31 March 2008

We Make the Things That Make the World Go BOOM!


From MSNBC:


The builders of the world's biggest particle collider are being sued in federal court over fears that the experiment might create globe-gobbling black holes or never-before-seen strains of matter that would destroy the planet.


I'm not a physicist, so I can't claim to understand all the details of the Large Hadron Collider. I imagine part of the fear is the the name. It does sound like a futuristic sci-fi weapon which forces an entire enemy fleet into the space of a tennis ball, all the while emasculating that other collider that can only do it to a few ships at a time. Naturally, that doesn't hold up in court, probably because it only makes the LHC sound more awesome.


Most scientists don't seem terribly worried about the LHC, except the ones who are upset they won't get to work at it. But maybe the LHC will be a collosal failure. At least we'd learn that an enormous particle accelerator spanning multiple countries is not a great purchase. Every cloud, am I right?


Nevertheless, and possibly more seriously, what does it mean for the LHC builders to be taken to federal court based on potential hazards only the scientific community can sufficiently address? It seems to me that the lawsuit is meant to either incite fear in non-physicists or stall the completion of the project, or both. But, if there was real danger, the scientific community seems to me the better authority.


I think an excellent question is: what is the relationship of science and government? In America, government is not meant to dictate what one must believe in terms of religion. To what extent ought a government be able to dictate what science might study? Comments are welcome and helpful.

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