Tuesday, September 09, 2008

CERN and the Large Hadron Collider

A friend just emailed me a piece on OMG the Large Hadron Collider may destroy the earth by creating black holes. Please keep in mind, news media do not make money if no one views their material; controversial subjects generate viewers. Even if the controversy is more twenty years in the making. My friend wanted to know if I, her science geek friend, was concerned. My reply:

Well, the Mayans' calendar cycle ends in 2012.

Anybody who's read Thrice Upon A Time by James Hogan is familiar with this scenario. Will it? Don't know. "The math says..." The math has been proven wrong on things before. Will courts be able to stop it? Temporarily, maybe. Permanently, don't know. There's always someone to speak to the other side of an issue. Are we in danger? Don't know. It would be better if we could put the thing in space. But then we have the question of microscopic black holes falling into the sun. Same same.

The problem is that man is a curious creature. Someone, somewhere, some how, will do something that will wipe us out. Or send us to great heights. Or both at the same time. We can stop being "man" and become stagnant, as the fundies of all religions want us to. Or we can chance dying, and reach for the stars.

We've got a pretty good track record on that. Doubt it? Antibiotics. Open heart surgery. Traveling faster than 40 miles per hour (it was once believed traveling faster than 40 would automatically kill you). I'm very biased. I would not be alive today without all the benefits of man's reach for knowledge.

The downside to that is that a few people are deciding for the rest of us. But tell me when that isn't the case? There are always those in the know who make the decisions, at the family level, the company level, the government level. Someone decides how much to tell everyone else, whether with intent to manipulate the outcome, or just because there's too much info and "my presentation is only an hour."

The headline, will the Large Hadron Collider save or destroy the earth, is an annoying piece of agitprop. The LHC won't "save" anything. It's pure esoteric research. Info that comes out of CERN and the LHC may not affect our daily lives for decades. The spin-offs from existing particle accelerators took years to develop. I don't expect this to be any different.

What may come out of LHC is information on how to manipulate gravity. That's my personal wish. Gravity affects things on a macroscopic level, but not on a microscopic level. Why? How does gravity propagate? We can manipulate light and subatomic particles, but we don't even know how gravity happens, much less how to manipulate it.

Should we? Ask that of the caveman who first dared to tamed fire.

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