Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Philosophical and Technological Dilemma

Very interesting situation.
CERN is an organization in near Geneva, Switzerland that has built a Large Hadron Collider. (LHC). The LHC is the world's largest and highest, "energy particle accelerator". It is intended to collide opposing particle beams and address the most fundamental questions of physics - how is life made - with the goal of understanding the laws of nature, giving us more of an understanding of the unknown. The LHC lies in a tunnel of 17 miles in circumference over 500 feet below the France-Switzerland border.
It was built with the intention of testing physics predictions - built and funded by over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries around the globe.

September 2008 marked the first success in circulating proton beams around the main ring.
Over a week later, there was a fault with 2 magnets and operations came to a halt.
The repairs and instituting safety measures took over a year.

I mention this to illustrate that progress is being made - this isn't a fantasy.

On Nov 20, 2009 - the proton beams were circulated again.
On Nov 23, 2009 the first proton-proton collisions were recorded (progress was being made).

The project shut down in December with the goal of reopening in Feb 2010. The project shut down to implement improvements in magnet protection, etc in order to prepare for more challenging tests.

Now, an assistant law professor from the University of North Dakota, Eric Johnson, has asked a court to request an injunction to halt all experiments as he fears the plaintiffs could create a black hole and devour the planet.

While he is not a physicist, nor a scientist, he is attempting to stop the project. He claims to be doing it as a matter of law, not as a reason to stop the science. (What a lawyer-- he is attempting to state how he is above doing harm to CERNs research and is rather acting on his "principals". Give me a break. This is about control, not protection).

Anyway, here is the interesting point...
CERN has immunity from court action in its member states. A US court in Hawaii stated that the lawsuit doesn't have jurisdiction to proceed with the case.

I am glad that this lawyer is unable to carry on his lawsuit (at least at this time).
He is attempting to state that no one should be involved in technology that we are unaware of...

Throughout history, EVERY scientific breakthrough - from vaccines, cures, discoveries - all involved risk. Some even ended in disaster.
While I would like to believe that people who are smart enough to study particle collision are also smart enough to be as safe as possible, we know that ultimately, they are humans. They are fail able. We all make mistakes.

But, the real questions are these - Is this enough reason to stop research?

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