Law Vs Law

A silly lawsuit vs the search for physical law, that is. What’s the story?* An attempt to stop the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva from operating over fears that the experiment will destroy the earth by creating a black hole that will swallow it up. Or some other bogeyman. Article by Dennis Overbye here, or here, and there’s a Fox News story by Paul Wagenseil here.

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.

Quite an entertaining read can also be found at the two plaintiffs’ website. The main page is here, and the actual language of the case brought (er, in Hawaii) against the LHC is here.

I know, you’re thinking this is a few days too early isn’t it? No, this is not an April Fool’s joke – you just can’t make this stuff up as well as this.

I can’t bring myself to get worked up about this, so the short version of my opinion? It’s wrong-headed, silly, alarmist nonsense. Carry on as you were – there’s nothing to see here.

[Update: Phil over at Bad Astronomy had some nice thoughts on this, with some accessible background information. Have a look.]


(*Thanks Elliot, Krzysztof, and Nick.)

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12 Responses to Law Vs Law

  1. Phil Plait says:

    I posted about this just yesterday. I think the claims are worth investigating, but once that’s done you see that they don’t hold water. The most interesting thing about this, in my opinion, is that one of the two litigators, Luis Sanchez, could charitably be called a crackpot once you look at his website. While that doesn’t make him wrong, necessarily, it certainly colors the case.

  2. Clifford says:

    Thanks Phil. Well, sure… but I’d say it already reads like crackpotty stuff from the get-go, reading the suit itself. No need for “unification” websites. What bothers me more than the claim or concern itself is just the irresponsible scare-mongering and misinformation. It annoys me intensely and is potentially damaging to the cause of basic science.



  3. Phil Plait says:

    I agree, conditionally. I think that we should be looking into any potential problems, of course, but that it should be done evenly and fairly. These guys strike me as ambulance-chasers, especially since the potential problems *were* investigated, and shown to be no concern.

  4. On the bright side, if the LHC does make a “dragon” that eats us up, we won’t be worrying about it for very long. Hehe.


  5. Elliot says:

    It seems unlikely that the court would enforce this without some “serious” physics to back it up. Martin Rees considered such a scenario in a recent book but I imagine most physicists think this is a very unlikely outcome.

    But just to get folks out there a bit worked up… wouldn’t this resolve the Fermi Paradox in an interesting way? Civilizations that have advanced to our level all ultimately self destruct when they cross a certain energy threshold in their experiments to understand reality.



  6. Clifford says:

    Phil, yes, we are in agreement. One should always go to reasonable lengths to verify the safety of any experiment. No question. (By the way, the spam checker held your second comment in limbo for most of the day. Sorry.)


  7. Haelfix says:

    This is an example of how you go about getting lots of publicity in science. Make an idiotic claim, alarm the goodfolk with a bunch of jargon and vocab that reminisces the imagery from cheesy 1950s flics, throw in a lawsuit to make it sound official, and there you have it… Instant attention and notoriety.

  8. Elliot says:

    although not likely to be relevant here

    is a somewhat interesting exercise in trying to figure out how long humanity will actually survive.


  9. Plato says:

    While it would would seem nonsense, I was lead to wonder about strangelets back when the disaster scenarios were first presented. To try and understand what was being said.

    It seemed strange to me that was was being done at LHC in terms of the reductionist possibilities, was and had to be presented within the context of “particle collisions from sources in the cosmos. It was brought into perspective this way for me. Pierre Auger and the experiments, by John Ellis.

    It was then that such presentations seem to present themself in terms of muon detection, that being with uneducated thought I began to think about what ICECUBE, what could move faster then speed of light (cerenkov radiation) and, the addition to LHC whichcould move through the earth and appear at Gran Sasso.

    Sorry Clifford it’s not perfectly clear, but this issue has been around for sometime with various posts having been left on different blogs. Mine one of them

  10. Plato says:

    what could move faster then speed of light…in water of course.:)

  11. JTankers says:

    Actually a copy of the full text of the legal action including affidavits is posted here:

    I read it the first night it was available, I find it well written, reasonable and compelling.

    But what I find scary is Professor Rossler’s calculations (which have been released for peer review) predicting that a stable micro black hole might actually accrete the planet in a time period not closer to 50 million years, but instead closer to 50 months.

    Two of Prof. Rössler’s papers have been posted (one after the other in the same PDF) at:

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