A Statement By Professor Brian Cox

Professor Brian Cox. Awesome. (Dave Pearson - http://tinyurl.com/62g84q)

Professor Brian Cox. Awesome. (Dave Pearson - http://tinyurl.com/62g84q)

On writing the article “Anyone Who Thinks the LHC Will Destroy the World is a Tw*t.” on Astroengine.com, I had no idea it would hit the front page of Digg.com and generate thousands of hits (booting Astroengine offline for 20 minutes). I wrote the supportive post as I believe Brian’s quote (from the Telegraph website), summed up the strain particle physicists are beginning to feel.

The original quote could be misconstrued as being offensive, but I believe the vast majority understood what he was saying. Brian was responding to reports that LHC scientists had received death threats in the run-up to the September 10th start date of the particle accelerator. With a combination of disinformation being spread by certain ill-informed individuals, media hype and mass hysteria, a solid statement was needed by a leading physicist to tame the unnecessary fear being whipped up.

I’ve been banging on about how safe the LHC is for some time, and I even vowed not to post another LHC doomsday debunking article as, quite frankly, I’m sick to death with the idiotic claims that micro-black holes, stranglets or gremlins could be produced by the LHC. The fact is that there is no danger and Brian explains why…

I used this analogy in one of my Digg comments to try to get my point across earlier and I think it’s quite fitting to include here:

I have no idea how to fix a car. Not a clue. So my car breaks down and I take it to the best mechanic on the planet. This mechanic has a PhD in engineering and he has 20 years experience with fixing my exact model of car. Once finished, we settle the bill. Do I then turn around to the mechanic and accuse him of rigging my precious car to explode when I turn it on? No. Do I accuse him of being a shoddy mechanic, telling him that I could do a better job? No.

So why the hell are a bunch of non-physicists suing the US partners of the LHC, and why in the hell is a biochemist taking his speculative quasi-LHC science to the European Court of Human Rights? I have absolutely no idea.

So, without further ado, here is Brian Cox at his absolute best after leaving a statement on a discussion thread of a forum concerned about the safety of the LHC (thank you Gia for notifying me about this!):

Dear all,

I’m quoted in the article posted here as being rather abusive to people who are worried about the LHC – I’d like to clarify!

I certainly don’t think that people who are worried about new scientific endeavors are “tw*ts” ! Skepticism is a valuable and vital part of our society, and one which is perhaps sadly lacking in public debate. For the record, the concerns about LHC are certainly wrong from a scientific perspective – nature is rather more robust than we give her credit for, and nothing we can do at the low energies we can manage at LHC or anywhere else in the foreseeable future will affect us in any way. But – I would always encourage a rational debate about future advances in science, and in that sense I support the goals of this forum.

What I would say is that it is not sensible to hold an opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whilst I understand that much of the language of particle physics is opaque, there does come a time when it is worth accepting the views of experts. The analogy I would give is the design of aircraft wings – I am happy to trust an expert in aerodynamics to get it right rather than offer my own opinion about what shape they should be. It’s really the case that the particle physics community are sensible, rational human beings who go about their research because they believe that exploring the subatomic world is good for our civilization, not to mention interesting. It is also true that if anyone, including myself, had any doubt about the safety of what we are doing, we would stop immediately. I and all my colleagues consider our personal safety and the safety of our families to be FAR more important than the search for the Higgs particle – indeed, if the risk were even as high as 1 in a billion, or whatever people quote, then I would be campaigning with you to stop it.

But honestly – the case advanced against the LHC is based on the rather loud pronouncements of a couple of people who really do not have the knowledge to make them. This “jtankers” chap who posts all over the place began one statement claiming that we collide particles together at twice the speed of light, and Otto Rossler, whilst clearly a distinguished biochemist, has based his argument on a pretty basic error in General Relativity. Now I am not criticizing these gentlemen for offering an opinion, but wisdom comes from noticing when ones opinion is disproved by evidence. This is the key to science.

So, in summary – I support this forum as a place where skeptical voices can be raised, but skepticism must go hand in hand with rationality. When theories are shown to be false, the correct thing to do is to move on.

Yours,

Brian Cox.

Right, on that high note, this really is the last Astroengine post about these silly LHC “theories” (but before I go, it would make my week if JTankers leaves a message after this post, for once I’d actually be interested and very entertained in what he has to say!).

Source: Gia’s Blog

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16 responses to “A Statement By Professor Brian Cox

  1. Thank you for posting this statement by Mr. Cox. His writings are clear, insightful and helpful in this matter. I do notice that Mr. Fox does not use words like “crackpots”, “hysteria”, and “media hype”, some of the tags you have used in your post. I don’t find it any way to be “hysteria” that some people are concerned about a machine that they had no choice in constructing that could present a possible danger — however remote — to humanity. Even as dim, far-fetched possibilities, what gives scientists the right to take such chances? Mr. Cox uses the analogy of trusting an aerodynamics expert, but when someone boards an airplane, that is their free choice to trust the aerodynamics expert (or not). The vast majority of humanity does not have a choice in whether a particle accelerator is built and operated or not. In fact, a large portion of humanity lives in incredible poverty without access to basic needs like clean water and common medicines for curable diseases. These people could more directly benefit if science concentrated on solving these problems first before trying to find the Higgs Boson particle.

  2. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. It is worth noting that my writing about the LHC doomsday scenarios may seem a little hardline, but I am in no way criticising the public’s reaction. The responsibility for the misinformation being spread lies firmly with the people that would have us believe that the LHC lawsuit is actually justified (see the discussion I had with Walter Wagner in July: http://www.astroengine.com/?p=1218) and with the hype the media is using to sell newspapers (see: http://www.astroengine.com/?p=1111).

    I don’t find it any way to be “hysteria” that some people are concerned about a machine that they had no choice in constructing that could present a possible danger — however remote — to humanity.

    A few errors here. For one, it is hysteria. Hysteria is a state of excessive fear. And it is excessive as the concerns raised have no foundation in reality. The doomsayers have grabbed hold of a physical improbability and painted it as fact. That is not how science works.

    The danger to humanity is not remote. It is not even classed as a danger. Higher energy protons hit the atmosphere every second. These protons have been accelerated by the most energetic particle accelerators in nature – supernovae. We don’t come close to replicating these energies and we never will. If the LHC could generate micro-black holes, strangelets or monopoles, these comic rays certainly could, by their billions per second. To say the LHC might produce black holes that will swallow the Earth suddenly seems silly.

    Alas, it isn’t physicists who control information, it is the media. So attention grabbing articles writing about the absurd claims being made by a handful of non-physicists is being blown all out of proportion. There is no possible way the LHC could every hurt us, but people love a good horror story. It’s a shame some take it as gospel.

    …a large portion of humanity lives in incredible poverty without access to basic needs like clean water and common medicines for curable diseases. These people could more directly benefit if science concentrated on solving these problems first before trying to find the Higgs Boson particle.

    This has got to be one of the most overused and poor arguments against scientific endeavour. We must advance our scientific understanding as a race to enrich the whole planet. If we use introverted arguments like ‘but there are starving people in Africa,’ how would we invest money in advanced vaccines, long-distance aircraft to drop aid in remote parts of Africa, hi-tech water purification methods (which, by the way, are advanced through space exploration – guess how the space station crew purify their water?) or next generation natural disaster satellites. The problem with this argument is not scientific funding, it is politics. You need to get onto your local member of parliament/congress/mayor/president to invest MORE in scientific research, not less!

    The technology developed to make the LHC possible will have huge implications for the way everyone lives their lives. Just think, CERN invented the World Wide Web in 1991… do I need to continue?

  3. Pingback: Small Beds and Large Bears » Blog Archive » What people say, and where the echoes end up

  4. “…tugging at the fabric of the cosmos”? The problem is you Twats might very likely tug too much and rip the ‘fabric of the cosmos’ to shreds. You really have no idea how much tugging the fabric can take and clearly don’t care you Nobel prize hungry douchebags.

  5. @SaneScience:- Idiot.

    Assuming you promote the website you’ve linked to, I think you must be one limited individual to come to my site spreading this short-sighted nonsense. If you even had a basic understanding of physics you will see the LHC end-of-the-world hysteria is a work of fiction by a few individuals who want their fame but cannot get it through conventional means.

    However, the “Nobel prize hungry douchebags” you mention have pushed back the limits of scientific understanding to bring you products like your computer (that you just typed on, and do all sorts of amazing things with – in your case I suspect surfing for questionable websites), cellphones, satellite TV, GPS, plus they have brought advances in medicine, transportation (do you travel abroad at all? Thought not), astrophysics, renewable energy… in fact, everything you see around you (unless you have fashioned a rudimentary computer out of twigs and rocks inside your cave) can be attributed to the best scientists the world has ever seen.

    Science endeavour is one of the most worthy of human causes – unfortunately we have to put up with the crap published on anti-LHC websites like SaneScience et al.

    And before you say it, yes, the lawsuit Wagner lodged against the LHC had no physics grounding, and Rossler’s claims that the LHC would somehow kill everyone in mainland Europe, thus impinging on their human rights, was just plain irresponsible.

    Look at everything with a critical mind, you might surprise yourself.

  6. Hello Dr. O’Neill, Dr. Cox,

    The reason I am concerned and involved are best articulated by Assistant Professor of Law Eric E. Johnson’s recent articles:

    PrawfsBlawg: Could Bad Judging Cause the Earth to Be Sucked Into a Black Hole? Maybe.

    1. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/could-bad-judgi.html
    2. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/planet-eating-b.html
    3. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/culture-and-ins.html
    4. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/11/scientocracy-an.html

    Revolutionary advances in science have tended to be made by a few independent scientists, not by academic group.

    With the possible exception of some of Dr. Michelangelo Mangano’s work (w/acknowledged biases [1]), I find Dr. Rössler’s, Dr. Habil. Plaga’s, Walter Wagner’s and other opposition scientist’s arguments that danger is possible more logical and credible than CERN’s zero possible danger arguments that include “time reversal” and “negative energy” as safety arguments[2] to name just a few dubious safety arguments.

    I find CERN’s dismissal of Dr. Habil. Rainer Plaga’s feasible risk mitigation recommendations (basically to proceed slowly) to be reckless.[3]

    Science is not one particle detection away from a complete understanding of physics, we have just begun to comprehend nature.

    It is likely that the standard model of quantum physics itself was fundamentally misguided when it rejected Dr. Einstein’s elegant teachings that quantum nature may be deterministic[4].

    Hawking Radiation is not consistent with Dr. Einstein’s teachings and with all due respect, Dr. Hawking and Dr. Ellis are no Dr. Einstein.

    I don’t know if the LHC is capable of endangering Earth (neither do you), but I am offended that CERN’s response to concerns, rather than honest review and compromise (slowing down[3]) is to attack the credibility of concerned scientists and to speed up experimentation and dismiss safety concerns.

    The secrets of the universe will be there tomorrow, asking science to discover natures secrets a bit more slowly (to take the watch apart one gear at a time rather than hitting it with a sledge hammer) is not an un-reasonable request I think.

    Cheers,
    JT

  7. (w/corrected typo)

    Hello Dr. O’Neill, Dr. Cox,

    The reason I am concerned and involved are best articulated by Assistant Professor of Law Eric E. Johnson’s recent articles:

    PrawfsBlawg: Could Bad Judging Cause the Earth to Be Sucked Into a Black Hole? Maybe.

    1. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/could-bad-judgi.html
    2. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/planet-eating-b.html
    3. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/culture-and-ins.html
    4. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/11/scientocracy-an.html

    Revolutionary advances in science have tended to be made by a few rare independent scientists, not by academic group think.

    With the possible exception of some of Dr. Michelangelo Mangano’s work (w/acknowledged biases [1]), I find Dr. Rössler’s, Dr. Habil. Plaga’s, Walter Wagner’s and other opposition scientist’s arguments that danger is possible more logical and credible than CERN’s zero possible danger arguments that include “time reversal” and “negative energy” as safety arguments[2] to name just a few dubious safety arguments.

    I find CERN’s dismissal of Dr. Habil. Rainer Plaga’s feasible risk mitigation recommendations (basically to proceed slowly) to be reckless.[3]

    Science is not one particle detection away from a complete understanding of physics, we have just begun to comprehend nature.

    It is likely that the standard model of quantum physics itself was fundamentally misguided when it rejected Dr. Einstein’s elegant teachings that quantum nature may be deterministic[4].

    Hawking Radiation is not consistent with Dr. Einstein’s teachings and with all due respect, Dr. Hawking and Dr. Ellis are no Dr. Einstein.

    I don’t know if the LHC is capable of endangering Earth (neither do you), but I am offended that CERN’s response to concerns, rather than honest review and compromise (slowing down[3]) is to attack the credibility of concerned scientists and to speed up experimentation and dismiss safety concerns.

    The secrets of the universe will be there tomorrow, asking science to discover natures secrets a bit more slowly (to take the watch apart one gear at a time rather than hitting it with a sledge hammer) is not an un-reasonable request I think.

    Cheers,
    JT

    [1] http://www.reason.com/news/show/128492.html A 1-in-1,000 Chance of Götterdämmerung, Will European physicists destroy the world? Ronald Bailey | September 2, 2008
    [2] http://www.lhcfacts.org/?cat=136 CERN’s Dr. Ellis tells only half of the story, LHCFacts.org, 23 Aug 2008
    [3] http://arxiv.org/abs/0808.1415v2 On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders, Dr. Habil. Rainer Plaga (26 Sep 2008)
    [4] http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19726485.700 Quantum randomness may not be random, NewScientist magazine, 22 March 2008

  8. JTankers, it’s been so long.

    Oh, what’s this? Articles written by a professional physicist? Oh, no, written by a lawyer.

    I’d actually bother to think about these views if the author even had a tiny background in physics… alas he doesn’t.

    And yes, I read the articles, and in response to http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/planet-eating-b.html:

    Now, on the other end of the scales is the Earth and everyone on it being devoured by a black hole.

    Result? Black hole wins. You can’t get more hardship than that.

    Alas, a few “maverick” “scientists” (and that’s a mild interpretation) have come forward to say we’re all gonna die. Do we believe them, or put our trust in an entire field of physics dominated by experts? Alas, the author of these articles has stepped over the sciency bit and treated the argument on equal terms — that’s why he’s a lawyer and not a particle physicist.

    No Earth-swallowing black holes = no end of the world. A very easy equation.

    Thanks for stopping by, but please, spare me the spamming links. If you have a view, share it rather than copying and pasting the same comment across the web. It’s getting tiresome and, to be honest, makes you look like a tool.

  9. No “toolish” spam, the post above was written just for your blog!

    It speaks to the value of a few “maverick” “scientists” such as Sir Issac Newton, Dr. Albert Einstein, perhaps Dr. Otto Rössler?

    Dr. Rössler’s re-interpretation of relativity theory that solves the black hole infinite density paradox is perhaps my favorite (density approaches infinite, time approaches a stop, mass never reaches the center…). How did the other scientists miss that?

    Perhaps you could read the post?

  10. But Rossler is not, and never has been, a particle physicist! Einstein was a professional in his field. Newton was also a professional in his field! There is no comparison to be made here.

    Rossler et al. are setting out to foretell doom, attempting to block scientific endeavour. You are very short sighted if you think these individuals woke up one morning thinking “Eureka! The LHC is going to destroy the world!” I’ll tell you something for nothing, they aren’t doing it to save the world. They are doing it for their own agendas.

    As for Wagner’s crusade, I was very interested to hear about his previous attempts at being a superhero, before the LHC.

    At first I entertained the thought that these guys had a clue about the LHC and the supposed “risk”. I did the legwork, did the research, did the articles and concluded that it is all nonsense. In recent weeks, especially since the lawsuits were thrown out, I have become tiresome of the silly antics of individuals who insist on banging on about this ridiculous crusade.

    If your arguments had ANY physics foundation to be concerned about, at least ONE REAL particle physicist… hold on, ONE REAL physicist would have come forward telling us that there is a reason to be concerned about the LHC.

    Sorry, but you are beating a very dead horse.

    I really wish there would be more organizations like yours campaigning about real world problems. How about setting up a website called “globalwarmingconcerns.org”? Use your new-found internet fame to make a difference.

    At the moment, all you are succeeding in doing is scaring people who take your arguments at face value. That is rather upsetting in my books.

  11. To suggest that Dr. Rössler is not qualified to have an opinion on physics (which he taught as a visiting professor) is not credible. He advanced every field of science he focused his genius on (Chaos theory, micro relativity, Endophysics, etc.)

    Dr. Rössler is at least as qualified as a young patent clerk to have an independent opinion I think.

    Some evidence suggests that some of the fundamental theoretical foundations CERN relies on may be flawed, Dr. Einstein may have been correct again and Dr. Hawking and Dr. Ellis not.[1]

    Scientists are not attempting to block science, they are attempting to avoid reckless mistakes.

    I would like to see the LHC proceed slowly, cautiously one small step at a time as Dr. Plaga recommends. CERN rejects caution, how can this be defensible.

    [1] http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19726485.700 Quantum randomness may not be random, NewScientist magazine, 22 March 2008

  12. I suppose we’re supposed to think that Dr Plaga isn’t a physicist though you can find half a dozen or so of his papers listed in astrophysics journals through google scholar.

    I suppose Paul Werbos isn’t a physicist yet has about half a dozen published papers on quantum theory.

    I suppose Katherine Tutt isn’t a physicist because she’s a nuclear physicist and has half a dozen published papers on quantum theory and particle detectors.

    I suppose Walter Wagner isn’t a physicist because he’s a medical physicist who works with medical particle accelerators.

    How is it that all the above and Prof Roessler (with a qualification in Theoretical Mechanics) –
    a) have all RAISED the concerns
    b) could have had the guts to raise such concerns given a potential climate of intimidation from scientists blinded by a narrow idea of scientific progress?

    concerning Brian Cox
    if its true }lhc concern >forum >Wagner{ that in a around 8 places Albert Einstein made errors in less well known papers, how are we to rely on physics speculations on safety..
    rather than physics speculations on danger?

  13. Dear Brian. The biggest mistake that Physics has made is that there is no Ether. I knosw that the Michaelson-Morley experiment is supposed to prove that there is no Ether because there is no Spce Wind. However, if the Ether ‘sticks to the Earth and rotates with it’ there would be no Space Wind, so there is the posibily that the Ether does exist.

    I have a theory of almost everything which explains nearly all of the mysteries, using only four dimensions, including why the expansion of the universe is expanding at an increasing rate with no Dark Matter, and why gravity appeasrs to attract everything to the centre of an object rather than it’s surface.

    If you are interested, please contact me. Bob

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