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We notice your so snidely hidden amongst the chaff, "Because, you know, it could destroy... converting... the universe into exotic strangelets."

The reason why we chose to seek the injunction in Hawaii is because we will not incur the onerous expense (nevermind the grounding of the MD-80's) to transport any evidentiary "exotic strangelets"-with the ongoing economic meltdown 'whoa Bernanke'-ok slowdown, WELL OK!, quarterly incongruiences- anyway since they placed those big magnets opposite the state of Hawaii we have documented evidence of ironic nasal and navel ring piercings dramatically drooping.

This is a direct threat to National Security. If Hawaii's exotic strangelet community is suddenly experiencing ironic piercing droops coincident with the big magnet emplacements in - it is France isn't it? - anyway we want it stopped and we want it stopped now.

The Arizona has already been affected - say what? that happened that long ago? Well anyway our strangelet community is affected isn't it?

Yes Mr. Spitzer, Kirsten's latest video seems to have been fogged up.

That settles it! Objection your Honor!

Saving the world from killer black holes, stranglets or other exotica that the LHC might produce is all very admirable. Is that the only motive behind this lawsuit? On his website, Walter Wagner claims it will cost in excess of $100,000 to bring legal action against the LHC and invites people to send a suggested donation of $10. Now I don't know if 10,000 people will think this is a worthwhile enough case to send their hard-earned dollars. But I'll put my money on the physicists' assessments being right and send my donation to another charity instead.

Is Kip Thorne a pastafarian?

"Time theory"?

"Time theory"!?

When you're making up names for your new pet sciences, can't you at least choose one which doesn't sound like the plot device in a bad **Star Trek** episode? "Mr. Data, modulate a tri-phase dekyon beam to counter the effects of the anti-time fissure upon our biogenic fields."

"Captain, according to the basic principles of time theory, that action has a 37% probability of overloading the quantum resonance flux in our warp core."

"That may be a risk we have to take. [tugs on shirt] Make it so."

(I could have pontificated on how since Einstein and Minkowski, space of itself and time of itself have sunk into mere shadows, and only a union of the two has preserved an independent reality, and that in consequence, "time theory" has the distinct sound of a fractured ceramic, but really, **Star Trek** jokes are funnier.)

There's no such thing as "time" so how could there be a plausible theory?
"Time" is only an abstract concept we have invented to pretend that we kind of understand some things. Actually, it was probably invented by lawyers.

PS: If the LHC at Cern does create a black hole which ends up eating the solar system, boy are you guys gonna be sorry you scoffed!

Don't know Thorne's religious leanings, but he SHOULD be a pastafarian, given his fondness for pasta analogies.

Time theory? Oh my God! Someone please tell me why I didn't study "time theory" before. Tomorrow I'll search for a time theory course in some universities. Do you think that it does exist?

Larry Niven in "World of Ptavvs" (1965) postulated the existence of a time halting emergency suit for space travelers. When the traveler's ship is about to blow up, crash, etc. they jump inside and turn it on. When your rescue team shows up they turn off the generator and out pops the adventurer.

On top of all the scientific reasoning telling us that nothing is going to
happen with LHC, I can't get over the hubris of someone in Hawaii thinking
that any decision in his (or any other foreign court) is going to have
any weight in France or Switzerland.

As the Chinese say: "where there is confusion, there is profit." There's probably a killing to be made here selling world-gobbling-strangelet insurance. One could keep the premiums low and still do quite well, I should imagine.

Ever heard of an anti-neutrino? Kinda puts your time theory into a cocked hat.

why are people, like Wagner, are taken seriously? This is a fellow who got a minor in physics, then went to law... and we should take his word than to... how many scientists/physicists been working at CERN?? I do hope people realized of how much of a crackpot Wagner really is.

1st scientist "What are you working on?"
2nd scientist "Nothing!"
{A team of researchers from the University of Calgary and the Tokyo Institute of Technology proudly announced in February that they had successfully stored "nothing" inside a puff of gas and then had managed to retrieve that same "nothing." That "nothing" is called a "squeezed vacuum," and the physicists tell us that a light wave can be manipulated so that its phases are of uncertain amplitude, then the light itself removed so that only the "uncertainty" property of the wave remains. [ScienceNOW Daily News, 2-29-08]}

I remember reading awhile back about the upcoming LHC project at CERN, and how my eyebrows elevated at seeing mention of 'mini-blackholes', etc. Able to direct sub-atomic particles like a maestro, but can't hold a press conference without stepping into oncoming traffic. I winced.
My brother, a recently retired Air Force pilot, interjects that the venerable Piper aircraft company was destroyed in a lawsuit brought by the widow of an owner of an ancient Piper, who flew it into a stall in defiance of prominently-posted cockpit warnings against the maneuver, whereupon it fell out of the sky, killing him.
I was a nuclear power plant operator for the Navy, during the Arab Oil Embargo, so the solution to that certainly seemed obvious at the time. Little did I know, commercial construction then in progress would be our last.
Your indignation at the lawsuit against CERN is perfectly understandable, and I'm guessing that under current conditions the proceedings will be a formality. But, insofar as the general public & FUD go, the advice to car drivers against being 'dead right' pertains.
What if Al Gore was a nuclear physicist? ;-)

Bwahahaha! I love your LOLpic :D

It just amazes me that there are people worrying about this when there are far more important world issues that have way greater probabilities of causing wide spread chaos than the mini black holes & strangelets. Spend your money on HIV research, Wagner! Everyone else's money, at least, from the donations you're asking for:
"We suggest a donation of $10.00, but would be delighted if your donation were larger. We expect to encounter expenses in excess of $100,000 in this action."

PS eingram: if the LHC does end up creating a black hole which eats up the solar system, I don't really think we'll have time to be sorry ;)

Very nice read :-)

Aside from REM, I can also recomment Muse, Apocalypse Please:

"declare this an emergency
come on and spread a sense of urgency
and pull us through
and pull us through
and this is the end
this is the end of the world"

"The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots," one CERN theorist told The New York Times.

This is the most important quote. In it sums up that the scientists take ALL apparent risks seriously and that it HAS been weighed and found lacking in merit. An investigation WAS warranted, and now has been thusly concluded (thrice over!). I remember this coming up a few years ago. The LHC is no more nor less dangerous than before. People are merely constantly on edge these days; it's hardly a directed effort against scientific progress (it would certainly be myopic to ignore all the other parts of life fettered by this 1984-esque fear), it is a social issue wherein physics is the current innocent casualty.

My friend called me to tell me about the lawsuit, probably hoping to get a rant out of me. As the conversation went on, he quipped, "You know before the nuclear bomb was dropped they were worried it might set the atmosphere on fire?" "Fortunately we've since found out they are perfectly safe!" I have equal faith that the LHC is perfectly safe; it will perform exactly as designed.


I understand you are a science writer, not a scientist or physicist, though you apparently speak with lots of physicists. The ones you speak with are conning you. Unlike yourself, I have worked extensively in physics for many years, and have taught extensively in science and mathematics for many years, with excellent credentials for doing so.

Here's the CERN PR release in response to this: "If the LHC can produce microscopic black holes, cosmic rays of much higher energies would already have produced many more," the statement added "Since the Earth is still here, there is no reason to believe that collisions inside the LHC are harmful."

That argument was torpedoed two years ago, which is why CERN was forced to go back to the drawing board to dream up a new argument. Yet they trot out that failed argument to a gullible public. I have discussed this before on your blog, but apparently you've forgotten.

In sum, cosmic rays in nature routinely strike the upper atmosphere, possibly creating microblackholes. If so, they are created at COM speeds that are relativistic relative to earth, though slower than the incoming cosmic ray. Anyone with a background in fixed-target accelerators knows this principle, a background you obviously lack. At those speeds, the microblackhole would simply transit earth in 1/4 second, with likely no interaction [or if it did glom on to a single nucleus, it would barely slow down].

That is not what is proposed at the LHC. The LHC proposes to make microblackholes [yes, they do, look at the ATLAS homepage] to investigate Hawking Radiation. If they are capable of being made, an appreciable percentage would be made at rest relative to earth, such that they would be captured by earth's gravity and endlessly orbit [if they don't evaporate]. This would give them plenty of time to grow larger, with a faster and faster accretion rate as they got larger, to where perhaps a decade, a century, or a millenia from now they would be able to accrete the planet.

The safety studies that were done earlier relied entirely upon unproven Hawking Radiation. It doesn't matter how many loony physicists who believed the false premise of their cosmic ray argument, and who also believe in the veracity of Hawking Radiation, say that Hawking Radiation would work, the fact is it remains an unproven theory. It might be wrong. Polls of physicists I've seen show about 3/4ths have their doubts of its veracity [with the average of doubt be at 10% believing it will fail, 90% believing it will work]. Yet that is what the LHC proponents want to rely on for their safety factor.

Still further, the suit is about more than just the safety. It is about the fact that a proper safety study addressing that [and numerous other issues] was not done, but was promised to be released by January 1, 2008, and then when that did not happen, was promised to be released by March 1, 2008. When that did not happen, suit was filed to insure that the safety study is released and reviewed before start-up of the LHC.

Still further, the suit was initiated by not 2, but by 7 scientists and engineers. Still further, numerous other physicists with excellent credentials [neutrino experiments under their belt, etc.] are supporting the suit by way of email, even if not signed on officially [to protect their careers, etc.].

You really do owe your readership an apology.


Walter L. Wagner

I haven't forgotten your prior comments. I merely find them unconvincing. Thanks, but I owe nobody an apology, and I stand by what I have written.

you apparently speak with lots of physicists. The ones you speak with are conning you.
the suit was initiated by not 2, but by 7 scientists and engineers.

I've been following this topic with interest and I see no support for Wagner. Not one blogger, not one physicist. But Jennifer, married to a cosmologist, writing in this field for quite a while, is being conned by "the ones" she's speaking with. But, now that I see there are five more people pressing this lawsuit than I previously thought, I'll have to reconsider my opinion.

AemJeff, don't forget the handful of other scientists with "actual neutrino experiments under their belts." :) Gosh, I wish I knew someone from that rare breed of neutrino physicists. Oh wait -- I do....

Bob Park also made a comment on this in his last week's "What's New".




You no longer need to take my word about the invalidity of the cosmic ray argument that even luminaries such as Steven Hawking are still spouting off about as the "safety net" that proves the LHC safety, as he did a few weeks ago at Cal Tech.

Rather, the LHC Safety Assessment Group also has recognized its invalidity, and are searching for an alternative safety argument.

Specifically, in a power-point presentation given recently at UC Berkeley by Michelangelo Mangano, he concluded that any microblackholes created in the upper atmosphere in nature by high-energy cosmic ray impacts would leave the microblackhole rapidly transiting earth, or as he wrote: "they fly through the Earth like a neutrino". In my terminology, I referred to them as "neutrino-like". Not a whole lot of difference there.

He further concluded that "At the LHC, some of them will have v< 10 kh/s, will be gravitationally trapped, and could start growing". Not a whole lot of difference between my referring to them as being "gravitationally bound to earth".

Now, if every time I turn around I find that the LHC theorists are making fundamental errors of physics as it pertains to safety, which I feel obliged to point out to them, why should I take their assurances that they can guarantee that we will be safe? Their track record is abysmal.

I happened to make a living for many years by pointing out errors of logic to scientists - that's what nuclear safety officers do. We don't go around letting ourselves be bought-off [or, at least, the ethical ones don't] by someone willing to pay huge salaries and enormous perks if we'll come back with a clean bill of health for whatever their pet project happens to be.

Let me give you an example of the thick-skin I've developed over the years from insulting comments from ignorant people.

A few years back, in April, 2001 to be precise, I was attending a safety workshop in Utah in which the main topic of discussion at the time was the "temporary" storage facility that was being sought by some to be built in the west desert of Utah, as an interim storage facility for reactor casks filled with spent fuel rods. This was occassioned due to the fact that the permanent storage facility has been delayed/held-up by people with an anti-nuclear agenda.

The proposal that was made was to lay a thick concrete pad, and set the casks in the open air on top of the pad, surrounded by a security fence and guards.

I was the only one of about 40 attendees who objected to the overall design. I strongly suggested that it should instead have the casks buried, with the concrete pad on top. I suggested that the design that was proposed left the casks subject to attack from terrorists, who could by the use of a few suicide pilots, attack the casks with planes laden with explosives, followed by a second wave of suicide pilots who could attack the damaged casks with fuel, incinerating the waste and allowing it to blow into Salt Lake City and other down-wind areas. Everyone laughed at my suggestion that suicide pilots might attack within the United States. One person, who had just put to bed the waste from Three Mile Island [TMI], stood up and said that they had covered their waste with a concrete slab. As events subsequently proved, my 'fears' were well-founded. Sometimes, as it turns out, one has to be willing to withstand the taunts of the more ignorant ones surrounding him.

Now, at any time that anyone from the LHC wishes to engage in a serious discussion of a VERY SERIOUS ISSUE that the LHC might make non-evaporative microblackholes, I would be willing to discuss this with him/her. The stakes are too high to simply sweep this under the carpet by ridicule and outright lies, by "physicist-bookies" who are willing to gamble with everyone else's lives for their own personal advancement.

Best regards,


Wow, enjoyed all the comments. Deep thinking. Better than Star Trek. Not as good as Baywatch.

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    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
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      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
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      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
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      3/4 Triple sec
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      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
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      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
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      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
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      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
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      3/4 oz Rum
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      2 oz Pineapple juice
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      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
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