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!):
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.
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