LHC fears: Valid or Silly?

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Jim Steele, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. Arrqh

    Arrqh Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Generally the people who are questioning the experiments do not have a full enough scientific knowledge of the physics behind it to be able to determine if there actually is a danger are not; most of them are just being hysterical. That is certainly foolish.

    This doesn't mean that no one should question it... but it's pointless to do so without a proper grounding in the actual science.
     
  2. scotthm

    scotthm Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I don't know who's getting hysterical about it, but you shouldn't expect the average person to become a physicist. It's not particularly unreasonable for the average person to be somewhat nervous when they're told that there might be a possibility of catastrophe, however slight. After all, these are experiments being performed, meaning that even the most learned physicists aren't absolutely certain of the outcome.

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  3. John O.

    John O. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Nobody's absolutely certain of anything in physics, and the degree to which physicists aren't absolutely certain that something catastrophic will happen is a dozen orders of magnitude smaller than the colloquially referred to margin of certitude lacking in most people's decisions. When you say that you can't be absolutely certain that driving home after 4 or 5 beers will be ok, there's at least a measurable statistical probability that that's enough to inhibit you enough to cause an accident. So my point is, the biggest frustration to physicists when people like this enter the discussion is because the words they use don't mean what they think they mean. When the layman says "absolutely certain", the lacking certainty he's talking about is like an inch, compared to the physicist's which is about a micrometer.

    It is technically true to say they're not absolutely certain. But I don't think the layman making these arguments is fully aware of this particular definition of absolute certainty.

    Also, I don't mean to speak generally, but you will sometimes discover that if you question the people most hardcore about trying to stop the LHC from being built or go live, you will find that for some of them, this resistance is religiously based in the descendent of the kind of stuff Gallileo faced. The "we don't have the right to study the creation of the Universe" stuff. A lot of them just see a science article that uses the words "moments after the birth of the universe" and "secrets of creation" and their heresey bells go off.

    That's not to say every one with a question is one of these people. But I've met 1 or 2.
     
  4. Arrqh

    Arrqh Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Of course not, but I do expect people to accept that they don't know enough about a subject to understand what's actually going on and to defer to people who do. Namely, the physicists. That's certainly what I do!

    And of course we don't know exactly what would happen, otherwise we'd have no need to run the experiments. But we do know enough to say beyond a reasonable doubt that it will not be harmful to us... because if it was we would already be wiped out by all the cosmic rays that are constantly smacking into our atmosphere at higher energy levels then LHC will produce. That's I think the most important thing to understand about LHC... that the events that it will produce are not unique in the universe. In fact they're quite common.
     
  5. Jim Steele

    Jim Steele Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Like this nutcase?

    LHC = SATAN'S STARGATE
     
  6. splodenode

    splodenode Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    all them big magnets are gonna cause all the compass needles to point toward switzerland when they fire that thing up
     
  7. SalvorHardin

    SalvorHardin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wow.... Funny and ultra sad at the same time.

    What.A.Nut
     
  8. trekkiedane

    trekkiedane Admiral Admiral

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    I'll let you know when I get there.
    :guffaw: :guffaw: :guffaw:

    What a brilliant way to start the day!

    Thanks for the laugh -I'm going to post it in my Viddy this!-thread right away :bolian:
     
  9. Meredith

    Meredith Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Who is going to play Jack O'neill in this one? The angel Gabriel? What about Daniel Jackson, Carter and Teal'c?
     
  10. M'Sharak

    M'Sharak Definitely Herbert. Maybe. Moderator

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    According to whose hypothesis are these serious negative consequences of which you speak possible? What qualifications and credentials does this hypothetical hypothesiser hold?

    There's nothing wrong with wondering about consequences, but this:

    suggests that you're assuming the worst, simply because of a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word "experiment" (similar to the misunderstanding underlying the oft-repeated phrase "it's just a theory") and because someone (no doubt the same hypothesiser referred to above, who possesses credentials of an unknown, perhaps irrelevant or possibly nonexistent nature) told you "that there might be a possibility of catastrophe, however slight," which really sounds to me like nothing more than plain old garden-variety uninformed alarmism.
     
  11. scotthm

    scotthm Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The fact that I'm making no efforts to prevent the LHC from carrying out its objectives suggests otherwise.

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  12. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Premium Member

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    Hey, you can't argue with Lexx.
     
  13. Zulu Romeo

    Zulu Romeo World Famous Starship Captain Admiral

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    All this talk reminds me of the preface to "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" by Douglas Adams:
    :guffaw:It's funny 'cos there are people out there who believe this will actually happen...
     
  14. Jadzia

    Jadzia on holiday Premium Member

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    Well I think there's always fear when conducting such powerful experiments, just like the first time I wired a plug and feared that the house would meltdown. It didn't. Like all potentially dangerous things, eg, nuclear power stations, microwave ovens, genetic engineering,... success eases fear.

    But the whole point of doing an experiment is because we don't know what will happen. So on that fact, yes it might be disastrous. What's that saying??? "Science is about going wrong with confidence."

    Do you entrust the fate of the earth to democracy and the confident assurances of scientists? If you believe the collider has a good chance of destroying the earth, then what are you going to do about that? Sit back and watch and hope? Hold up a placard? Or be a little more proactive? :klingon:

    In conclusion, there's nothing silly about fear.. it awakens us to possible danger, and it's important that we respond to such fear intelligently.
     
  15. Longinus

    Longinus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    From Wikipedia:

    This is not a concern for strangelets in cosmic rays because they are produced far from Earth and have had time to decay to their ground state, which is predicted by most models to be positively charged, so they are electrostatically repelled by nuclei, and would rarely merge with them. But high-energy collisions could produce negatively charged strangelet states which live long enough to interact with the nuclei of ordinary matter.

    The danger of catalyzed conversion by strangelets produced in heavy-ion colliders has received some media attention, and concerns of this type were raised at the commencement of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) experiment at Brookhaven, which could potentially have created strangelets. A detailed analysis concluded that the RHIC collisions were comparable to ones which naturally occur as cosmic rays traverse the solar system, so we would already have seen such a disaster if it were possible. RHIC has been operating since 2000 without incident. Similar concerns have been raised about the operation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN but such fears are dismissed as far-fetched by many scientists


    I don't get this. The first paragraph seems to imply that the cosmic ray thing is somehow different than the artificial strangelets, yet the the second paragraph seems to contradict the first.
     
  16. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    I think it's funny that because it is a big round circle that it's seen as a "stargate" by the religious fanatics. I guess that show has been influential.

    I suppose in the 80's they might have feared that we'd cross the streams and rip a hole in the universe with that thing.
     
  17. scotthm

    scotthm Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    As opposed to a big square circle?

    The only thing I find funny about this is that those who are the most confident about what will or won't happen are the ones most anxious to see the experiments conducted. How ironic.

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  18. John O.

    John O. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I love this:

    "Has been named by the scientists... Freemasons... same thing.... the God Particle..."


    Riiiiiight. Because when I got my degree in Applied Math w/ Physics, did my research on two-phase microsatellite propulsion systems for formation flight, a process that by most accounts would grant me the title "scientist", I don't ever remember being drug into a meeting hall with huge torches and hooded Elders and forced to walk over broken doritos :lol:

    Pretty sure these are the same people who believed "scientists" wanted to drop something like 40 lbs of plutonium from Voyager "into Jupiter" so it would fall through the atmosphere until the gravity crushed it sufficiently tightly enough to ignite a thermonuclear spark, continuing in a chain reaction until Jupiter lit up at the turn of the millenium, signifying the coming of the NWO and the apocalypse.

    Cuz that totally happened.

    That second paragraph's second half doesn't seem to make sense. I get the first part. High energy cosmic ray collisions aren't natural analogs to the collisions in the LHC because they have time to decay to their positive state, thereby not being able to collide with free nuclei because they're the same charge and will be repelled. In the LHC this is not the case. If that's true, however, the whole "these kinds of collisios have been taking place forever" defense doesn't work, because you've just defended why the two processes are actually categorically different.
     
  19. Longinus

    Longinus Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    And that worries me.
     
  20. Jadzia

    Jadzia on holiday Premium Member

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    Well you've still got a few days left to work it out before you get upgraded with "strange flesh". :techman: