Miniature black holes, cosmic rays, “God” particles, time travel and maybe even the end of the world. This is the myriad of doomsday predictions and complaints being aimed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, otherwise known as CERN. Some of these predictions are superstitious fear mongering, others are misinterpretation of facts and others still are the foundation of pure ignorance, or are they?
To be clear, the above list is more like a to-do list for CERN researchers than a prophetic outlining of end-of-the-world propaganda (with the distinct exception of that last item on the list). In fact CERN’s nuclear physics department, the team heading up the construction and operation of the Large Hadron Collider are hoping to do exactly what the ‘Dooms-day-ers’ are warning about. They want to create a few miniature black holes, they want to reproduce the effect of cosmic rays on earth bound particles, and they want to shake hands with this so-called God particle (otherwise known as the Higgs Boson particle).
Quick, everybody run for the bunker, before we’re all sucked into oblivion by CERN’s crackpot scientists.
Or…pick up a few science journals, browse a few reputable physics websites, have a look at the Wikipedia entry on the LHC project, and I assure you, you’ll find out a few things that may be both surprising to you and much less disheartening than the fear mongering agenda would have you believe. You’ll find that this collection of the greatest minds in nuclear and astrophysics the world has to offer, is actually not funded and controlled by Doctor Evil and his spandex wearing henchmen.
They have taken and will be taking every possible precaution, in planning, execution and control of the potential dangers of this project. They have calculated the effects of these various phenomena to a degree that most of us laymen can’t even comprehend. They know, with as much certainty as is theoretically possible, exactly what will happen should they be able to create a mini-black hole, they know precisely what dangers to expect from creating Higgs Boson particles and they want to assure us that they know what they’re doing.
However, some of these learned men do not agree with the public position of CERN officials; some of these respected and intellectually powerful men are quite nervous with what is about to happen along this 18-mile underground proton race track on the Franco-Swiss border of Geneva.
The most obtuse point I wish to make here, is that there is no high level government conspiracy in this particular issue, which is trying to create some planetary weapon or universal ray gun to supplant our galactic enemies on the grand stage of the universe. The science is simply too complex for government egos to manipulate, and the truth of it is, CERN is in the business of expanding our collective knowledge through honest and transparent research, not political conspiracy and arms dealing.
But I am not one to speak so highly of the infallibility of men, whether for religious purposes or for scientific ones; and herein may lay the most profound problem we, as the inhabitants of this spinning blue ball will face in the cumulative history and potential of our species. Are we smart enough to contain and control the powers that created the universe?
It is a fantastic and amazing thing that human evolution has brought us to this point of understanding. That we can understand and observe the particle components that contributed to the creation of matter in our universe is an achievement worth celebrating on a most fundamental level. It is a wondrous achievement and one in which we should all share, especially if our greatest minds are able to create and study the fruits of that labour.
But what if they’re wrong? What if, as Holger Beck Neilson and Masao Ninomiya have postulated, there are unseen effects and forces at play, forces that could prove disastrous for the project, for humanity and even for Earth itself? Think that’s unlikely? Well, in the name of science and technological advancement, I give you Chernobyl. Unlikely or not, it can and usually is, the simplest and most innocent oversight that causes the greatest human suffering in the name of science. That is, when our collective brainpower isn’t already focused on human suffering, ala Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Physics is the study of stuff, weird stuff, stuff that makes up the stuff we can see and the stuff we can’t see, and quite often, that stuff holds the potential to both create and to destroy, but in the case of the physics being studied via the LHC, it is the stuff that is little understood and which can all but erase our existence under the right circumstances.
Black Holes; these massive and terrible (or beautiful) intergalactic consumers, caused by the collapse of giant stars and feeding on the wastes of galaxies, are arguably the most powerful and destructive force in the universe. And you may now be asking, why, exactly, these scientists want to create that force here on Earth. It’s all in the name of progress, and is basically an exaggerated sense of “just because we can-ism”. They want to study the decay rate, and in turn, confirm or deny the existence of Hawking Radiation (the invisible stuff said to be emitted by full size black holes, in a weird sort of self-regulating strangeness), and in all fairness, the black holes they’re talking about are both microscopic and expected to decay in a fraction of a second.
Though there’s always a ‘what if’; what if their cute little pet black hole doesn’t behave as expected? What if it doesn’t decay, what if it holds some heretofore unknown property that makes it the biggest mistake ever conceived of by man? Well, we’ll likely never find out, since if this part goes wrong, the results could be catastrophic, to the degree that the black hole could devour the entire planet in the blink of an eye, as well as everything else in our galaxy, and ultimately wipe our existence off the radar of anyone or anything in the universe.
The next item in CERN’s little bag of tricks is the Higgs Boson particle, which, for lack of a better understanding, is the “God” particle in question above. In an effort to dispel any misunderstandings of that unfortunate term, coined by popular (or unpopular) media, we are not talking about revealing the power of God, we are talking about understanding a small part of how matter came to exist following the Big Bang. I’m not in a position, intellectually, to give you a run down on the physics of Higgs Boson particles, since this is the stuff of cutting edge physical science, but for the lack of my own understanding, I can offer you a somewhat diluted explanation of what the science means in everyday terms. It is believed that Higgs Boson particles are the root of all matter in the universe, that they have , in effect, created everything we can see and touch in our reality (hence the unfortunate term, the “God” particle). The process by which these particles create matter is highly complex, and, I might add, entirely theoretical at this point, since they haven’t yet been proven to exist.
A fairly easy to understand explanation of how the Higgs Boson’s work (as found on the Exploratorium website) is as follows:
“Imagine you’re at a Hollywood party. The crowd is rather thick, and evenly distributed around the room, chatting. When the big star arrives, the people nearest the door gather around her. As she moves through the party, she attracts the people closest to her, and those she moves away from return to their other conversations. By gathering a fawning cluster of people around her, she’s gained momentum, an indication of mass. She’s harder to slow down than she would be without the crowd. Once she’s stopped, it’s harder to get her going again.” 
In this explanation, the Higgs Boson particles begin to cluster around the particle of matter (known as Higgs Clustering), providing mass to the central particle, (the Celebrity), in turn lending its own collective mass to any other particle coming into contact with it. It is this study of mass that intrigues CERN’s physicists, and through that study, they hope to confirm certain portions of String Theory.
We may already have seen some repercussions of this endeavour however, as renowned Physicists from the Niels Bohr Institute, Dr. Holger Neilson, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics have attempted to show through their own independent mathematical theories. There may be a temporal paradox in play, suggesting that the LHC is capable of creating a theoretical vehicle for time travel.
On the surface that seems entirely fantastic and even a little more like science fiction than anything else, but as Neilson points out, recent setbacks –deemed to be sabotage by media outlets- point to a partial corroboration of his theory. The LHC construction project, like many other mega-building projects, has been plagued with accidents and technical set backs, and Neilson contends that these set backs may actually be the result of a temporal effect, reaching backward through time to prevent the creation of the Higgs Boson particles.
He suggests that there seems to be some future force that seeks to protect its own existence from some cataclysmic effect brought on through the Higgs Boson experiments.
“While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus.”
I don’t for a second pretend to understand the extremely complex mathematical theory put forward by Neilson and Ninomiya, but their arguments have been supported by others in the field of theoretical physics. Neilson’s chief point is simply that we (meaning the science of physics) do not understand the ramifications of creating such a particle, that there could be and likely is some unseen effect or attribute of the particle that could be catastrophic. In pursuit of answers to this predicament, Neilson has suggested a relatively simple test for determining if there is any appreciable impact of a backward-causation effect, essentially a card trick, but it seems that CERN officials have rejected the idea of restricting experimentation at the outcome of a card game.
“Since LHC will produce particles of a mathematically new type of fundamental scalars, i.e., the Higgs particles, there is potentially a chance to find unseen effects, such as on influence going from future to past, which we suggest in the present paper” – Holger B. Neilson
So, when physicists disagree about the potential dangers involved what should we, as bystanders, believe?
Neilson suggests that the LHC project will remain “jinxed” as it moves ahead, and that the backward-causation effect may become stronger, more aggressive and/or deadly as we march ever closer to the creation of these particles. It isn’t difficult to see that through the ingenuity of mankind, and with our dogged determination, we will achieve our goals on this front, regardless of the drive and motives behind it, and one viewing this turn of events from the outside might be given cause to wonder if this determination will ultimately be our undoing.
The timeline of events here seems coincidental as well; the original commencement of LHC testing was to begin in mid September of 2009, the “jinxing” of the project caused (apparently) a number of set backs which pushed that start-up to mid November 2009. As the schedule of experimentation begins, the pursuit of Higgs Boson particles and of miniature black holes could extend into the future as far as mid 2012. And even as I type that number, I am stricken with a sense of foreboding.
The year 2012, of course, being significant through the ancient Mayan calendar as a time of great change and transition for the world; some claim it to be the end of the world; others claim it to be a time of ascendance and transformation for humanity. Others yet pass it off a just another apocalyptic fantasy, derived from pseudoscience and presented as a means of control over the populous. In light of the above however, I’m given pause to wonder if there is some merit to the idea that there will be a great transformation of reality at the end of this wild and wonderful roadway.
Is there any reason to fear the work of honest science? No, not intrinsically. Is there cause to rally against CERN and their ground breaking research in the name of scientific advancement? Probably not. Is there any connection between the LHC experiments focused on “God” particles and black holes, and the end of our world at the close of 2012? Who knows, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
 See: The Safety of the LHC; http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html
 Story via New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/science/space/13lhc.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1