22 September 2008

The world is not going to end

The Niels Bohr Institute is still getting inquiries from people who fear that the experiments at CERN will lead to the end of the world. Read particle physicist Børge Svane Nielsen’s response to a concerned citizen.

I have the feeling that no matter what I write here to reassure you that you will still be worried, but I cannot do anything else but explain why I and all of my colleagues are completely at ease with the experiments we are performing at CERN.

First, to give a little of the background for the media coverage there has been over doomsday. This is the result of two people in Hawaii suing, because they believe that we physicists are not careful enough and could result in completely unthinkable catastrophes.

A biochemistry professor in Germany then took this up and believes he can make calculations, which are unverifiable by any known physics.

Listen to the science
It is true that many others besides you have been frightened by what the media has written and said. The case is just that in all instances there is an element of that no matter what the scientists, who are super experts in the area, say, one still does not really believe them.

How can I as a scientist who works with the CERN experiments convince you, when no one else can? All I can do is explain why I am not the least nervous.

Completely harmless
1. To begin with, we find it unlikely that black holes could be created in our experiments, but even if they could all of our knowledge of black holes (which are found out in the universe and are observed by astronomers) tells us that such mini-black-holes would be completely harmless as they would disintegrate long before they come close to other matter.

2. Secondly, we can calculate that if we with the LHC could create something that could lead to doomsday scenario, so will it already have long since happened in nature and many times. The case is that the type of experiments we are doing also occur in nature each and every day and have for the last 14 billion years. If the doomsday prophecies had anything to them, these natural experiments would have already lead to the end of the world and the universe long ago – completely without human involvement.

Results in no great catastrophes
CERN has set impartial experts to make further investigations of these two points and has got them to write a full report, which they have then asked other experts, Nobel prize winners and others to read through it thoroughly. The conclusion is that it is completely impossible to imagine that the LHC could release such forces necessary to create huge catastrophes.

We cannot do more, or what?

Finally I just want to say that I have the most adorable grandchild who is almost 2 years old, with whom I spend my happiest moments together with. I would never dream of putting her in danger through the experiments I help create through my work.