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August 07, 2008

European Mad Scientists Schedule Destruction of Earth

The CERN super-duper collider will be switched on soon, producing, some scientists hope, microscopic black holes which will, if their calculations are correct, then destroy the entire earth within eight minutes.

"We're on the verge of making, and then promptly ending, history," Dr. Damien Lichttrager said. "This is why I became a Man of Mad Science in the first place."

No, but really, we're all going to die:

The gigantic particle accelerator just now being completed outside Geneva at the European Organization for Nuclear Research -- known as CERN -- is set to be switched on soon. And some are concerned that, once the research facility begins bashing subatomic particles together at 99.999991 percent of the speed of light, dangerous black holes could be created and spread out of control.

The fear has spread fast and far in cyberspace. In addition, a scientist at the University of Tübingen, Dr. Otto E. Rössler, has lent a certain amount of academic weight to the skepticism. So much so that a group of German physicists has now published an open letter carrying assurances that the particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is in fact safe.

"There is no way that the LHC will produce black holes capable of swallowing up the Earth," reads the letter from the Committee for Elementary Particle Physics (KET), a group of leading quantum physicists in Germany. "This claim is based on extremely well tested theories of physics and on observations of the cosmos."

The head of KET, Dr. Peter Mättig, a particle physicist with the University of Wuppertal, concedes that disaster theories have not made much headway in the general public. "I don't think there are many who believe it," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "But it is notable how often we have been asked about the problem. And we especially want to refute those, like Dr. Rössler, who try to use science to back up their claims."

KET argues that those concerned about a tiny black hole growing into a large black hole fundamentally misunderstand well-established rules of quantum physics. For one, mini-black holes, the KET Web site assures its readers, would be just one billionth of a billionth of a gram in weight and would be extremely unstable. Indeed, according to a theory developed by the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, they would vanish almost instantaneously -- a phenomenon known as Hawking radiation. Anyone who says otherwise, KET says, doesn't completely get Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

Still, no one is denying that some physicists are hoping the Large Hadron Collider will allow them to observe, however briefly, the creation of these -- so far theoretical -- tiny black holes. One of the goals of the €4.8 billion ($8 billion) project is to create conditions very much like those in the first milliseconds of the universe's existence -- right at the beginning of the Big Bang.

By doing so, those who ascribe to string theory -- a mathematical construct seen by many as a possible means of unifying quantum mechanics with general relativity (the so-called "theory of everything") -- hope to find physical proof of an idea which has until now been little more than an exercise in theoretical physics. String theory predicts the existence of a number of dimensions beyond the four we are aware of, as well as a number of ultra-tiny particles and anti-particles that have not yet been observed.

"And of course the invasion of the Hyperdemons from the Dark Dimension is just gravy," Dr. Lichttrager commented.

This may sound preposterous, but hey, they've got a YouTube video.

Thanks to jenjhis.

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posted by Ace at 01:36 PM

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