In September, Europe’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will smash together sub-atomic particles at nearly the speed of light, an unprecedented experiment that has some of the leading voices in the world of science – and religion – sounding the alarm on the risks involved.
Stephen Hawking is worried
Although it may require some mental gymnastics to wrap one’s brain around exactly what the CERN scientists are attempting to achieve in their underground lab, the average layman may instinctively understand that such an experiment may be wrought with unforeseeable pitfalls. Stephen Hawking, the eminent physicist, seems to agree.
“The God particle found by CERN could destroy the universe,” Hawking wrote in the preface to a book, Starmus, a collection of lectures by scientists. The Higgs Boson could become unstable at very high energy levels and have the potential to trigger a “catastrophic vacuum decay which would cause space and time to collapse and… we would not have any warning to the dangers,” he continued.
Hawking is not the only voice in the scientific wilderness predicting possible catastrophe if CERN continues in the atomic fast lane. Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson told Eugene Mirman on his Star Talk radio program that the experiment could literally cause the planet to “explode.”
“Ask yourself: How much energy is keeping it together? Then you put more than that amount of energy into the object.” Tyson was confident of the result: “It will explode.”
In late 2008, when CERN was first firing up the engines on its atom-smashing machine, Otto Rossler, a German professor at the University of Tubingen, filed a lawsuit against CERN with the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds that the facility could trigger a mini black hole that could get out of control and annihilate the planet. The Court tossed out Rossler’s request, but he nevertheless succeeded in generating heated discussion on the possible dark side of the experiment.