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Theia by Rufus Gefangenen via http://www.flickr.com/photos/rufo_83/313822473/

Could CERN’s Large Hadron Collider Cause Catastrophies?

While news continues to pour out of Japan regarding the massive quake that occurred last week (news sources are now referring to it as a 9 magnitude, rather than an 8.9), the internet is rife with bizarre speculation about what might be causing such uproarious earth changes, with fears lingering that locations like California could be next in line for disaster.

Who can really say what the actual causes are behind earthquakes of this sort; especially if, of course, there truly is anything anomalous underlying the situation. In my opinion, people do have a tendency to look for “bogeymen,” that is, some kind of scapegoat to blame our cultural woes upon; this happens socially in a conventional sense, and little is different in Fortean circles. Hence, as I mentioned at Gralien Report just the other day, we have creepy critters like Mothman forever pinned to the presence of disasters (i.e. my essential concept of what I call the “Fortean Folk Devil”). But is it really just madness to speculate that there could be other factors that lay behind the recent quakes which we, for the most part, remain unaware of? What about the chance that some of these factors could be man made?

Recently, my friend Mike Mott, a researcher known both for his Fortean insights as well as his fiction writing, suggested the potential destructive nature of the controversial CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC), noting how such a device could possibly be linked to large-scale seismic activity. “The LHC presents the biggest magnetic field on Earth,” Mike notes, “after the one centered in the nucleus of the planet; and so it is potentially an earthquake machine that disturbs the magnetic field.” Speculating on the notion that earthquakes might actually result from use of the LHC may seem strange, but a surprising amount of concern has resulted since the launch of the project in 2008, mostly due to whether a device working with the atomic substructure of our planet in such a way could trigger disasters. “There is an even more worrisome scenario,” Mott adds. “If the machine is producing semi-stable black holes or strangelets, when they fall towards the Earth, they would explode provoking motions in the plates of unknown intensity that could explain the obvious rise in earthquake activity since the machine went on line.” The LHC was first activated in September 2008, but was shut down subsequently until the following year due to a technical fault.

There are instances, as Mott notes, where other earthquakes have seemed to coincide with LHC activity. “Last year when CERN put the LHC at work, within a week you had the 8.8 Chilean earthquake­, the 6th biggest in history. Now after 3 months of halting the machine, they put it online and we get the 5th biggest… 2 of the BIGGEST earthquakes of history in a year.” Is this a mere coincidence, or could there be a correlation?

Mott supposes that the machine is “likely causing gravitomag­netic waves, noting how changes in Earth’s subtle magnetic field could host potential for disaster if instability were presented by alternative sources of magnetism. “Whenever a new magnetic source appears a magnetic field reorders itself. Whenever the machine is switched again within a week the Earth “reorders” the plates, and you get a massive earthquake. Now the stress is gone, the field is reordered. But we haven’t seen anything yet.”

Is what Mott proposes just crazy talk, or could there be something more to what he offers? In truth, Mott is only one of many who continue speculating on the LHC’s dangerous potential. Retried German chemist Otto Rossler was quoted in the UK Daily Mail in 2008 expressing fears about whether the LHC could lead to the creation of a black-hole-fueled energy quasar in the center of the Earth:

‘Nothing will happen for at least four years,’ he said. ‘Then someone will spot a light ray coming out of the Indian Ocean during the night and no one will be able to explain it.

‘A few weeks later, we will see a similar beam of particles coming out of the soil on the other side of the planet. Then we will know there is a little quasar inside the planet.’

Incidentally, the LHC, having gone active for its earliest tests in late 2008, would set a projected date for the kind of disturbances Rossler predicts around the end of the year 2012. Could the Mayans have been right, after all?

Furthermore, Mott notes that outside the CERN building stands a statue of the Hindu god Shiva, often referred to in the Hindu tradition as “Destroyer of Worlds.” If indeed there is any potential for danger associated with the LHC, this is a rather tragic coincidence, to say the least. Nonetheless, two safety reviews backed by CERN have concluded that there are no dangers associated with the LHC’s ongoing activity, a viewpoint which the American Physical Society has subsequently adopted and maintained. Then again, looking back at the earliest days of experimentation with what are known today as X-rays, we’re reminded of Clarence Dally, a pioneering scientist who worked alongside Thomas Edison. Dally didn’t realize the harmful effects of Rontgen’s new discovery until the subsequent amputation of his hands and, later, death from mediastinal cancer had ensued resulting from his exposure to the powerful (and deadly) X-ray radiation, prompting Edison to fearfully resign from his research with the curious energies. Sadly, this is often the case with science: people have traditionally had a tendency to leap right in before looking to see if an alligator waits in the swimming pool first. Hopefully, the ongoing experimentation with CERN’s LHC won’t produce such a scaly beast of burden on down the road.

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  • http://mdj.dk Morten

    I’m a scientist affiliated with CERN and an avid MU listener (and has been since the very first episodes years ago). First of all, the magnetic fields created by the LHC is not even close to the most powerful on Earth. The steering magnets have a field strength around 8 Tesla, where others have achieved stable fields at more than 40 tesla.

    Like everyone else on this site I enjoy a good story, and experimental facilities like the LHC obviously plays right into our imagination, as it is huge, technical and perhaps because its purpose is a bit mystical/occult as we as users have trouble explaining exactly what is going on at times. But not only is it relatively safe (nothing with a running power of 300 MW is safe in any absolute sense!) but so far the physics results are surprisingly mundane, we haven’t found any evidence of something new, exciting and least of all dangerous.

    At any rate (and with fear of killing a few fantasies for some), I will be more than happy explaining what is going on to the best of my ability just ask :)

  • http://twitter.com/feltbettor Jeff N.

    It is more than a little nuts for people to assume the worst with no evidence. But it isn’t entirely beyond the realm of possibility that scientists will ever make mistakes trying to further our understanding.

    I don’t feel terrified when I hear research is being done to hopefully create new reactions in a controlled laboratory setting. I do however feel like the neighbor living next to a maximum security prison. Right or wrong that is the feeling a lot of people get when they hear about CERN.

    If nothing unforeseen can happen at CERN, than they spent way too much money to prove established science. Most groundbreaking discoveries to date had either tragedies involved or the potential for them. And I doubt any researcher has ever uttered the words, “This could go horribly wrong maybe we should stop.”

    Our world has been negatively affected just as much by well-intentioned scientists as by closed-minded fools. Most of the closed-minded fools are trolling the internet forums; what are all the scientists up to? I keep reading about nuclear energy lately….I thought scientists had that all figured out decades ago?

    But your right….I don’t understand physics anywhere near as well as you do.

  • Doppelganger6899

    Morten and Catalystic37, I could not agree more. Sensational fear and science have always gone hand in hand and it is a shame. The recent attacks on education only further harm those interested in science because in many minds science is an attack on GOD. I am not a scientist but I am addicted to educating myself and have followed the LHC from its inception. Because I chose to visit multiple outlets and read a variety of scientific explanations regarding the LHC I feel there is no danger (while not a scientist I do understand a great deal). The 2012 angle is preposterous but just another way to make people anxious and want to shut it down. What do I know though, I am jst a citizen that believes in science.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luis-Soto/579139203 Luis Soto

    Mike Mott is cerntruth.com

  • Mike Mott

    Nope. I’m not affiliated with any CERN or LHC organization or anti-CERN organization, not in any manner whatsoever. Nor do I draw any connections between the LHC and the 2012/Mayan hogwash. Micah was just making a general observation with that about the zeitgeist surrounding this topic.

    When it comes to the Higgs Boson (‘we found something that reminds us of something that we previously postulated could be something–maybe”), I see huge amounts of money and resources being expended in order to insure that, indefinitely, huge amounts of money and resources are expended. When I level this in with the request by 20 scientists for a safety review which never happened (to address their concerns specifically), and past comments by CERN officials to the effect of “the odds of us destroying the earth are as astronomical as winning the lottery 3 times”, and “it’s quantum physics, so anything can happen, but we don’t think it will” (paraphrasing), along with “we’re willing to take that chance,” confidence is not inspired. All of these are statements released by people affiliated with this endeavor, when questioned about potential safety issues.

    How high will energy levels eventually go? What containment contingencies do you have for monopole quarks, strangelets, mini- (sub-atomic) black holes, and so on? What contingency plans are in place?

    I hope this all works out well for the advancement of science, but it seems that there are an awful lot of coincidences which have already occurred which back up what Dr. Rössler has said. It also seems that there was a general rush to get this machine online and ramped up, even if incrementally, which may have led to the initial magnet accident. What happens if such a structural failure occurs when something which should be contained and short-lived is instead released by a breach and takes a different career path?

    Maybe it’s all just coincidence, eh? Or maybe Rossler was right, at least on some level. Time will tell. Good luck.

  • Neuromancer

    Not affliated with any scientific organization or luddite organization.

    The idea of creating particles to get a better understanding of the big bang, on Earth, worries me in two ways.

    1) We do not know the long term effects of the process. Why? Because we have not done it before.

    2) The big bang did not take place on Earth, I would think that understanding gravity would be paramount, especially condiering our current understanding that mass has an effect. If this is true, we could not emulate big bang conditions because we can not emulate a gravity field of ultimate density.

    Just my uneducated opinion

  • infowolf1

    why do we have to understand gravity and everything else?

  • infowolf1

    ” I see huge amounts of money and resources being expended in order to insure that, indefinitely, huge amounts of money and resources are expended.”

    A big, dangerous, pork barrell. Sounds like the American military industrial complex that Pres. Eisenhower warned against in his outgoing speech, I read once that he was going to say military industrial congressional complex, but was persuaded to leave the last part out.

  • infowolf1

    scientists not just internet kids with wild imaginations have expressed concerns, and the mag field drop off is only relevant to a stationary field. I am no physicist but I doubt these are entirely stationary fields if they are going to move particles, they would have to be fluctuating and there might an issue of resonance…..

  • Neuromancer

    Survival, evolution, comfort and convenience. Take your pick.