Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LHC and the US government

So I guess the "joke" would begin with: what do the Large Hadron Collider and the US government have in common? The answer, of course, is that they both could screw you (and the entire world) very badly, and you would not be able to do anything about it. Of course, there are some differences: the LHC presumably has a small chance of screwing the world, but if it does it will literally be the end of the world; the US government's actions probably won't lead to the literal end of the world, but you are extremely likely to be screwed.

So why, you ask, might the LHC be the death of the planet, and you can't do anything about it? Well, the address the second point first, you can't do anything about it because it's a project being pushed by various governments, and scientists who need to perform the experiments to justify their salaries and jobs. Unless you're controlling a world government providing funding and can shut the whole project down, they will eventually proceed, world-destruction possibilities aside. It's kinda like nuclear weapon development and proliferation: everybody thinks it's bad, but you can't really stop it (although in all fairness, the people directly involved with the LHC don't think it's bad, cause they want to keep getting paid).

Now, for the question of why it might be bad. The LHC scientists have assured the public that although they are attempting to create miniature black holes, and the don't know what's going to happen at all (hence the desire to do it and observe the results), nothing catastrophic could possibly go wrong. Seriously, I'm not making this up; that's the "scientific" analysis of the danger. Moreover, even if you believe the "analysis", this paper makes the excellent point that roughly 1/10000 scientific articles contain fatal flaws in their arguments, so the "best-case" is that there's only a 1/10000 chance that something completely unexpected could happen. For example, and I'm just throwing out one thing which scientists have admitted might happen, the mini black hole could survive long enough to absorb a few other particles, then the entire planet a few seconds later. At least the scientists won't have to listen to "how could you?" and "I told you so" from all 6.5 billion people in the entire human race, cause the entirety of human existence would all be wiped out in a matter of seconds.

I guess all I would ask, since we normal people can't really do anything about getting screwed, is that the people screwing us be honest about what might happen, instead of blatantly lying about it. For example, the US government could say "we're taking you're money, and giving it to our lobbyists for pork projects, at a massive scale never before seen in history: deal." Similarly, the LHC scientists could say "we're creating black holes which might end the planet and the entire human race, but we're doing it anyway because justifying our own jobs and funding is worth that risk to us, and you can't stop us: deal." A little honesty might temper the pain somewhat, that's all I'm saying.

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