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The Sciences

Worst Predictions of the Year

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollDecember 11, 2008 9:52 PM


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Foreign Policy has compiled a list of the Ten Worst Predictions for 2008. You'll be happy to hear that physics has made the cut!

“There is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet.” —Walter Wagner, Scientist Walter Wagner, the driving force behind Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), is making his bid to be the 21st century’s version of Chicken Little for his opposition to the world’s largest particle accelerator. Warning that the experiment might end humanity as we know it, he filed a lawsuit in Hawaii’s U.S. District Court against the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which built the LHC, demanding that researchers not turn the machine on until it was proved safe. The LHC was turned on in September, and it appears that we are still here.

Admittedly, FP didn't get it quite right -- as loyal readers know, it's something of an exaggeration to say that the LHC was "turned on in September." Protons circulated around the ring, but there were no collisions, and there won't be until later this year. Still, they were right about the wrongness. The LHC is perfectly safe. The other predictions were also amusing. Here's my favorite:

“If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she’s going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.” —William Kristol, Fox News Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006 Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist William Kristol was hardly alone in thinking that the Democratic primary was Clinton’s to lose, but it takes a special kind of self-confidence to make a declaration this sweeping more than a year before the first Iowa caucus was held. After Iowa, Kristol lurched to the other extreme, declaring that Clinton would lose New Hampshire and that “There will be no Clinton Restoration.” It’s also worth pointing out that this second wildly premature prediction was made in a Times column titled, “President Mike Huckabee?” The Times is currently rumored to be looking for his replacement.

Of course, asking Bill Kristol to predict the future is like asking Rod Blagojevich to head a good-government task force. Here's my prediction: Kristol will continue to say dumb things, next year and far into the future. And get paid handsomely for doing so.

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