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Above, the constellation Draco begins devouring Planet Earth somewhere in the vicinity of Geneva, Switzerland. Filched from a woman in the modern languages department at the University of Texas at Arlington. Artist and date unknown, but I think I have a book of these, I will research in the nearly extinct medium, a physical book.
What's spooky about all this is that it's beginning EXACTLY like 600 crappy Grade Z science fiction disaster movies I've seen. A total male Nobody, either wholly unemployed or working the night shift at a Piggly Wiggly, is trying to warn the People of Earth of an impending disaster of Biblical proportions, but nobody in any position of government authority and no scientist with any professional standing will listen to him. They laugh at him and call Security to escort him out of the building.
When you read this New York Times article about this first warning of an impending disaster of Biblical proportions -- well, let me be blunt, we are talking The End Of The World here, and we are talking Sometime This Coming Summer -- look carefully beneath the rug for the reporter's tone. He is not taking this seriously. In fact, he is laughing. He is ROFLing at this warning of TEOTW.
Which isn't fair. This is a Hard News Story. The hard news hook is a lawsuit filed a couple of weeks ago in U.S. federal District Court in Honolulu demanding that the U.S. government immediately cease and desist all activities supportive of and beneficial to CERN's new world's most powerful atom-smasher, the Large Hadron Collider or LHC.
[If you need to know what a Hadron is, Leave A Comment. And Sign Your Name so everyone in C-space will know who doesn't know what a Hadron is.]
CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) has announced this sucker is Ready to Rock & Roll and Good To Go and All Systems Are Go a few kilometers west of Geneva, and they will press the ON button and start colliding Large Hadrons into one another at unimaginable Relativistic velocities and energies in the neighborhood of 7,000,000,000,000 Elecron Volts sometime this Summer. During the annual Swiss Picnic in High Meadow Season, when the mountain wildflowers are in full bloom and the wild mushrooms are ready for picking in the woods.
(Happy throngs of picnickers and beach sunbathers are also mandatory elements of these movies. Buy Milk Duds now, soon begins a great deal of screaming and disorderly behavior, maybe take this opportunity to smash store window and get the Pioneer PDP-5010FD 50" Diagonal 1080p Plasma HDTV TV.)
Recent work by the enormously respected world-famous Harvard theoretical physicist Dr. Lisa Randall seems to be the irresponsibly discarded cigarette in the kerosene storage facility which has inspired Our Heroes -- there are two plaintiffs to this lawsuit, but I don't know which one is The Hero and which one is his funny sarcastic joke-telling Sidekick -- to take drastic action to stop this Biblical Mistake of Big EuroScience, before a small Black Hole is created and swallows the Earth this Summer.
I can't believe her name is really Dr. Lisa Randall -- I have seen eleven movies at least where the enormously respected world-famous Harvard theoretical physicist is named Dr. Lisa Randall. Also -- and this also you will not believe, but it's true, I have photos -- she is HOT! This is no Meiskeit Lady Scientist like wins the Nobel Prize in Real Life. The RealityLand Dr. Lisa Randall is currently The Supermodel of international Theoretical Physics. Every time she speaks about String Theory or Extra Dimensions in public, the editors make sure to send a photographer on the assignment. If you have a decent body and are not too superannuated, any woman could do a lot worse than slavishly copying the coiture and coiffure of RealityLand Dr. Lisa Randall. (She went to Hampshire College, down the road from me.)
Q. How many Hampshire College students does it take to change a lighbulb?
A. Nineteen. One to change the bulb, eighteen to make a multimedia YouTube videodocumentary out of it.
(I know some other HC jokes, Leave a Comment.)
I don't think her theoretical work actually SAID that turning on the LHC would certainly or necessarily Destroy The Earth. But apparently there are Hints hidden in her new ideas, along the lines that Nobody on Earth has Ever Done Anything Like This At These Speeds and Energies Before.
So it is unlikely the result will be attractive or pretty or resemble the 2nd act of "The Magic Flute." This is the kind of Science Pioneering Adventure it is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher and the HazMat Team and the Bomb Squad and FEMA and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Medicins Sans Frontieres standing by for. Advance notification of Clergy is also not a bad idea. Also someone should contact the big life and casualty insurance companies.
Anyway, some people have sufficiently pretzled her String Theory Extra Dimensions ideas to reach a conclusion that the LHC Power Up will make the first A-Bomb test at Alamagordo seem like 12-year-olds playing with Fourth of July cherry bombs and M80s. (I think you can still buy them at South Of The Border, a wonderful Tourist Trap with adequate restaurants and clean bathrooms on I-95 in South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border. You can't miss it.)
I have also heard that very comparison uttered as a threat in at least nine sci-fi movies.
General, look -- I'm trying
to tell you that if you
turn that machine on ...
One thing we do have sufficient time to do is make T-shirts loudly predicting this Doomsday, and wearing them whenever we go grocery shopping. I think the above would make a dandy t-shirt. I will give it away free, a charitable gesture to show my support for efforts to avoid being swallowed by a small Black Hole this summer.
I can think of nothing more stereotypically American about this story: When an American clearly foresees the imminent Destruction of the Earth, he files a federal lawsuit. That's How The West Was Won, that's how we achieved our Independence from Great Britain, that's How We Walked On The Moon.
Before they filed the lawsuit, everyone just laughed at these guys and pressed the hidden Security button.
CERN is saying rude, insulting things. The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Energy (which does all our nuclear weapons and nukes stuff) are cautiously optimistic that they can handle this, they can bring this lawsuit to a conclusion beneficial to the government side.
But they're not laughing, they have stopped laughing. This is a good time to run out and buy popcorn or a box of Milk Duds, things are going to really pick up and get Tense between now and Summer.
And this is not the Ashtabula Weekly Farm News or the National Inquirer. This is The New York Times. The phone is ringing, the media, from slick broadsheet to pulp sludge and tabloid, want to talk to these guys.
Hey! Man-on-the-Ground! How far are you from CERN? I think 6 April maybe they will be serving free wine and cheese, and everybody's welcome! Go! Then File A Story for Agence-Vleeptron Presse! And be reasonable with the expenses!
The New York Times
Saturday 29 March 2008
Asking a Judge
to Save the World,
and Maybe a Whole Lot More
by Dennis Overbye
More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice.
None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.
Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.
The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8,000,000,000 building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.
But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.
The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.
According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for June 16.
Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?
In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, “I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.
James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.
“There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe,” he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6.
“Scientifically, we’re not hiding away,” he said.
But Mr. Wagner is not mollified. “They’ve got a lot of propaganda saying it’s safe,” he said in an interview, “but basically it’s propaganda.”
In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review “fundamentally flawed” and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission’s standards for adhering to the “Precautionary Principle,” he wrote, “and has not been done by ‘arms length’ scientists.”
Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.
“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.
This is not the first time around for Mr. Wagner. He filed similar suits in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the Brookhaven National Laboratory from operating the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. That suit was dismissed in 2001. The collider, which smashes together gold ions in the hopes of creating what is called a “quark-gluon plasma,” has been operating without incident since 2000.
Mr. Wagner, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, studied physics and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctorate in law from what is now known as the University of Northern California in Sacramento. He subsequently worked as a radiation safety officer for the Veterans Administration.
Mr. Sancho, who describes himself as an author and researcher on time theory, lives in Spain, probably in Barcelona, Mr. Wagner said.
Doomsday fears have a long, if not distinguished, pedigree in the history of physics. At Los Alamos before the first nuclear bomb was tested, Emil Konopinski was given the job of calculating whether or not the explosion would set the atmosphere on fire.
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of 7,000,000,000,000 electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.
The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?
According to a paper by the cosmologist Stephen Hawking in 1974, they would rapidly evaporate in a poof of radiation and elementary particles, and thus pose no threat. No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.
As a result, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Sancho contend in their complaint, black holes could really be stable, and a micro black hole created by the collider could grow, eventually swallowing the Earth.
But William Unruh, of the University of British Columbia, whose paper exploring the limits of Dr. Hawking’s radiation process was referenced on Mr. Wagner’s Web site, said they had missed his point. “Maybe physics really is so weird as to not have black holes evaporate,” he said. “But it would really, really have to be weird.”
Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist whose work helped fuel the speculation about black holes at the collider, pointed out in a paper last year that black holes would probably not be produced at the collider after all, although other effects of so-called quantum gravity might appear.
As part of the safety assessment report, Dr. Mangano and Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been working intensely for the last few months on a paper exploring all the possibilities of these fearsome black holes. They think there are no problems but are reluctant to talk about their findings until they have been peer reviewed, Dr. Mangano said.
Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”
- 30 -
CERN opens its doors
to the world
On 6 April 2008, CERN will open its doors to the public, offering a unique chance to visit its newest and largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), before it goes into operation later this year. This scientific instrument, the largest and most complex in the world, is installed in a 27 km tunnel, 100 metres underground in the Swiss canton of Geneva and neighbouring France. CERN will open all access points around the ring for visits underground, to the tunnel and the experiment caverns. On the surface, a wide-ranging programme will be on offer, allowing people to learn about the physics for which this huge instrument is being installed, the technology underlying it, and applications in other fields.
In the LHC, particles such as protons or heavy ions will be accelerated to close to the speed of light in two tubes. At four intersection points the particles will collide at an energy never before reached in a particle accelerator to study new areas of physics that so far have not been accessible. Experiments at the LHC expect to be able to answer a number of fundamental questions, such as the origin of mass or the nature of the so-called “dark matter”. However, since the LHC will explore a new energy range, there will also be unexpected results, resulting in new questions and new physics.
On the Open Day, many visitors to CERN will be able to descend and see the LHC and its big experiments, ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb in place in their underground caverns. However, since access to the underground areas is limited due to the capacity of the elevators and safety concerns, a range of activities is also planned on the surface where visitors will be able to learn about particle physics and talk to CERN engineers and physicists.
A central theme apart from the LHC, its magnets and experiments, will be superconductivity, the principle on which the operation of the LHC is based. At the heart of the LHC magnets lie 7000 kilometres of superconducting cables, cooled to a temperature close to absolute zero, which are able to conduct electricity without resistance. Spectacular experiments, exhibitions and films will introduce the public to this exciting phenomenon, visitors will be able to meet physicists to “ask an expert” and there will be the chance for an encounter with two Nobel laureates who will give lectures about their prize-winning discoveries.
The fun and excitement of physics will be demonstrated in the Globe of Science and Innovation and physics shows taking place at various venues around the ring. Children will be able to meet up with the presenter of a popular French TV show on his tour through eight communes close to the LHC access points or take part in a “magical physics” show.
More details on the programme and additional information can be found on the CERN website at www.cern.ch/lhc2008.
Notes to the editor
A Press Welcome point will be set up in the Globe of Science and Innovation in front of the CERN Meyrin main site.
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.
Main sponsors for the LHC2008 Open Day are: Air Liquide, Alstom, ASG, Babcock Noell, CECOM, Force10 networks, Intel, Linde Kryotechnik, Luvata, Oracle, SAS Gerome Gerbier, Sun Microsystems, Transtec computer AG, UBS, Western Digital.
Le Temps, Radio Lac and World Radio Switzerland are media partners of the LHC2008 Open Day.
Copyright (c) CERN 2008 - Press Office, DSU-CO
Lisa Randall (born 18 June 1962) is an American theoretical physicist and a leading expert on particle physics and cosmology. She works on several of the competing models of string theory in the quest to explain the fabric of the universe, and was the first tenured woman in the Princeton University physics department and the first tenured female theoretical physicist at MIT and Harvard University. Her work has attracted enormous interest and is among the most cited in all of science. In common with other researchers in this field, however, none of her theoretical work has yet been confirmed by experiment.
Randall studies particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, where she is a professor of theoretical physics. Her research concerns elementary particles and fundamental forces, and has involved the study of a wide variety of models, the most recent involving extra dimensions of space. She has also worked on supersymmetry, Standard Model observables, cosmic inflation, baryogenesis, grand unified theories, general relativity. Professor Randall recently completed a book entitled Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, which was included in the New York Times' 100 notable books of 2005.
Randall earned her PhD from Harvard University and held professorships at MIT and Princeton University before returning to Harvard in 2001. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Physical Society, and is a past winner of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, a DOE Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, and the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. In 2003, she received the Premio Caterina Tomassoni e Felice Pietro Chisesi Award, from the University of Rome, La Sapienza. In autumn, 2004, she was the most cited theoretical physicist of the previous five years. In 2006, she received the Klopsted Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Prof Randall was featured in Seed Magazine's “2005 Year in Science Icons ” and in Newsweek 's “Who's Next in 2006”. She has helped organize numerous conferences and has been on the editorial board of several major theoretical physics journals.
Randall is an alumna of Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1980, where she was a classmate of fellow physicist and science popularizer Brian Greene. Randall earned a BA from Harvard in 1983, and obtained her Ph.D. in particle physics in 1987 under the direction of Howard Georgi. Georgi considers her his all-time best student. She was made a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Randall was featured in Newsweek magazine's "Who's Next" issue of January 2, 2006, as "one of the most promising theoretical physicists of her generation."
Randall's sister, Dana Randall, is a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech.
Randall was the subject of The Discover Interview (pgs. 50-53) in the July 2006 issue.
In 2007, Randall was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People (Time 100) under the section for "Scientists & Thinkers." Randall was given this honor for her work regarding the evidence of a high dimension.
* Randall, Lisa (2005). Warped Passages: Unraveling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions. Ecco. ISBN 0-06-053108-8.
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
* Prof Randall's website at Harvard
* Reprinted Op-Ed from The New York Times of Sunday, September 18th 2005
* Lisa Randall's Edge Bio Page
* On Gravity, Oreos and a Theory of Everything
* Radio Interview from This Week in Science May 09, 2006 Broadcast
* Profile in Scientific American October 2005
* Lisa Randall discusses "Warped Passages" on Thoughtcast
* Lisa Randall is interviewed by Charlie Rose
1. ^ The Third Culture - Lisa Randall. Edge. Retrieved on 2007-10-31.
2. ^ Rawe, Julie. "Time 100." Time Magazine 14 May 2007: 108.
Labels: CERN LHC Large Hadron Collider Lisa Randall Fermilab Harvard Hampshire College