Michelangelo L. Mangano, a respected particle physicist who helped discover the top quark in 1995, now spends most days trying to convince people that his new machine won’t destroy the world.
“If it were just crackpots, we could wave them away,” the physicist said in an interview at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym, CERN. “But some are real physicists.”
What the critics are in such a lather about is the $8-billion Large Hadron Collider, a massive assemblage of iron, steel and superconducting wire 300 feet underground in a 17-mile-long circular tunnel on the Franco-Swiss border.
The most complex piece of scientific equipment ever built, the collider will send particles crashing into each other at just a wink shy of the speed of light, generating energies more powerful than the sun.
What a fascinating article! It makes me regret not taking a course in physics, way back when. The article does a good job explaining the function and theory behind the new atom-smasher in terms even i could understand. I’ve always wondered what the hoopla over the Higgs boson was all about, and now I have some kind of idea.
But the article does raise the spectre of a science-induced catastrophe - not just the threat of a black hole, but also the possible creation of strange matter (its explained in the article). How much of a threat is required to rule out the operation of this new machine? Most industrialized nations require pharmaceutical companies to show that their drugs are safe - permission to sell is not granted until safety is assured. Should physics research be regulated by government? Is the common good advanced by allowing the Large Hadron Collider to run?