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New Scientist promotes legal action against the LHC

In January, I discussed a preprint by Eric Johnson about the LHC lawsuits. He is an assistant professor of law. After having analyzed the issues along some typical patterns of the lawyers' thinking - and the absence thereof - he decided that he would probably stop the LHC if he was the judge in an LHC lawsuit.



Today, Nude Socialist published a short version of his preprint. While Nude Socialist may look like another irrelevant cranky popular science magazine, I don't think that such things can be safely ignored. In 1999, the same magazine published the statements by an irrelevant Indian glaciologist that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035.




Today, the glaciologist even denies that he has ever made such a statement seriously and explicitly. Nevertheless, the ludicrous proposition about the looming problem has been parroted by 2,500 idiots in the IPCC, brought many companies and NGOs insane grants, was used as a justification of crazy new policies, and has become an "official wisdom" in a big part of the world. So it may happen that if someone else writes a similar nonsense about the LHC, such a simple "promotion of the meme" may also have consequences.

In my opinion, Johnson is a typical lawyer. He reproduces the patterns of thinking pretty well. But some of the statements he makes in the Nude Socialist article are really amazing. For example, no particle physicist could testify because all of them are biased: one half of them work at CERN and the other half are their friends. ;-)

Well, I don't think I call any CERN experimental physicist "my friend", although I may know and like a couple of them, and I don't have any personal or financial links to the experiment. So you could pick me as a witness, Mr Johnson. Your statement that people like me don't exist is just a lie. But he builds on it.

So according to Johnson, everyone who has a clue about particle physics should be banned as a witness. An additional hidden assumption of this argument is that no particle physicist would care if the Earth were swallowed. A very sensible assumption, indeed. I wonder whether Johnson realizes that every other inhabitant of the Earth is also biased because he or she has a financial interest for the Earth to survive, whatever it does with particle physics. ;-)

Johnson also reveals his misunderstanding of the arguments why the LHC doom scenarios are impossible. He says that the explanations why the doom can't happen have changed twice - in 1998 and/or 1999, with the theories of large and/or warped extra dimensions (he incorrectly writes 2001, but never mind, it's the smallest mistake he made), and again later in 2008, when the "official" explanation became astrophysical only because black holes don't need to evaporate.

Note that the LHC alarm depends on mysterious accusations about "unpredictable changes" of some things that are needed for the survival, something that we know very well from the climate alarm, too.

However, his second assertion is complete bullshit and the first one is mostly bullshit. There has been no change or new finding about the LHC doomsday safety in 2008. The astrophysical arguments against any similar doom scenarios have been around for many years - see e.g. a 1999 preprint by Jaffe, Busza, Sandweiss, and Wilczek about the strangelets at RHIC. (By the way, note that today, people like Eric Johnson only talk about black holes and not e.g. strangelets - it's because they're just parroting someone else and the black holes became more "popular" than the strangelets as a threat, for purely unscientific reasons. Johnson, who behaves as a complete parrot when it comes to Walter Wagner's crackpot theories, still has the arrogance to talk about "groupthink" of all particle physicists.)

The astrophysical arguments excluding most planetary catastrophes have always been valid. And there have always been - and there still are - detailed and purely theoretical arguments, too. Nothing has changed about the fact that the black holes evaporate. This insight has been known since the revolutionary yet solid theoretical discoveries of Stephen Hawking, building on visions of Jacob Bekenstein, in the 1970s.

Even if the evaporation didn't exist, the combination of a very high typical velocity of these small black holes and their very tiny cross section would make them disappear from the Earth's vicinity well before they would eat a few atoms.

The only thing that changed in the late 1990s was that the relevant Planck scale - which determines the mass of the lightest black holes that deserve the name - can actually be smaller than the ordinary four-dimensional Planck scale, about 10^{19} GeV. With large or warped extra dimensions, the Planck scale relevant for the minimal black holes may even be close to the LHC energy frontier - a few TeVs - although it's pretty unlikely (but not impossibly unlikely). But it's still true that the black holes produced by the LHC would be "minimal", extremely light, and would decay immediately, after microscopic timescales.

While the extra dimensions would be thrilling theoretically, the change they brought to this "practical" discussion about the survival of the Earth is negligible: the extra dimensions just allowed to modify one microscopic distance scale and replace it by another, still insanely short microscopic distance scale.

In fact, as you may remember from de Boer's talk, even a 100-ton black hole would evaporate within a second. We clearly can't construct such a black hole directly - the energy needed for that, given by "E=mc^2", is unthinkable to emerge from a pair of protons.

This possibility - of the LHC being stopped because of some panicking crackpots - would be inconceivable just 10 years ago. The world used to be controlled by more sensible people. But diverse and numerous imbeciles obsessed with threats, dooms, and superstitions of all kinds, and with the dogmatic precautionary principle, among other irrational things, who have spread to many powerful chairs in the society have made even this threat - of a liquidation of a completed and ready $10 billion #1 scientific experiment in the world - imaginable.

There are many lawyers who are thinking - or fail to be thinking - in the same way as Mr Johnson. And if they get a "formally valid" complaint from someone who has the standing, they can simply say "stop the LHC". The odds could be 50:50. That's how our society works - or, in this case, fails to work. It doesn't matter that all these people who would stop the LHC would be morons. They can control the society, including the CERN tunnels, anyway. That's how our de facto idiocracy may possibly operate.

So let's hope that no one will actually succeed to delay the beam that will return to the collider on Thursday - and that the LHC panickers will be even slow to affect the first 7 TeV collisions in April.

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reader Zephir said...

Recent calculations of collision scenarios are based on highest scientific approach possible - the calculations in real numbers.

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/01/22-01.html

In addition, they're consistent with Randall-Sundrum models of microblack holes, independently made before years:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_black_hole

with strangelet models independently made

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangelet

and with predictions made on background Standard model

http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0606193

http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0605062

All four mainstream physical theories are saying the same: stable microscopic dense objects CAN be formed at LHC during this year. In addition we have observational evidence of tetraquark and pentaquark states as the initial phase of condensation expected:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraquark

In fact, mainstream physics could even have the evidence of strangelet formation already: during recent experiments at Tevatron the formation of strange muon (heavy electron pairs) was observed a well outside collider tube, i.e. the place of collision. So far no particle, able to transport such heavy and unstable particles at so large distance is known. One of the viable explanation is the formation of stable strangelet, which escaped from collider tube.

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Weird-New-Particle-Found-By-Fermilab-039-s-Tevatron-97128.shtml

The another search for strangelet is planned for the LHC ALICE detector:

http://arxiv.org/abs/nucl-th/0301003

If the strange matter hypothesis is correct and a strangelet comes in contact with a lump of ordinary matter such as Earth, it could convert the ordinary matter to strange matter.

http://www.arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/9910471

All the above is based on standard mainstream physics and experiments done so far


reader Lumo said...

I don't know why Neil's comment which was more reasonable than Zephir's disappeared - sorry if I deleted it by chance.

Just to answer.

Neil asked what happens with the extra charge of a charged black hole after evaporation etc.

The answer is, of course, that black holes may be charged or uncharged much like other macroscopic objects, and the particles they evaporate include charged particles, too. The more positively charged a black hole is, the more likely it is for this black hole to emit positrons (or other positively charged particles).

The charge conservation holds at every moment - the charge is simply being transferred from the black hole to the radiation.


reader Paul said...

Lubos

Please get a correct understanding of Anglo-Saxon legal code Lawyers. Lawyers in this system are the respective 'champions' of the 2 parties to the lawsuit. They are hired guns. The truth has no meaning to such a Lawyer. In fact the truth gets in the way of being a top Lawyer, so they seldom consider it.

Lawyers live in a world of arguments than win and arguments that lose. That is it. Win or lose the argument. Trial by combat.

This Lawyer has simply pointed out that if he can get rid of all the experts through legal procedure he can win this particular argument. Its a sophomoric principle for the first year of Law School. If your Lawyer does not know this, get a new one. So the opposing Lawyer would have to work to get the experts testimony allowed. The 'Legal Theory' is so straight forward as to be trivial and unworthy of publication.

Get your 'experts' in and the opposition 'experts' out of the courtroom and the case in nearly over.

That NS printed such legal drivel is not news either. Just the standard sensationalizing of nonsense that passes for journalism these days.


reader Anonymous said...

And you Sir, are my hero! I loved this post. I am not a physicist, but just a Third Year engineering student in Aerospace Engineering. I am so tired of all these 'LHC = Doom Machine' speculations. Some people just need to see reason.

New Scientist = Nude Socialist! E.P.I.C.!!!


reader Lumo said...

Dear Paul,

thanks for your amusing comment. Do you want to say that Britain and America only have (hired gun) attorneys but no (impartial) judges? ;-)

That would be a different system, indeed.

The assistant professor didn't want to present the strategy how he would fight if he were hired as a hired gun by the LHC alarmist nuts. Sadly, he actually revealed how he would organize the lawsuit if he were the judge.

Best wishes
Lubos