Black holes | Bleader

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Black holes

Posted By on 10.25.11 at 12:30 PM

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Talk about missing the point! When I wrote last month about the closing of the Tevatron, the giant particle collider in Batavia, I mentioned that work similar to the Tevatron’s now happens in Europe, where the Large Hadron Collider—which straddles the French and Swiss borders—will eventually smash particles together at seven times the energy of the Tevatron, in hopes of figuring out the elementary makeup of the universe. Certain fears attended the construction of both the Tevatron and the LHC: namely that in creating conditions like those that happened around the time of the big bang, the machines themselves would create a big bang, or forge a black hole, or create some kind of unpredictable and dangerous cosmic blooper—in any event, not a constructive development for life on earth. In 2008, two men filed a lawsuit asking that work on the LHC be halted until a little more research was done on the risks.

The LHC was turned on with little incident—some mechanical problems, no black holes—but the warnings haven’t gone away.

This morning we received a press release about a new book, Phobos: Mayan Fear, in which sci-fi author Steve Alten warns of ongoing threats from the LHC. He says that the recent spate of natural disasters—tsunamis, earthquakes, what have you—can be traced to the operation of the LHC, at which institution scientists, "[i]n their egotistical desire to prove themselves right," says Alten, are "willing to risk humanity."

But these little seismic disturbances are nothing in comparison with what’s to come: First of all, “the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera (think two thousand Mount St. Helens)”—a sulfurous mess which, if I can hazard a prediction based on a recent trip to Yellowstone, promises to make the earth smell real bad (think two thousand rotting eggs). Second: “a thousand-foot-high mega-tsunami unleashed by the landslide eruption of a volcano in the Canary Islands that some scientists believe poses a catastrophic threat to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.” But even those events are small potatoes, really: "As bad as these things sound, Alten saves the very worst for December 21, 2012." What's going to happen on 12/21/12? I guess you have to buy the book.

Incidentally or not, this sounds roughly like what was predicted in the 2009 blockbuster 2012—which also cast the blame on subatomic particles—according to our short review by Cliff Doerksen: “In accordance with the Mayan doomsday calendar, ‘mutated’ neutrinos emanating from the sun trigger spectacular CGI disasters on earth that culminate in a global flood. Semiprepared for such contingencies, world governments scramble to complete a construction project on the upper slopes of the Himalayas: gargantuan cruise ships that will carry an elite remnant of humanity through the forthcoming mega-tsunami.” A mega-tsunami!

2012 pretty much bombed—it’s got a 39 percent score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes—so it remains to be seen what cultural form will make the people open their eyes. Asks the press release: “Can a best-selling author of fictional thrillers make a difference?” We’ve got 13 months to find out.

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