Will the Real Walter Wagner Please Stand Up (and Put the Geiger Counter Down)

Wagner discovers tiles of uranium-filled death (MSNBC)
Wagner discovers tiles of uranium-filled death (MSNBC)

After chatting with Walter Wagner (the guy who filed the LHC “Doomsday Suit” in an Hawaiian court… only for it to be thrown out last month) on Paranormal Radio in July, I was left a little unsatisfied.

By the July 28th radio show, I’d only written about the LHC lawsuit a couple of times and had little time to prepare for the discussion. However, after only a few minutes of digging for some background information Wagner I’d unearthed a couple of things. For one he had previously attempted to sue the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 2000. This attempt had failed on the basis that Wagner’s “evidence” that the RHIC could create strangelets (that will spawn the end of the world) and black holes (spawning… well… the end of the world) was too flimsy to warrant any serious investigation. Then I uncovered something a little unsettling: Wagner had a rather unhealthy scrape with the law. At the time I didn’t want to follow this up, as I was going on air in 30 minutes, the RHIC lawsuit was enough for the time being.

Today, another piece has been added to the puzzle of what drives Walter Wagner. Over at the hilariously named “The Physics Anti-Crackpot Blog” there’s a link to an article chronicling Wagner’s Geiger counter crusade against radioactive tiles (oh yes!). I’ll leave it for you to read, it is both entertaining and unsettling.

Wagner believes he is a public safety crusader, and I doubt we’ll hear the last of him (besides superheroes love the attention, whether it is good or bad).

Why does Mr. Wagner hate the LHC? Well, the short and simple answer — ironically, this is the short and simple answer — is that Mr. Wagner and a lot of other people who like physics but don’t really understand it as well as they think they do have latched onto the notion that the LHC will spontaneously generate black holes, which will destroy the Earth. – Excerpt from Return of the Radiation Man (Standing on the Shoulders of Giant Midgets)

Source: The Physics Anti-Crackpot Blog

Higgs Boson Discovered on Doorstep

You don’t need the Large Hadron Collider to discover the Higgs boson after all…

The moment of discovery. It turns out Higgsy is a little shy.
The moment of discovery. It turns out Higgsy is a little shy.

This evening I went outside to investigate a noise. On opening the door I saw a small box lying awkwardly on its side against a flower pot. A little confused (as there was no knock on the door to say there was a delivery), I picked the small package. The box was heavy. I gave it a shake. Something was rolling around in there. It didn’t make a sound.

On opening the box I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was, hiding under styrofoam packaging, neatly wrapped in a clear plastic bag, the one particle EVERYONE wants to meet… the Higgs boson!

Far from being smug, the little guy was actually pretty shy and was reluctant to leave the comfort of his box. After a brief chat I assured him that he was safe from particle physicists wanting to see him spontaneously decay…

As you might have guessed, I didn’t discover a real Higgs particle on my doorstep (although we all know that it must be full of them… theoretically anyhow). My Higgs boson plushie has just travelled from the caring hands of its creator, Particle Zookeeper Julie Peasley…
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LHC Quench Ripped Magnets from Concrete Floor

Report into Sept. 19th Large Hadron Collider Incident Released

The LHC will be out of commission for months (CERN)
The LHC will be out of commission for months (CERN)

September 19th was a sad and frustrating day for accelerator physics.

After a long, long wait, the world was sitting on the edge of their seats, anticipating news about the first proton circulation on September 10th. Then, only a day later, a huge transformer broke down, stuttering LHC operations and forcing yet another delay. And then, only a week after the first successful circulation of particles, the worst possible news surfaces from CERN: A “quench” had occurred, stemming from a short circuit across two electromagnets, causing tonnes of liquid helium to leak into one of the tunnels. A huge amount of energy was dumped in a short period of time, heating the once-supercooled magnets by 100°C…

Now, a month after the quench, an official interim incident report has been released and it’s not good news. The report’s findings can be summed up by one of the engineers first on the scene of the damaged section of tunnel who said, “it wasn’t a pretty sight.”
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LHC “Doomsday Lawsuit” Scrapped by Sensible Hawaiian Judge

The Large Hadron Collider is now officially safe in the eyes of the law (and no, that's not because it broke down). Credit: CERN
The Large Hadron Collider is now officially safe in the eyes of the law (and no, that's not because it broke down). Credit: CERN

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…?
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“Apologies for calling it the Hay-dron Collider the other night, pure ignorance.”

Did he REALLY just say that? Brian Cox's expression says it all... (still from the BBC's Newsnight program)
Did he REALLY just say that? Brian Cox's expression says it all… (still from the BBC's Newsnight program)

It’s days like this that I worry for the future of science in the UK…

Sure, Sir David King is the former Chief Scientific Advisor for the UK government, but the opinions he voiced on last week’s BBC Newsnight airing caught my breath. If his short-sighted and ill informed ideas are indicative of the UK government’s science funding strategy, I’d suggest all UK-funded particle physicists pack up and move to Europe or the US.

In the aftermath of the LHC grand event on Wednesday, outspoken Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman was joined by King and the ever impressive Professor Brian Cox. The topic focused on how the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will benefit mankind. As the media had been buzzing about the event for weeks, it was great to see a leading news opinion program set aside six minutes for a particle physics debate.

And what a debate it was! Let’s put it this way, Brian Cox got pretty irritated by King’s point that “brilliant people” should be attracted into other challenges to mankind, rather than focusing their attention on “navel searching” projects like the LHC. Brian’s response was awesome
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Greek Hackers Invade LHC… Nothing Much Happens

LHC computing is some of the most advanced in the world... but it can still be hacked... (CERN)
The LHC computers are some of the most advanced in the world... but they can still be hacked... (CERN)

As the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) circulated its first beam of particles last Wednesday, there was an electronic battle being waged inside the computer systems of the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment (CMS), one of the four LHC detectors. The detector’s monitoring systems (CMSMON) were compromised and Greek hackers were able to upload half a dozen files during September 9th and 10th forcing CMS software engineers to scour all the systems for any more hidden files as the historic LHC “switch on” happened around them. The detector’s website displayed the Greek Security Team‘s (GST) replacement, mocking the poor security of the international particle accelerator facility, CERN.

This chain of events will of course raise a few eyebrows as to how this could possibly have happened at the multi-billion pound experiment (after all, CERN was the birthplace of the World Wide Web back in 1991), but the LHC is a huge target for hackers, if there’s a flaw, someone will eventually exploit it. CERN officials have pointed out that the security breach did not affect any experiment-critical systems, but there was bound to be some worried faces at CMS last week…
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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…
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“Anyone Who Thinks the LHC Will Destroy the World is a Twat.”

Brian Cox giving an inspiring talk (TED)
Brian Cox giving an inspiring talk (TED)

I’m a huge fan of Brian Cox. He’s often referred to as the “rockstar of physics,” which is a big complement considering the stereotypical physicist in everyone’s mind. From the get-go you know that Professor Cox is a guy you want in your laboratory, and you can see why from this excellent TED lecture he gave in Monterey, CA, this year. He is a tireless advocate of communicating science to the world and his outreach style is second-to-none. But like many modern scientists who are working on cutting-edge research, they are often at the mercy of public misconception, media hype and personal attacks. So when I hear news that some Large Hadron Collider (LHC) physicists are receiving death threats, I lose my faith in humanity…
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Listen to the July 29th Discussion with Walter Wagner on Paranormal Radio

Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo
Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack logo

Over a month ago, I was asked to be a surprise guest over on Paranormal Radio with Captain Jack. And what was the discussion? Walter Wagner was on air discussing his “Doomsday Suit” against the US partners of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and I had the great opportunity to put some questions to him. Critically for me, at about 99 minutes into the three-hour show (as I make my entrance), I ask Walter about his previous attempts at suing other particle accelerators (such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider – RHIC – back in 1999). From that point on I believe the validity of the current LHC lawsuit seemed purely academic, but it certainly made for some great discussion.

Walter put across his views in a coherent and knowledgeable way and I made a point that scientists need to be challenged so the LHC can be fully justified (but I did also point out that filing a lawsuit might have pushed it a little too far). Although enjoyable, Walter didn’t convince me to change my views

(Listen out for how many times I say “speculative”…)

The LHC Could Spell Doomsday in 9 days! (Oh Please, Not Again!)

Big science at the LHC (Credit: <a href='http://qrczaq.blogspot.com/'>Qrczaq</a>)
Big science at the LHC (Credit: QrczaQ)

…actually, it’s 50 days until the first particle collisions, but who’s counting?

Right, this is officially the last Astroengine.com article I will write about the fear surrounding the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. All future articles will be consumed by the stunning science being carried out at this historic facility near Geneva in Switzerland. I realised months ago that scientists are on a losing battle when it comes to using scientific reasoning to quell the misinformation being communicated about what the LHC can do. Firstly, micro black holes will most likely not be produced (and besides, if they are, they will only live for an infinitesimally short period of time). Secondly, stranglets and magnetic monopoles have a vanishingly small chance of even existing in theoretical physics (they are speculative at best), let alone the nigh-on impossible event any man-made experiment could ever generate them. They are hypothetical particles.

To put the probability of the LHC creating a doomsday scenario into perspective, there is a better probability that a) all the air in my office will spontaneously drift to the other side of the room, leaving me to suffocate; b) I will spontaneously disappear as every single subatomic particle in my body decides to return their energy to the vacuum, or c) our four-dimensional space (three spatial and one temporal) will instantaneously become more “space-like,” freezing us in a strange new Universe where nothing happens (sorry, I’m getting a little carried away now). The point I am trying to make is that there is a higher risk of something “strange” happening to us in the “real world” than there is of something “strange” happening to the entire planet after being triggered by the LHC…

Still, the LHC lawsuit grumbles on and the media is still reporting silly science needlessly worrying people, distracting them from what the LHC is really going to do: revolutionize science.
Continue reading “The LHC Could Spell Doomsday in 9 days! (Oh Please, Not Again!)”