By John Sexton
In a real-life Doomwatch scenario, a German scientist has pleaded with researchers at the Geneva-based European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) not to activate the world's most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Professor Otto Rössler, a biochemist at the University of Tübingen, warned in an open letter written in June that micro black holes generated by the LHC could endanger the planet. CERN plans to activate the LHC on Wednesday September 10.
Scientists at CERN and elsewhere have dismissed Professor Rössler's concerns as unfounded, citing wheelchair-bound genius Professor Steven Hawking's theory that any micro black holes generated will evaporate harmlessly in a process known as Hawking Radiation. They have no plans to delay the generation of LHC's first particle beam on September 10. In August, Professor Rössler told scientific journalist Allan Gillis that he had written to Professor Hawking but had not received a reply.
In a message on the organization's website, CERN Director General Robert Aymar said "The LHC will enable us to study in detail what nature is doing all around us. The LHC is safe, and any suggestion that it might present a risk is pure fiction."
A message on the site from Jos Englen, CERN's Chief Scientific Officer, states "The LHC safety review has shown that the LHC is perfectly safe," adding that "Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programs on Earth – and the planet still exists."
With potentially just two days to go to Doomsday, a straw poll in the China.org.cn newsroom revealed widespread ignorance and apathy. Just two members of staff indicated they were considering taking Tuesday as a holiday. Others suggested that since any black holes would be very small it would take a long time to digest the Earth and pointed out that Beijing is a very long way from Geneva.
The popular British TV series Doomwatch ran from 1970 to 1972 at a time when skepticism about science was on the rise, and featured a British government department set up to keep an eye on the hubris and commercial involvement of many mainstream scientists. It featured stories about super-intelligent rats, food additives with horrifying side-effects, and nuclear devices falling into the hands of terrorists.
(China.org.cn September 8, 2008)