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End of the world on Wednesday?

delhi Updated: Sep 09, 2008 11:36 IST
Prakash Chandra

Move over 9/11. 9/10 could be our worst nightmare: the end of the world. That’s if one goes by those opposed to the largest science experiment ever that will be conducted on Wednesday.

Come September 10, an excited bunch of physicists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva will fire subatomic particles into a 27-km loop, making them travel the bend 11,245 times a second, and then smash them head on.

For those conducting the mega-experiment 300 feet under the French-Swiss border, answers to the birth of the universe may be answered. But for people like Prof Otto Rössler of the University of Tübingen, it will be apocalypse. Last week, Rössler and other naysayers of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment had hoped that the European Court of Human Rights would block it. They believe that the chances of a black hole — an intense gravitational field sucking in everything including light — being created by the experiment is very high. Rössler says that the worst case scenario will have the Earth sucked inside out “within four years of a mini-black hole forming”. The Court, however, dismissed the petition.

So what is the experiment about? Arrays of delicate sensors in the LHC will track the wreckage of the smash-up: a spray sub-atomic particles like quarks, muons, and pions. Overground computers will then sieve this data before sending it to institutions around the world that specialise in high-energy physics. The truth is, no one really knows what will emerge from these collisions.

Considering that the ‘mini black holes’ created at CERN will be so weak that they will exert minuscule gravitational tugs, we shouldn’t worry. But just in case, on Wedneday, keep your windows shut.