Tuesday, 9 September 2008

NEWS: It's official - "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat"

There are lots of things to get wound up about in the world, many of them truly apocalyptic - global climate change, world food supply, biosecurity etc etc.

However, let all doomsayers take note: particle acceleraters are not one of them ...

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is due to be 'switched on' (which basically means it will circulate a beam of particles through its entire 17km length for the first time) at 9.30am EST on Wednesday. For what is the beginning of a groundbreaking attempt to uncover the origins and the building blocks of the universe, it is only right the event will be broadcast around the world. However, we all know why there's so much media interest in this event - and it ain't a new appreciation for scientific endeavour.

The End is Nigh has been produced, on and off, for almost four years and yet it still comes as a surprise that scientists working on the LHC have not only had to fend off legal challenges, but have also apparently been receiving death threats. Once such recipient, according to the Daily Telegraph, has been Frank Wilczek, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But an End is Nigh Common Sense Award goes to Prof Brian Cox of Manchester University, who bluntly told the Telegraph: "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a twat."

Most of the media attention of this event has focused on hyping up or refuting such outlandish claims, and the Telegraph goes on to report that the head of PR James Gillies, the public's contact for info on the £4.5 billion machine, is inundated with people fearing for their lives. "There are a number who say: "You are evil and dangerous and you are going to destroy the world," he said. "I find myself getting slightly angry, not because people are getting in touch but the fact they have been driven to do that by what is nonsense. What we are doing is enriching humanity, not putting it at risk."

With apocalyptic fears usually fuelled by the attention the media pay to anyone with a scary theory, the LHC would appear to be teaching us as much about human ignorance as it is about the foundations of existence.

The LHC Switch On: 32 hours and counting ...

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