Sunday, 20 September 2015

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.... clearing up misconceptions and conspiracies about the LHC.

There are few scientific endeavours over the last few years that have caused as much concern and consternation as the operations being carried out at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva (other than GMOs perhaps). Most of these concerns stem from a general ignorance amongst the general public about what actually happens at the LHC, add in some misunderstood and often wilfully misquoted scientists and the human trait of doom-saying and you've got an explosive mix.

So should you be worried when the LHC fires up again on Wednesday?

In a word no. But let's look a bit closer at some of the misconceptions, conspiracies and down-right bullshit surrounding the LHC courtesy of some nuts websites, a pontiff and a very mixed up individual I came across on social media this week.

The Daily Mail completely hysterically highlights those fears in article headed: "Are we all going to die on Wednesday?" And 2.9 million people have liked it thus far on Facebook alone!

This ignorance clearly needs to be addressed:

Back to basics. The lunatics at CERN are trying to RECREATE the big bang!
Taken from Global research: Large Hadron Collider weapon of mass destruction. 

So how true is that? Note very, What scientists are actually seeking to recreate are conditions immediately following the "Big Bang" when energy levels were much higher. Taking place at ALICE (a Large Ion Collider experiment) conditions are such that its possible for Quarks the particles which make up baryonic matter such as protons and neutrons to exist out of confinement, in the form of "Quark-gluon plasma". From this its possible to observe how particles such protons and neutrons form.

This isn't achieved by replicating the big bang, but by replicating everyday events which are unfortunately difficult to observe due to their location....

Could the LHC open multiple black holes? That would suck.

One of the most repeated claims about the LHC is that it could open multiple black holes, surely not a good thing, right?

One thing worth considering when you hear this claim, is as already mentioned, the LHC only recreates particle collisions that are occurring constantly in the upper atmosphere. Cosmic rays, composed mostly of  90% protons and roughly 9% alpha particles with a small percentage of heavier nuclei, strike particles held in Earth' natural magnetic field at energies of 100 - 1000 TeV. The maximum energy the LHC is capable of reaching is 14 TeV.

So even if these collisions are capable of creating miniature black holes, then wouldn't it be safe to assume that they'd be harmless as surely they'll be in a state of creation constantly in the upper atmosphere. Current theories suggest that if a black hole WAS created in such a fashion it would almost instantly decay, but observation of this decay would teach mush about the early universe.

Much of the speculation about miniature black holes and CERN comes from investigations into a highly speculative hypothesis  of quantum gravity called Rainbow Gravity and a recent paper by  published in Physics Letters by Ahmed Farag Ali, Mir Faizal, and Mohammed M. Khalil.

The paper in question neatly brings us on to the next item on the fear monger's list of LHC dangers.

You, but with a beard... and evil. Could the LHC open a doorway to other dimensions and parallel universes.

This is a claim that's stuck a particular chord with both conspiracy theorists who have watched way too much Sci-Fi and conservative Christians alike. Here's what Pope Francis, in all of his scientific wisdom had to say:
“My fellow Christians, we are living in desperate times” he told the crowd.“Science is about to test the limits of God and his creation. God has created boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Are these scientists about to unleash upon us the Gates of Hell?” he asked his followers, visibly shaken. “Are these the days of darkness spoken of in the Bible? Are the hordes of demons lurking in the fiery pits of Hell about to be thrust upon the world? These are questions we must ponder before allowing scientists to proceed to such experiments” he explained." 

Hasn't that been the refrain of religious luddites for years: Science stepping on the toes of god. Let's say for a moment I accept the existence of god, why are scientists acting against him? Would god want us to remain ignorant? Why believe in such a small and petty god so protective of his secrets?

Here's a slightly less unhinged version:

Dark age fear mongering aside, part of our problem here is our concept of "other dimensions". Here's what Dr Faziel had to say on the matter:

"Normally, when people think of the multiverse, they think of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where every possibility is actualized. This cannot be tested and so it is philosophy and not science. This is not what we mean by parallel universes. What we mean is real universes in extra dimensions. As gravity can flow out of our universe into the extra dimensions, such a model can be tested by the detection of mini black holes at the LHC. We have calculated the energy at which we expect to detect these mini black holes in gravity's rainbow [a new theory]. If we do detect mini black holes at this energy, then we will know that both gravity's rainbow and extra dimensions are correct."
So the key is here, we need the reconsider what the phrase "other dimensions" actually means. What we are actually talking about are additions to our tradition view of dimensions in the length, height and width or the x, y and z directions if you prefer.

Sorry Guys.  Party is off. 
So essentially don't worry about being murdered by vampire versions of your mates on Wednesday. As for "gates of hell" a phrase picked up on by a multitude of religious cranks, remember these collisons are occurring frequently and no gates of hell as of yet. Not so much as a letter box!

But wait even Stephen Hawking has warned about LHC! Hasn't he? 

Here's what Live science reported that Stephen Hawking had warned about the LHC and the Higgs Boson in particular.

" Now, in the preface to a new collection of essays and lectures called "Starmus," the famous theoretical physicist is warning that the particle could one day be responsible for the destruction of the known universe."
Wow! Pretty scary stuff, if its true. "If" being the operative word here it turns out. Here's what Hawking ACTUALLY said in the preface of Starmus:
"The Higgs potential has the worrisome feature that it might become metastable at energies above 100 [billion] gigaelectronvolts (GeV). This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn't see it coming."
Wait,  "The Higgs potential " does he mean "the potential of the Higgs Boson" here? No. The Higgs Boso, which is the force carrying particle of the Higgs field and the Higgs potential are different concepts. Think of it like this, the Higgs potential is equivalent to the voltage of an electric field, whilst the Higgs boson is equivalent to the electron.

Another clue the Hawking is talking about a different concept here is he discusses an energy level of above 1.00 x 10^11 GeV. The Higgs Boson was found with the LHC running at an energy of below 6.5 TeV, which is around 6.5 x 10^3 GeV. When its switched back on it will be operating at around 13TeV will the potential to reach 14 TeV which is 1,4 x 10^4 GeV, short of Hawking's prediction by a factor of 7.14 x 10^6!

Sorry Live Science got it wrong, and as its considered a trusted science many media outlets followed suite. Shame on you guys

The Conspiracy Theories.

What lurks in the bowels of the LHC? UFOS!

The Sunday Express reports on a UFO sighting at CERN here, I don't normally comment on UFOs the reason being frankly you could be looking at anything. That's certainly the case here. But what makes this different is the conspiracy theorists have jumped on this because there is talk of UFOS in official CERN documentation! As was put to me in a Facebook discussion recently by a chap who repeatedly asked me "What's in the tubes?":

Turns out this IS a genuine quote, but unfortunately for rabid conspiracy theorists like Gary the term UFO here is just an unfortunate choice of acronym, or perhaps some waggish scamp at CERN winding up the cranks. In this case UFOs  refers to Unidentified falling objects, most commonly speculated to be.... dust. But wait! There's something else lurking in the tubes! A ULO, Unidentified Lying Object. Gary is also quite worked up about this too!

So what is the ULO? Truth is CERN don't know, its in a sealed vacuum pipe which would cause considerable upheaval to remove. But let's put the ULO into context, its radius approximately
150 um and its not caused any issues thus far, the engineers at CERN suspect its a nut of bolt. What Gary and others seem worked up by is the potential threat posed if the ULO moved. Sure Roeck admits it could pose a problem for "the operation", i.e;- beam disruption so how do Gary and others extrapolate this to be a potential Earth destroying hazard?

This'll send a Shiva down your spine! Why is there a huge golden statue of the Hindu god of destruction at CERN?
"Natural" website "Be a Good Steward of Mother Earth" certainly have an opinion about what the statue represents:

"Can there be a coincidence that the statue at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is none other than Shiva Nataraja – the dancing Shiva, also known as the primordial destructive force of the universe?.... The picture above was taken in front of the CERN complex in Geneva, Switzerland. This statue of Shiva Nataraj is casting a shadow on the headquarters building. Is this a message “from the universe” about the destructive potential of a particle accelerator which collides opposing streams of protons and most recently lead ions) at the speed of light in an effort to create a mini big bang. We sincerely hope that the unique and strategic placement of this sacred statue will somehow represent an auspicious outcome of CERN’s endeavors, and will not prove to be an ill omen."
The site's author also makes several comments about the arrogance and ineptitude of science. Funny how these "natural" sites chose to spread their dross on the internet, one of the crowning achievements of modern science,  Surely they should be scrawling their bullshit on papyrus using burnt twigs? Isn't that more natural?


The not at all hysterically named website "Now the End Begins" (yes really, we aren't expecting fair and balanced here are we?) sees a far more sinister motive for Shiva's presence at CERN:

"The bible clearly tells us that the Hindu “dark one” who inhabits the “burning ground” is none other than Satan himself. Is the picture starting to become clear to you now?
The same “science” that inspired the builders of the Tower of Babel, men who like Satan said they did not need God to reach Heaven, is also behind the work of the people at CERN. People who have dedicated the whole of their research to the “dark one”.
There are no accidents and no coincidences. The New World Order is sending a clear-cut message. They are awaiting for the appearance of their lord, the Antichrist, and will attempt to destroy the world and recreate it in his image. The bible tells us how it all will end:
“But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” Daniel 11:44,45 9 (KJV)
The big question this raises amongst the religious nonsense, why on Earth would a world governing SECRET organisation, with a SECRET satanic plot to end the world... FUCKING ADVERTISE THE FACT WITH A GIANT GOLDEN STATUE OF A GOD OF DESTRUCTION?

The truth about the Shiva statue is this is Shiva in his dancing form, or Nataraja, symbolising "life-force". It was a gift from India to celebrate CERN's long relationship with the country.  Its also a nod to Carl Sagan who in his book Cosmos equates Shiva's dance to the study of sub-atomic matter.

And there's more.... So much more....

This list of conspiracies and misconceptions about the activities of CERN and at the LHC is by no means exclusive. And it will continue to grow. There's always mistrust of science, especially such cutting edge science... but we have a choice here. We can embrace the future with wonder or fear. We can soar with pride at the advancements and achievements of our remarkable species, we can marvel at how much we understand about our universe.

Or we can remain mired in fear and superstition.

Take a look at that image of Shiva outside CERN again. Know why his left leg is raised, what that is under it? Its a demon representing ignorance. Pretty apt if you ask me.

PS. You'll notice I've not talked about the science behind the LHC here, or given many details of the activities conducted there. I was aware this would be a quite lengthy one and there are loads of great sources out there wrote by far more qualified folks than me. Check them out starting with CERN's home page here:

See you next Thursday!

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