Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Death Threats at the Large Hadron Collider

I was able to track down the news report about scientists receiving death threats at the Large Hadron Collider operated by CERN. Chances are these threats are nothing but hot air, but the report says many scientists have been getting emails and even phone calls threatening bodily harm over the startup of the collider.

As I understand it, fortunately for the earth the collider will only be operating in a short of test mode for awhile. Beams will be sent around the collider but there won't actually be any high energy collisions, at least for now. So although the collider is set to turn on tonight at 3:30 AM eastern time (U.S.) earth won't be swallowed up by a black hole or strangelets at least for a couple of months.

The head of public relations for the collider, James Gillies, reports that some of the communications from the public have made him "slightly angry". He and other scientists are dismayed at the lack of understanding of science evident among the general public. A professor Brian Cox, notes:

Prof Brian Cox of Manchester University, adding: "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t---."

Hmmm, what is a "t---"?

If the general public is incapable of understanding how the collider works and that the probability that its operation will destroy the earth is nil, whose fault is it? I would put the blame squarely on the physicists themselves. Brian Cox would resort to name calling, but maybe he sucks at teaching and devotes little time to educating the general public about science and that's why people don't understand what's going on here. OK, anyone that would resort to death threats is a little wacky. That being said, I would challenge people like Brian Cox to stop name calling and get out and explain to the public what the LHC/CERN is about, why anyone should care, and why they shouldn't be afraid of it.

Perhaps the final word on the matter should come from cosmic rays which bombard the upper atmosphere of the earth all the time. It has been pointed out that the energies accessed by the collider routinely occur in collisions up there, but the earth is still here. So the doomsday scenarios have already been ruled out by experiments being conducted by nature.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually Brian Cox has made a number of videos and appearances explaining science the lay public.