March 29, 2008

"It could spit out something called a 'strangelet' that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called 'strange matter.'"

Or it could create a black hole and swallow everything. But they spent $8 billion on the thing. Surely, judge, you're not going to tell them they can't turn on their little machine and play with it!


vet66 said...

The sky is falling again as the latest group of 'scientists' strive to save us from ourselves. When the atom bomb was first tested it was thought that the atmosphere would catch on fire and destroy the planet.

Next came the so-called "China Syndrome" fear that effectively shut down the building of nuclear plants for fear any failure in cooling would cause the core to burn through the earths molten interior emerging on the other side of the globe.

These scientists protesting from Hawaii are either looking for money to prove something or have an inflated opinion of their intellectual capabilities. Their immediate concern should be predicting lava flows and volcanic eruptions, or tsunami preparedness.

George said...
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George said...

By the power of the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, let it be not so!

ricpic said...

What's one more strangelet gonna do? I pass strangelets on the street everyday. Titus. Palladian. To them I'm a strangelet. Can't we all get along (Obama wants to know)?

Bob said...

Quark-Gluon Plasma will make a good rock band name.

Global warming scientists with their arrogant claim that they are absolutely right concerning the human role in GCC, and their insistence on treating skeptics as potential criminals, have given me a huge animus against scientists these days. This current bunch is behaving in the same fashion: We're right, you're wrong; don't let the dragons eat you. Ha ha ha!

rhhardin said...

The NYT article does not say who would be hardest hit.

ricpic said...

That's a given. Women and minorities are always hardest hit. For shame. You knew that.

Ron said...

If you accept the raising of federal revenues, Hillary will save you from the strangelet through her new improved health care plan, McCain won't rest until the last strangelet is killed, and Obama will let his pastor tell you how evil the strangelet is before it kills us...

Larry said...


But I seem to remember a phrase.....oh, yeah, "personal jurisdiction".

Is that relevant here?

Bob said...

Ron: Obama will let his pastor tell you how evil the strangelet is before it kills us...

Nonsense. Pastor Wright will declare that the strangelet was designed by white scientists to kill black men.

dbp said...

"Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?"

I know why. Because it is still March in Europe, which means gloomy and cold. Hawaii is pretty nice this time of the year. I suggest a couple months of litigation and surfing, then back to Switzerland in late May-early June.

Slim999 said...

"Nonsense. Pastor Wright will declare that the strangelet was designed by white scientists to kill black men."

Show me a photo of one of the black scientists.


Middle Class Guy said...

If they get Al Gore to back them they may have a chance. With his massive propaganda machine, he will have the disbelievers compared with flat earth theorists. He will have the whole world behind him; even air head celebrities. He will find and bribe fifty or so scientists out of thousands to prove the case.

He wil, he will, he will...

Gore will figure out a new way to make a couple of billion dollars more, another oscar, and maybe a legitimate Nobel Prize; one of the wcience prizes.

mja7803 said...

I think the interesting procedural question in this case is not personal jurisdiction, but the request for a preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs have a pretty good case of possible irreparable harm: if they lose, it's possible that the Earth -- nay, the universe -- will be swallowed by a black hole. Probably no adequate remedy at law for that. Also, under the balance of harms or sliding scale, even if the plaintiffs have a miniscule likelihood of success on the merits, so long as it is greater than zero, the balance surely tips in their favor, given all the trouble that an Earth-swallowing black hole would cause. Finally, I would say that preventing the apocalypse is probably in the public interest.

So, if the plaintiffs can overcome their jurisdictional problems, how does the district judge not grant a preliminary injunction?

Simon said...

Jurisdiction was my first question, too, Larry; assuming this is a diversity case (I'll pull the complaint from PACER later), it depends on whether the case could have been brought in Hawaii's own courts, and particularly on what Hawaii's long arm statute says (see Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 4(k)(1)). I think some states authorize jurisdiction in situations where an act committed out of state has tortious consequences within the state, for example.

Palladian said...

And, as silly as the case sounds, the idea that the CERN Large Hadron Collider (or Large Hard-on Collider, as a physicist friend of mine calls it) could cause something very bad to happen is possible, and as stated in the NYT article, was a topic of concern in the planning of the collider.

In science there is no certainty. Unless you're talking about anthropogenic global warming, then it's A FACT!

Anyway, I hope they find the Higgs-Boson.

And ricpic, how dare you lump me (ick) in with that walking vanitas image titus! That's the problem with identity politics of any sort. Just because two people share a trait doesn't make them tribe-mates. I'd prefer to be compared to a better strangelet, like Beth.

Zach said...

Mr. Wagner, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, studied physics and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctorate in law from what is now known as the University of Northern California in Sacramento. He subsequently worked as a radiation safety officer for the Veterans Administration.

Very strong indications of crankery here.

Mr. Sancho, who describes himself as an author and researcher on time theory, lives in Spain, probably in Barcelona, Mr. Wagner said.

Even stronger.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review “fundamentally flawed” and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission’s standards for adhering to the “Precautionary Principle,” he wrote, “and has not been done by ‘arms length’ scientists.”

This is a problem with the precautionary principle, not with CERN. Nothing passes the precautionary principle if you're strongly comitted to the other side. There's always an even more speculative theory or an even smaller effect which might be harmful and hasn't been checked out fully enough.

The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.

The key issue. Also, bear in mind that there are countless other suns and planets in the universe. If cosmic rays could trigger a black hole swallowing the sun, we should see millions of these events in the night sky.

The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?

An untested prediction of some variations of an untestable theory, disavowed by the researchers involved.

Anybody want to set up a betting pool? We can take odds on the LHC
a) not confirming string theory and not destroying the world.
b)confirming string theory but not destroying the world
c)destroying the world but not confirming string theory, or
d) confirming string theory and destroying the world.

Some of my friends might give better odds on destroying the world than on confirming string theory.

Chip Ahoy said...

Sounds ridiculous. Our Supreme Court won't let the Europeans stop us from applying capital punishment, they're not going to let us stop them smashing protons, and why should they. <--declarative not interrogative. These scientists want to throw a wrench into the project by hog-tying up the US contribution to it with legal impediments, without which they could be stilted considerably.

But it was a fun read, strangelets. Strange + diminutive. Black hole, consume the earth. Ha ha ha. But leave it to the NYT to start off an article in Science with a review of their favorite non-science bugbears. Poor dears are so completely stuck they can't help themselves.

...and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley ... but we'll try not to hold that against him.

One last thing, that doesn't look like such a little machine to me.

*resumes looking at International Aquatic Plant Contest photographs*

Larry said...

"University of Northern California "

In Petaluma (central California) and Sacramento (central California).


My brother still lives near Petaluma as do some of my nephews, I think.

Never heard any of them mentition the University of Northern California.

Which appears to award a couple of AS degrees. Didn't see any mention of a law school or of accreditation.

Where are they on the US News thing?

reader_iam said...

Here is my favorite sentence in the piece: No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.

Beth said...

Thanks, Palladian, my fellow strangelet. I like your friend -- we read this story this morning and noticed the conspicuous hard-on element right away.

Simon, in the future, let's agree to refer to this case by it official name: Wagner and Sancho v. Pinky and the Brain.

Simon said...

I have uploaded the complaint in the case (Sancho v. U.S. Dept. of Energy et al, no. ) here; you'll immediately see the answer to the personal jurisdiction issue (clever buggers).

Methadras said...

Such chicken-little idiocy. Even if a black hole were to be created it would be so small that a proton would be able to plug it up. Even if it were to sustain itself for any length of time, say, a minute or two, it won't be able to capture anything in it's gravity well aside from the particles that it was manifested from. Whoopde-friggin-doo. Let's get the show on the road already. I want to know of the particle known as a hardon really exists? [nudge, nudge, wink, wink, SAY - NO - MORE!!!]

Larry said...

I didn't see any connection in Hawaii, so I don't see how rh personal jurisdiction issue is dealt with. Ot is that another settled science thing.

And supposing it is, upon whom will the order be served? To what effect? what will be the likely enforcement sequence?

blake said...


I assume we'll have to pronounce the "W" in "Wagner" as a "V".

Vahh-gner and San-cho v. Pinky and the Brain

Sound like a wrestling match.

reader_iam said...

Favorite IRL Quote of the Day:

"I'm OK with this basic research, so long as we recognize that if they screw up, we all die."

Ain't that bracing!

Second favorite:

"The string theory in quantum mechanics is what connects the actual science at either end."

Third favorite:

"All single-planet species are doomed to extinction."

Middle Class Guy said...

I think Pancho and Lefty have been smoking too much of that Maui wowie.

Larry said...

This thing is more than a few hours inot the building right?

Why now?

Revenant said...

It IS considered theoretically possible that turning the thing on will destroy the world -- possibly even the universe. Nobody really knows what happens at the energy levels involved (which is why they're running the experiments in the first place, of course). It is generally considered a remote possibility, and I personally don't think it is worth worrying about, but there's nothing inherently crazy about not thinking that risk is worth taking.

It makes for a good thought experiment, really. Say you could push a button that had a 99.999% chance of producing a cure for cancer and a 0.001% chance of killing every living thing on Earth. Would it be immoral to push the button? Would it be immoral NOT to push the button? There good arguments for both positions. What about if the odds were 99% to 1%, or if it only cured male pattern baldness? Etc, etc.

Middle Class Guy said...

Revenant said...
What about if the odds were 99% to 1%, or if it only cured male pattern baldness? Etc, etc.

Or a permanent cure for impotence. Just think of all those impotent people seeking to become unimpotent!!!!!!!!!!

Synova said...

Yes, I know, I'm like a child with a new toy. I was actually looking for the second link, which may not seem to apply except that the point I wanted to make about the subject at hand is that just because someone is a physicist or whatnot doesn't mean that they aren't out in la-la land. After all, the field is made up of string theorists and those who think that string theory is lots of fun for children.

Anti-matter was created decades ago. The world didn't end. Nuclear accelerators and colliders are the sexiest science short of interstellar space travel. And they do really *really* fabulous stuff.

Revenant said...

Anti-matter was created decades ago. The world didn't end.

I don't think anyone was expecting it to. The antimatter can do is mutually annihilate with an equivalent amount of normal matter. You would need to produce kilograms of it before it significantly threatened humanity. At the rate we're producing it the Earth will be engulfed by the Sun before we've got enough antimatter to blow up a Tonka truck.

AJ Lynch said...

$8 Billion ? Who put up the money for this project? Didnt they know they should have been finding a cure for global warming with a byproduct that cures male pattern baldness?

Middle Class Guy said...

The bottom line here is-
hey we all gotta go sometime.

Larry said...

I was just reading on a "climate" blog that is imperative that the carbon dioxide emissions be driven to zero.

Since we human types exhale carbon dioxide, why would it be a problem if the universe ended?

Lawgiver said...

The Large Hardon Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together.

I can't believe they spent so much money colliding hardons and who are these Protons that get fired up by watching the colliding hardons? For that matter why does that fire them up and who exactly does the banging? This sounds really perverted to me, how old are these Protons, are they of legal banging age?

MadisonMan said...

If it kills everyone by converting them to strangelets, I don't think anyone will care.

theobromophile said...

If they spent $8 billion on this little toy, why not just drop a few billion more on it and build it on Mars or Venus? Heck, go old-school and build it on the moon. That way, it will lessen the chances of turning us all back into our constituent elements.

Simon - I had the same thought re: long-arm jurisdiction. Likelihood of harm within the state (probably similar to libel, wherein the publisher is in one state and the harmed party in another) allows the court to hear the case.

Sir Archy said...
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Anonymous said...

I had an encounter with a strangelet once. I had to get shots afterward.

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.


As the Ghost of a Gentleman, dead in his Grave these 250 Years and more, you may imagine the Progress of Natural Philosophy and Science to which I have been witness.  Yet only the most blind Optimist would aver that this hath been an unalloyed Good.

The Universe that Newton gave us is a cold, unforgiving Place, where Man shrinks to Insignificance, alone amongst the empty Clockwork of a Godless Cosmos.  We have learnt slowly during the recent Century, and especially in the past few Years, that this View, which sprang up naturally in the Train of Newton's Natural Philosophy & Mathematicks, is quite as False in its way as that of Ptolemy.  Yet the Damage that the Universe of Newton did to Morality during the Centuries it held sway over the Minds of Men, was perhaps more real in its way than the pretended Immutability of his Law of Gravity.

Professor Einstein may have seen some Way further into the Matter; and his modern Successors daily produce Wonders that astonish the Mind of the unbias'd Observer.  Whether Modern Natural Philosophy should give rise to deeper Insight into Man's Spiritual Nature & Relationship with God; or whether some of its Professors & Amateurs would continue in their Materialistick Way, is the great Philosophical Question of the Age.  Almost all the Disputes of these Times derive from a Difference of Views of the proper Place of Man in the larger Universe, and whether there exists a God or not.  Are We simply Atoms made Sensible; or is there perhaps an underlying Spirit that lies at the Heart of the Cosmos and animates it?

The Depths of Nature that Modern Natural Philosophers would plumb, could perhaps incline us to a better Understanding of the God that Einstein was sure exists, if we had but Reason & Wit enough to take their true Measure.  'Tis a Piece of Irony worthy of the Appellation of Cosmick, that there exists a Chance a Philosophical Apparatus should cause the World to be swallow'd whole, on the Eve of our closest Approach yet to the Mind of God by Means of this same Natural Philosophy.

Begging your Pardon for such Dark & Abstruse Meanderings, and assuring You that I shall, in Future (if there be a Future), return to Topicks that more conduce to the Entertainment of the Audience,

I remain,


Your most humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Anonymous said...

Revenant: The antimatter can do is mutually annihilate with an equivalent amount of normal matter. You would need to produce kilograms of it before it significantly threatened humanity.

I hate to pick nits with you, Revenant, but:

You correctly point out that antimatter mutually annihilates with matter, i.e. the matter-to-energy conversion is at a 100% rate. The amount of energy present in a given mass of matter was, of course, given by Einstein: e=mc^2. There is a wonderful scientific-mathematical calculation tool, Frink, that lets us perform these kinds of calculations painlessly. So I did:

teaspoon water c^2 -> "kilotons TNT"
3543915046376433051161531/33472000000000000000000 (approx. 105.87700305856934) kilotons TNT

A teaspoon of water combined with a teaspoon of antiwater would result in a blast equivalent to just shy of 106 kilotons of TNT. Little Boy's yield is given as 13-16 kilotons; Fat Man's as 21 kilotons. So we're talking about roughly six Fat Mans from a teaspoon of water and antiwater. So that means:

liter water c^2 -> "kilotons TNT"
22468879468420441/1046000000000 (approx. 21480.764310153383) kilotons TNT

So about 1,074 Fat Mans from a liter of water. That's... a lot of energy.