Do Experiments Deep in Swiss Alps Present a Threat to Future of Earth?
By Keith Johnson
In recent years, scientists around the world have been initiating costly projects to study the very fabric that holds the universe together. The question remains, however: By playing God, are these men and women in white lab coats furthering man’s knowledge of the world around us, or are they bringing us ever closer to global disaster?
At a cost of nearly $10 billion, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland is the most ambitious scientific undertaking in human history. Located 570 feet beneath the Alpine foothills on the French-Swiss border, this circular 17-mile particle accelerator has been smashing subatomic particles together at great speed in an attempt to recreate conditions that occurred when the universe began, according to the outlook of conventional science.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) insists its projects are intended to revolutionize “our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the universe.”
Others question what toll these experiments might wreak upon humanity in pursuit of scientific largess. Doomsayers maintain that the LHC may create black holes, vacuum bubbles or even destroy the Earth due to its extreme capabilities.
Even more intriguing, a controversial rumor began circulating in late April suggesting that physicists working on the ATLAS project at CERN laboratories may have discovered the elusive “God particle.”
This announcement initially provoked equal amounts of optimism and skepticism from within the scientific community. However, with each passing day, there are indications this may very well be another false alarm.
More appropriately referred to as Higgs boson, this hypothetical particle is thought to be a significant part of the cohesive force that holds the universe together, giving other particles their mass. Such a discovery could help correct certain flaws in the standard model that physicists currently use to describe the laws of nature.
Some scientists believe that if the Higgs boson particle does exist, it could explain why protons and electrons behave as they do, giving researchers access to a whole new landscape of physics.
However, a spokesperson for the ATLAS project, Fabiola Gianotti, takes these assertions with a grain of salt because the findings have not yet been peer-reviewed. Casting even more doubt, Syed Afsar Abbas, a professor of physics at India’s Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), told the Indo-Asian News Service that he dismissed these reports.
“The Higgs mechanism does not exist as a physical particle,” Abbas said. “My idea is well-known to particle physicists. But they tend to play down its importance as they have been spending billions of dollars of public money to look for this non-existent Higgs particle.”
Still, many in the lay community fear some type of apocalyptic situation associated with the LHC. To allay their fears, a group of scientists, scholars and students have created a non-profit organization intent on using legal action to prevent further operation of this high-energy particle accelerator.
As part of their mission statement, Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider proclaim: “Some experts fear that the risk of operating the LHC disproportionately outweighs anything science might gain from this experiment. It is not possible to know what the outcome of the experiment will be, but even CERN scientists concede that there is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes . . . and space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet.”
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(Issue # 21, May 23, 2011)