Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat" or It's not the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

It happens every couple of years. Something will cause the end of the world. Papers start their stupid headlines and some gullible folks get scared. So the LHC is being switched on tomorrow and around the world the morons are lining up to start wailing.

Worse, all day I've had children talking about it. Somewhere, they've got the idea that it could happen. And it's been nagging at them. The same way a 10 year old starts getting the nagging doubt about the man in the red and white suit at Christmas time. They don't really believe it, but they've got that nagging doubt about it. And when they ask it's up to us to reassure them.
Unfortunately I can't quote from the most wonderful Professor Brian Cox; one of the scientists involved at CERN (and bizarrely, according to his wiki entry, was keyboard player in D'Ream). He's involved in a BBC article answering people's questions about the LHC:
The LHC has absolutely no chance of destroying anything bigger than a few protons, let alone the Earth. This is not based on theoretical assumptions.

For the record, the LHC collides particles together at energies far below those naturally occurring in many places in the Universe, including the upper atmosphere of our planet every second of every day. If the LHC can produce micro black holes, for example, then nature is doing it right now by smashing ultra-high energy cosmic ray particles into the Earth directly above our heads with no discernable consequences.

I am in fact immensely irritated by the conspiracy theorists who spread this nonsense around and try to scare people. This non-story is symptomatic of a larger mistrust in science, particularly in the US, which includes intelligent design amongst other things.

The only serious issue is why so many people who don't have the time or inclination to discover for themselves why this stuff is total crap have to be exposed to the opinions of these half-wits.
And just in case you don't get it from this he's summarised his feelings on the matter in the best, funniest line I read all day. Ladies & Gentlemen,I give you Prof Brian Cox, my new favourite scientist:
Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat.
It perfectly sums up the frustration we feel when science is deliberately misunderstood, twisted and over-hyped by a media desperate for sexy headlines and a populus generally distrustful of science. It's the disturbing spectre of a return to a cultural and intellectual wasteland. Personally I'm blaming it all on Big Brother, Hello magazine and Jeremy Kyle. They don't get death threats, but the scientists working on discovering fundamental secrets of the universe do? It's a bad world.

And now R.E.M.

So don't be a twat. Maybe a good place to start would be to actually read about what the LHC is?

The LHC pages, including a simple Safety page.
LHC wiki (You know, for folks who want it all spelled out in nice, easy to understand chunks)
Various BBC articles
Brian Cox's website (down at the time of writing)
Brian Cox: What really goes on at the LHC - 16 minute You Tube. Essential.

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