New Internationalist

Recreating the Big Bang is ‘perfectly safe’, honest!

Issue 411

A lawsuit in the US has raised safety concerns over the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the world’s biggest particle collider – which is to be switched on later this year. The suit simply seeks a safety and environmental review and a delay of a few months before turning the ignition key, to make sure the planet doesn’t implode – but scientists are having none of it. Concerns about what could happen when the gargantuan machine – designed to replicate conditions a billionth of a second after the Big Bang – is turned on include some truly bizarre possibilities.

First, LHC could trigger millions of mini black holes that do not decay as physicists expect them to. Instead, they might congeal and eventually consume all nearby matter and continue to eat the planet or, at the very least, Geneva. This might not make the universe explode, but financial markets might, as trillions of secret funds held in Swiss banks might be spat back out by the black hole and straight into the French tax office just over the border. Mon Dieu!

Alternatively, smashing gold protons together at such high energy levels might lead to the production of particles known as ‘strangelets’. These strangelets, like Midas, would turn everything they touch into yet more gold strangelets until the Earth and everything that comes into contact with it ends up, well, strange but blinging.

Lastly, a magnetic anomaly known as a monopole could lead to bizarre conversions of matter that would at least restore alchemy’s reputation in the world of science, and at worst turn the planet into some kind of overly salty primordial soup like mother used to make.

Physicists readily admit that they don’t really know what will happen, but have that reassuring smugness that only someone who’s smashed atoms at high velocities and peered into the quantum universe can have. As the late Russian physicist Lev Landau once remarked: ‘Cosmologists are often wrong, but never in doubt.’

Whatever happens, with 14 trillion volts powering the LHC, we can at least guarantee that our power bills will go up. Sacre bleu!

This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Recreating the Big Bang is 'perfectly safe', honest!

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

This article was originally published in issue 411

New Internationalist Magazine issue 411
Issue 411

More articles from this issue

  • The Bairns

    May 1, 2008

    Out of Britain’s blustery Northumbria comes Rachel Unthank and her Winterset trio.

  • Plan B 3.0 - Mobilizing to Save Civilization

    May 1, 2008

    'We are in a race between tipping points in the earth’s natural systems and those in the world’s political systems. Which will tip first?'

  • Caucus of terrorists

    May 1, 2008

    Dinyar Godrej concludes his report: meeting enemies of the State – and looking to the future.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.