Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Proving the Big Bang Theory

The impending startup of the Large Hadron Collider.

Next year will see the release of the film version of “Angels and Demons,” the prequel to Dan Brown’s “DaVinci Code,” in which the bad guys use a Cern accelerator to gather antimatter for a bomb to blow up the Vatican, and it includes scenes at Cern.

"It starts smashing protons together this summer at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or Cern, outside Geneva, in hopes of grabbing a piece of the primordial fire, forces and particles that may have existed a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.
Critics have contended that the machine could produce a black hole that could eat the Earth or something equally catastrophic."

"Fears about the Brookhaven collider first centered on black holes but soon shifted to the danger posed by weird hypothetical particles, strangelets, that critics said could transform the Earth almost instantly into a dead, dense lump. Ultimately, independent studies by two groups of physicists calculated that the chances of this catastrophe were negligible, based on astronomical evidence and assumptions about the physics of the strangelets. One report put the odds of a strangelet disaster at less than one in 50 million, less than a chance of winning some lottery jackpots. Dr. Kent, in a 2003 paper, used the standard insurance company method to calculate expected losses to explore how stringent this bound on danger was. He multiplied the disaster probability times the cost, in this case the loss of the global population, six billion. A result was that, in actuarial terms, the Rhic collider could kill up to 120 people in a decade of operation. "

"Of course, thanks to those pesky quantum laws, disaster could come anytime. Or not. It could happen that the scientist’s prayer will be answered and your discovery will indeed lead to knowledge, human happiness and a new killer ap for iPhones."

“As in all explorations of uncharted domains, there may be a risk,” Dr. Rees wrote, “but there is a hidden cost of saying no.”


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