In reading my most recent dead tree edition of Skeptic magazine, I noticed that there were two articles on the Large Hadron Collider and the potential catastrophic effects that could come from bringing it up to full power (black holes eating the Earth, etc). I’ve raised my own nervy questions about this here, but I was expecting Skeptic to set my nerves to rest, and to offer, well, a skeptical deconstruction of the very idea that there was any danger at all to bringing the Large Hadron Collider to full throttle up. Like ghosts and UFOs, I fully expected Skeptic to conclude, in no uncertain terms, that catastrophe concerns surrounding the Large Hadron Collider are born of pseudoscientific hysteria and conspiratorial bullshit.
But that’s not what the lead article argued. In fact, it went over the issue with a good deal of thoroughness and concluded that maybe this whole subject should be discussed more, and in public. There was a short one page rebuttal to the cautionary article, and it was offered by a physicist who is highly respected in both the atheist and scientific communities (Lawrence Krauss). I read Krauss’s rebuttal carefully, as well as the lead cautionary article a second time, and I must confess that the cautionary article struck me as, frankly, more thoughtful. And Krauss’s rebuttal struck me as rather prickly, snarky, and contemptuous (as opposed to thorough and substantive). There was an underlying impatience in Krauss’s response, as if to say, “Trust me on this. I’m an expert and I’m very smart.” In response I was thinking, “Well, I agree you’re very smart, but at least refute the previous article point by point.” But Krauss, apparently, couldn’t be bothered.
After reading the dead tree edition, I thought I’d see if the two articles are online, and they are. The link is here. Read them carefully. If nothing else, they are both exercises in critical thinking from two very different vantage points. And if the first article is anything like near correct, then we could all be in real peril a month or two from now (when the Large Hadron Collider is scheduled to go with full throttle up).