Oh no! It’s all over. The US Large Hadron Collider lawsuit filed by Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho has failed. On Friday, Hawaiian Federal Judge Helen Gillmor officially declared that the American judicial system has no jurisdiction over the largest experiment ever devised by mankind. Although Wagner and Sancho were suing the US partners in CERN, it would seem this convoluted and inaccurate attempt at proving the LHC will destroy the Earth was a bridge too far for the Honolulu court to entertain.
This decision ends the seven month battle for Wagner, following quickly behind Otto Rossler’s eleventh-hour failed attempt at the European Court of Human Rights last month to convince lawmakers that the LHC was going to turn the Earth into a dot.
So in the eyes of the law (and every other sane person on the planet), the LHC is safe and the claims about the production of micro-black holes, strangelets, monopoles, bosenovas etc. etc. are totally unfounded.
But hold on, why do I feel a little sad about all this…?
In March, Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho filed suit against the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation for the US organization’s roles in funding LHC science. Let’s remind ourselves about their complaint:
“The compression of the two atoms colliding together at nearly light speed will cause an irreversible implosion, forming a miniature version of a giant black hole. [...] Any matter coming into contact with it would fall into it and never be able to escape. Eventually, all of earth would fall into such growing micro-black-hole, converting earth into a medium-sized black hole, around which would continue to orbit the moon, satellites, the ISS, etc.” Walter F. Wagner and Luis Sancho lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
So, today will be a sad day for all those wanting to take legal action against the LHC. Although many tabloid headlines have had a field day with the “end of the world” claims (even some more reputable reporters have succumbed to the promise of increased readership, through scaremongering text), the old phrase, “bad publicity is still publicity” (or, “there’s no news like bad news“) still applies. Let’s face it, all this talk of doomsday is great for getting a physics experiment into the limelight.
In response to Judge Gillmor’s ruling, Sancho said something quite profound: “The lawsuit was an unbelievable success in that it put the collider issue on the intellectual agenda.” Although he is referring to his “collider issue”, he is 100% right in that the lawsuit has put the LHC on the intellectual agenda. The last few months have shown that doomsday prophecies can be useful!
Let’s take September 10th for example. Millions of people were watching the LHC circulate its first protons. The Internet became jammed with traffic trying to access the CERN websites. Every news website, newspaper, mainstream TV news and radio show was devoted to the Large Hadron Collider. Let’s confirm what I just wrote: The world’s attention was focused on a physics experiment. I have never had the fortune to see such an event, and what an event it was.
Admittedly, it has been a blow that the LHC will be offline due to the “quench” that occurred a few days ago, but the world is paying attention, everybody wants to know what is going on. People who otherwise have little interest in science are asking questions (What is the Higgs particle? How big is the LHC? Why are protons being accelerated? Can black holes really be created? – the list is growing by the day), and there is a growing base of scientists who are working to provide those answers.
When the next doomsday prophecy or misguided lawsuit is filed against an awesome experiment, ask questions and get the the root of the issue.
For now Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho, I hope you aren’t too sad, there are many more big physics experiments out there (but we won’t be so surprised if we see another lawsuit in the future…).
Source: New York Times