Tuesday, 1 April 2008

you paid HOW MUCH to destroy the universe?

There is a nonzero chance the Large Hadron Collider's attempt to create black holes will result in a kind of matter called strangelets, which like cooties transform everything they touch.

It's somewhere in the region of the same nonzero chance that your underpants will instantly quantum tunnel their way out of your pants and onto your head, but nevermind; it's still enough for some folks (NYT) to litigate. There is even a facebook group devoted to the, um, cause.

I don’t know how you ever get comfortable with any level of risk of destroying the universe....

After all, the whole point of the Large Hadron Collider is to create conditions that are not predictable....

I can’t see the management of this project spending $8 billion, realizing it was a huge boner, and then holding a press conference suggesting it be turned into a parking garage. I’ll bet a lot of people in that position would take at least a 5% risk of incinerating the galaxy versus incinerating their own careers. I know I would.

As usual, it takes a cartoonist to get to the heart of the issue.

CERN's own cartoonish response is a 4-minute youtube video, with bonus soundtrack "From Yesterday" by 30 Seconds to Mars (who knew Jared Leto could sing?).

1 comment:

Anavrin Stange Quark said...

I'm utterly baffled...
Must think about this one for a while. But just from the top of my head:
If the event of ending up with your underwear on your head for quantum mechanical reasons (not more "classical" ones), and the event of destroying Earth (let's leave the universe out for now) are more or less just as (really un-)likely; but the latter is risking the "ultimate tragedy" while the former is just risking bewilderment and perhaps embarrassment... should we treat the likelihoods of both in the same way?
The probabilist in me says "yes of course", the terrestrial mammal in me whispers shyly "um.. no."

Nevertheless, I doubt current specific technology has the capacity of destroying the universe as we "know"it, yet, people said that about global warming being influenced by humans –some still do.
Hmmm... I'm perplexed.