More Trouble for LHC?

[Update:- NB: This was an April Fool joke. -cvj]

CMS detector - New York TimesSome breaking news for a change. I’ve only heard snippets of this and so I’ll update later with more as I get it. That silliness that was in the news about two physicists pursuing a lawsuit against the Large Hadron Collider has suddenly become serious. (Image right: the CMS detector at the LHC, taken by Valerio Mezzanotti – from a NYT article about the LHC last year.)

Recall that the issue was that there would be the possibility of the experiment creating mini black holes that could gobble up the earth and that the CERN scientists have not done enough to demonstrate that this was not a safety issue. Of course, and has already been said in several places (see e.g., Phil’s general level post about the physics and the case here), this is utterly ill-conceived and in any case certainly not the way to go about things, but it seems that the legal route can be quite damaging for science, in the right hands.

What seems to have happened is this. Since the suit was filed in Hawaii, it falls under US Federal jurisdiction, and has been taken up as an emergency issue before the Supreme Court. Somehow the litigants got a hearing on this with the help of powerful friends who have what can only be thought of as another example of the anti-science agenda we’ve a lot of in various branches of the government in recent years.

The upshot is that the Supreme Court has announced today that they are requiring all US involvement in the experiment to cease immediately. This is of course extremely damaging to the LHC’s time-line for beginning to do physics any time soon. As usual, there’s a lot of legal language associated with their decision, and I’ll spare you the details, but the key deciding vote has been attributed to Justice Thomas, who argued in his summary statement that the entire LHC physics program is:

… fundamentally unconstitutional, in that there should be no preferred channels in the p-p scattering matrix for the creation of black holes, or holes of any particular hue. As such, any continued use of Federal funds to perform such physics experiments is to be discontinued forthwith…

Does the Supreme Court have a science advisor!? It’s unbelievable to me that this wonderful experiment that we’ve all be waiting for over almost two decades could all be scuppered (can it really go on without US involvement?) due such a huge misunderstanding of some basic physics terms that leads to confusion with a conservative Supreme Court Justice’s views on a separate subject. Such a deliberate confusion of politics, legal wrangling, and basic science marks, to my mind, the beginning of a truly bleak period for fundamental research in the USA. I’d be interested to hear what you think of this in the comments.

This is still relatively new information coming in, and so I’ll update you with more as I learn it. If anyone has links to this story online, please paste them into the comments.


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8 Responses to More Trouble for LHC?

  1. Yvette says:


    You know, some people really shouldn’t be allowed in front of the keyboard today. 😀

    (Incidentally, I have a friend who decided to tell everyone today that she was pregnant, not realizing the date. That was funny in itself!)

  2. Clifford says:

    Hmmmm… So it was not Narith the gas pump attendant at it again?


  3. Chris says:

    I’m gullible beyond belief. Up until the Justice Thomas quote, I kept thinking, “thankfully nor the DoE nor NSF will be funding me soon”… but then again, sometimes the DoE and NSF both make you check our watches to check the date. Very funny… very funny…

    But it’s just sad that the state of particle physics in the states is such that what worse could happen?

  4. Yvette says:

    Well you’re only allowed to give your mum heart palpitations over a fake engagement once before she figures it out, see…

    The astronomy department here does a great April Fool’s Day tradition where every year students decorate the dept, which has ranged over the years from “Department of Agronomy” to “Creation Science Museum” to a few movies too numerous to mention here. This year was “Visible Dark Matter” on the grounds that we’d save a few researchers a good few years and $$$ by showing it’s been hiding in the astro dept the whole time!

    Oh, and then the physics grad students stole our awesome couch in the undergrad lounge, so we had to go steal it back and steal their couch as punishment as well. We were smart enough to chain ours to the radiator, though, which worked well enough until the prof in charge of undergrad studies told us the grad students lead terrible enough existences even when they have a place to nap, and we had to give it back.

    But no sir, no keyboard mayhem this year! :p

  5. Elliot says:

    What is frightening to imagine is if this actually did get to the SCOTUS, Scalia would excuse himself, go out and call Dick Cheney and ask him what the right decision was. Then and only then would he construct a convoluted legal argument to support that decision.


  6. thesis writer upper says:

    Yes, I believed this too up until the quote. The fact is, this is just the sort of nonsense one expects these days.

  7. Just Another Grad Student says:

    I believed it untill I realized that I hadn’t seen the experimentalists here committing ritual hari kari.

  8. cvjugo says:

    I believed it until i got to the comments section.