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writing for godot

CERN’s LHC and the Sendai Earthquake

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Written by Stefan Hansen   
Sunday, 20 March 2011 07:24
"Adults take care of irresponsible children. Übermensch take care of irresponsible adults. I have no choice." - Anonymous

This is not an article about how CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) caused the mega-earthquake in Japan. It's about something far more important, namely what the Sendai earthquake can teach us about low probability events happening, despite scientists in the field - before the event - agreeing it couldn't happen. This can hopefully teach us a lesson: not trusting the scientific consensus blindly. Scientists, no matter how they are portrayed, are human beings, and - naturally - fallible. And that goes for all scientists, including the ones working at CERN.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not favoring an anti-science position - far from it. I'm an advocate of science, but true science, that is; science build on evidence - not dogma or unfortunate over-generalizations, like: an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 can never occur on the east side of Japan, or a black hole can never be created in the Large Hadron Collider.

What happened in Japan some few days ago was horrible. Thousands of people died, many are still missing, and thanks to the compromised Fukushima nuclear power plant it's not over yet. Still, I now allow myself to direct your attention some 10,000 kilometers west of Sendai, to the heart of Europe, where CERN's Large Hadron Collider is pulsing at the French-Swiss border. Why? Because this machine might be the end of us. All of us. And no, it's not a lack of understanding of particle physics that makes me say this. No matter what the particle physics establishment would like you to believe. Not because they are evil, and intentionally wants to mislead you, but simply because they are too confident about their hypotheses and theories. The particle physicists cannot predict what's going to happen inside the Large Hadron Collider. This is obvious if you think about it. If they could predict what would happen with certainty, they wouldn't build a billion-dollar machine in the first place. Unfortunately - for all of us - they think they can, which makes them see their critics as fools. Maybe they should take some lessons in modesty from the seismic scientists, who in general are less arrogant about their knowledge, and lack of knowledge.

My argument is not based on particle physics (which I admittedly know little about), but as you will see; an understanding of particle physics is not needed. What is needed is a dissection of CERN's own words, an appreciation of history, combined with an anti-gullible and anti-dogmatic attitude. With that, when you come to the last dot in this article you will - hopefully - have a little less faith in what is called scientific consensus - although scientific dogma sometimes is a more appropriate term. I urge you to trust your own judgement, don't take my word for it. Reflect. Read everything as if you didn't know who wrote it, evaluate what is said based on the strength of the arguments given, not on who said it. Also, be en garde when it comes to hyperbole and rhetorics. And with that introduction, let's get down to business.

First, consider this statement regarding the Sendai earthquake: "Japanese geologists have long forecast a huge earthquake along a major plate boundary southwest of Tokyo. But the grinding plates of the earth move in mysterious ways, and Friday the largest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history hit about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo," from The Washington Post. What does it tell us? In short: nature is unpredictable, and too much certainty can be devastating, especially when we are in unknown territory. And at CERN they are in unknown territory, as they say themselves in their safety document: "The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can achieve an energy that no other particle accelerators have reached before." Still, CERN stubbornly claims that their Large Hadron Collider is perfectly safe.

In The Safety of the LHC, CERN writes: "According to the well-established properties of gravity, described by Einstein’s relativity, it is impossible for microscopic black holes to be produced at the LHC." But is this reference to Einstein more than empty rhetorics? The short answer is no, and - again - you don't need to be a particle physicists to understand why. You just need not to be gullible, and remember that what we call scientific breakthroughs (like Einstein's relativity) are exactly what kicks a previous, well-established, theory of the throne. Like Einstein's theory of relativity did with Newton's theory of gravity. So, maybe Einstein - and therefore CERN - might be wrong. In a sense, scientists better hope Einstein can be shown to be wrong, so we can take the next step forward in our understanding of the world. And just like we cannot know for sure if a magnitude 7.6 earthquake will hit New York City in a month from now, we cannot know for sure if a black hole will be created in the LHC in the days to come. The probabilities might be close to zero, but they do not equal zero.

If all these might's and maybe's doesn't convince you the LHC at the French-Swiss border must be stopped, maybe this will: it has been shown that black holes can be produced in the LHC, and CERN is now admitting they are looking for them. As reported in Science Magazine on 22 January 2010, colliding particles can make black holes - no matter what CERN's safety document claims. As said in the article: "Curiously, though, nobody had ever shown that the prevailing theory of gravity, Einstein's theory of general relativity, actually predicts that a black hole can be made this way. Now a computer model shows conclusively for the first time that a particle collision really can make a black hole." Wait a minute. Doesn't this contradict (from CERN's safety document): "According to the well-established properties of gravity, described by Einstein’s relativity, it is impossible for microscopic black holes to be produced at the LHC"? It certainly does. If CERN's claims about black holes are wrong, what else did they get wrong? I wonder, and I hope you do too.

Further, CERN is now publicly contradicting themselves. In the innocently titled Reuters story CERN particle collisions resume, from a week ago (14 March 2011), a leading physicist at CERN, Oliver Buchmueller, said: "top priority in 2011 and 2012 would be finding evidence of super-symmetry, extra dimensions, dark matter, black hole production and the elusive Higgs boson." Yes, among their top priorities is black hole production. How can that be a top priority, if - as their safety document claims - black holes cannot be produced in the LHC? Searching for something they "know" cannot be produced sounds like a waste of tax money. So now the question is: should we all place our faith, and the faith of all future generations, in the hands of people so confused and inconsistent? I'd rather not, what about you?


Written by Stefan Hansen
www.hansensmag.net
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