World to end next month
Last modified on Wednesday, 02 July 2008 14:13
Boffins are about to switch on the large Large Hadron Collider next month despite fears that this could create a black hole and cause the end of the world. (Great, no point in working anymore, I'm off to get drunk. sub.ed.)
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials Cern, has been working on the $5.8 billion collider and claims that the world will not end when the machine is switched on. However, the Internet is full of tales about how the machine will create a black hole.
The stories were so pervasive that they were part of a sub-plot of the Dr Who spin-off, the Sarah Jane Adventures. Critics of the project filed a lawsuit in a Hawaiian court in March seeking to block its startup, alleging that there was "a significant risk that ... operation of the collider may
have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet."
David Francis, a physicist on the collider's huge Atlas particle detector, said if there was a chance that the machine would create a black hole or hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets he would not be hanging around.
The collider is a ring of supercooled magnets 27km in circumference attached to huge barrel-shaped detectors. The ring, which straddles the French and Swiss border, is buried 100m underground.
Boffins plan to hunt for signs of the invisible "dark matter" and "dark energy" that make up more than 96 per cent of the universe, and hope to glimpse the elusive Higgs boson, a so-far undiscovered particle thought to give matter its mass.