A few weeks ago, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland dangerously overheated after a cooling unit failure, giving rise to fervent conspiracy theories and a slew of ludicrous doomsday prophecies. Circulating the Internet for days were theories detailing, in varying degrees of literacy, the possibility of particles from the future time-traveling to sabotaging the present experiment, supposedly to prevent scientists from possibly creating an enormous black hole that would swallow up the universe.
The Hadron Collider and its accompanying experiments have the potential to provide invaluable understanding of fundamental questions in physics. Unfortunately, like any pioneering science project, the Hadron Collider faces a large backlash that seeks to impede progress, criticizing it on moralistic or religious grounds. Zealots and the media alike often refer to the Higgs boson — much to physicists’ dismay — as the “God particle” and the Collider as the “God machine,” sensationalizing the objectives of the project and inspiring wariness.
Shortly after the superheating of the cooling unit, it was found that the supposed time-traveling saboteur was actually caused by a baguette-eating bird that happened to drop a crumb into the installation. To any logical person capable of a modest degree of reasoning, this innocuous event would have laid their mind to rest about any time-traveling phantasms. But no — for some this only proved that it was a time-traveling pigeon.
It’s true that the Hadron Collider has faced its number of troubles in past years — overheating, power shortages, other general failures — but the promise of the project is still undeniable. If scientists were to have humbled after each failure in any project — the development of antibiotics? — our society would be hundreds of years behind where it is now.
Offering further comfort is the fact that the same outcry has been observed with similar experiments in the past, including the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Realistic Heavy Ion Collider in the late ’90 and the Tevatron accelerator a few years afterward — with both experiments, protesters raised uproar about the possibility of an Armageddon. Yet, still no apocalypses.
It’s unfortunate that self-proclaimed doomsday prophets are seeking to verbally tear down the Hadron Collider based on flawed arguments, also complaining that too much money is being spent on a project that has faced so many failures. Maybe it’s all my liberal education, but I just can’t find any reason to oppose a project that seeks to develop our academic understanding of any topic, much less one that seeks to tackle as great a task as explaining some fundamental questions about the existence of our universe.
It might be asking too much of these disaster fanatics to practice a little reason and open-mindedness, but I firmly believe that most science will progress regardless of any criticism it faces. The Hadron Collider will continue to exist, even bigger and scarier projects will be developed (designs for future colliders are already in the making) and everyone credible has agreed that the possibility of the Hadron Collider destroying the world is slim to nothing. So those doomsday prophets may as well come out of their storm cellars and see what all the fuss is about.
Asst. Editorials Editor Catherine Cai is a College sophomore from Atlanta.