The Sciences

Judge: Man Can't Sue Over LHC's Potential "Destruction of the Earth"

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaAug 27, 2010 4:48 PM

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Back in 2008, a Hawaiian fellow named Walter Wagner claimed the Large Hadron Collider's hunt for the Higgs boson would end in apocalypse, and sued to stop the collider from going online. His suit was soon dismissed by a federal judge, but with the fate of the world on the line, Wagner kept trying. Now an appellate judge for the United States District Court in Hawaii has foiled Wagner again by knocking down his appeal, as Symmetryreports. The judge found that Wagner failed to show “credible threat of harm” and also noted that the United States doesn't control the collider, which spans the border of Switzerland and France:

The European Center for Nuclear Research (“CERN”) proposed and constructed the Collider, albeit with some U.S. government support. The U.S. government enjoys only observer status on the CERN council, and has no control over CERN or its operations. Accordingly, the alleged injury, destruction of the earth, is in no way attributable to the U.S. government’s failure to draft an environmental impact statement.

This isn't Wagner's first run-in with particle physics. In 1999 he got worried about the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) that was then under construction, and wrote a letter to Scientific American regarding the chance that the machine could create a black hole that would swallow up Long Island--followed by the planet. Although Nobel Laureate Franck Wilcek published a response in the magazine declaring that scenario unlikely, he just happened to mention world-devouring particles called strangelets as a more likely but still very unlikely possibility, adding to Wagner's panic and fueling a worldwide fiasco (pdf) of misrepresented science and ignorance. Wagner failed to stop the RHIC, and Brookhaven, with Wilcek's help, published the charmingly-named report "Review of 'Speculative Disaster Scenarios' at RHIC" (pdf) detailing how the collider would not bring about the apocalypse. The LHC has a similar report spelling out why the collider will not kill us with microscopic black holes, strangelets, vacuum bubbles, or magnetic monopoles. Check out DISCOVER on Facebook. Related content: Discoblog: Will the Large Hadron Collider Create 12 Miles of Data? Discoblog: Taking Particle Physics to Court Discoblog: LHC Shut Down By Wayward Baguette, Dropped by Bird Saboteur Discoblog: You Say Large Hadron Collider, I Say Sizeable Particle CrasherImage: CERN

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