Particle Collision - Irresponsible meddling?
There are some who believe that indiscriminate experiments into particle collision could lead to consequences far graver than many people would ever have
imagined possible. Experiments that according to some experts carry with them the potential - small though it is - to wipe out, not just this planet but the whole of the Universe along
with it. Impossible? Couldn’t happen? Just the plot for a Sci-Fi novel? Well think again because this nightmare scenario is all too possible.
Duplicating the Big Bang.
Some years ago work conducted at the Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory, on Long Island, New York State found itself at the focus of very genuine fears.
Experiments to seek an answer to the problems posed by the so called Big Bang were labelled foolhardy and irresponsible.
It was the intention of the Brookhaven Laboratory to accelerate gold ions to near the speed of light and then crash them into one another.
The purpose was to recreate in miniature, the circumstances of the so called Big Bang, which some scientists believe is how the universe came into being. The
trouble is this process is not without risks. Even scientists associated with the project - some of them British - warned that experiments of this nature can lead to disastrous
accidents capable of destroying not only the Earth, but a large portion of the universe along with it!
Scientists are quick to highlight the awesome hazards involved in heavy ion collision. They include the possibility
that the enormous impact of such particles may produce what are called “strange quarks.” Under certain circumstances these bizarre particles are capable of transforming themselves into destructive “changelets.”
It means that anything coming into contact with these “changelets” would themselves be transformed, resulting in either a
devastating explosion capable of destroying whole worlds, or the production of a black hole, that could literally suck the Earth into total oblivion.
Small scale experiments.
Experts in favour of this type of experiment have countered by saying that the scale of particle collision research is
such that it would be too small to have major consequences. In return critics respond by highlighting that even at this sort of level - as shown by the Chaos Theory -
minor events can have major consequences. They also point out that the very point of these experiments is that we just don’t know what will happen, and therefore to some
extent we remain ignorant of the full range of possible dangers that may result.
Boffin created Armageddon.
Commenting on these developments a Sunday Times of London editorial once had the following to say: “It would be
the ultimate irony. In the spirit of genuine scientific inquiry, that in solving the remaining puzzles about how the universe was created, the men in white coats would send
us, and them, into the oblivion of a black hole of their making.....a boffin created Armageddon.”
Beyond the boundaries.
Most experts agree that the chances of such a devastating outcome are at best slight or remote. That may well be the
case, but the truth is that particle collision takes us beyond the boundaries of known science. For all we know this spirit of enquiry, laudable though it is may yet come to represent
the epitaph of our species in a Universe that may quite literally be sucked into oblivion by our own curiosity.
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