defeat that argument. Because it's opinion. I happen to believe this is one of the most exciting things of our time, like building a modern wonder of the world, no something far beyond that. And when a trillion dollars can be wasted fighting wars abroad, I don't see why a few billion dollars can't be spent on a machine that science has only dreamed of. Especially when the cost is shared by several nations, and the entire experiment set is a great example of multi-national cooperation.
"The main purpose of the LHC is to explore the validity and limitations of the Standard Model, the current theoretical picture of particle physics." Wikipedia: LHC.
The God particle, the theoretical Higgs Bosun is the only elementary particle that has never been observed. It is notable that a quarter century of evolving colliders have observed all the other predicted particles. Better understandings of particle physics have influenced a googleplex of improvements in the everyday human condition, from more efficient manufacturing processes, to compounds syntheses, to how we communicate and live and breathe in our everyday lives, everyone. Even feeding the hungry when politics allows.
Like any scientific process the LHC will raise more questions than it will answer, some it will eventually answer. A proposed theoretical upgrade will answer some more. A new generation of colliders will answer more, and raise more questions.
Since before Galileo, scientists have sought answers both in the macro and the micro cosmos. Galileo's observations led to new horizons and the ability to map them, navigate them. This too shall be navigated. The future is bright, the LHC will illuminate some of it. Science progresses forward. Is it a progress trap? Yep, but then any other direction leads to stagnation.
Well, it still takes months to get it to full power. Basically they shoot the particle around this huge ring, compelled by magnets, and it takes a while to build momentum and speed. It's kinda cool actually.