Critics Fear Collider Could Doom Earth (S598)
MEYRIN, Switzerland (June 29) - The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.
But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?
The Pros and Cons
Scientists have been working for a generation to build the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle collider, called the largest science experiment in history. It consists of a ring of supercooled magnets 17 miles in circumference, buried 330 feet below the French-Swiss border.
cientists hope to find signs of the invisible "dark matter" that makes up more than 96 percent of the universe. A ghostly ring of dark matter is shown above in a faraway galaxy. The collider could also find evidence of extra dimensions.
Part of the collider sits under the CERN research center, above. When the machine is at full power, two beams of protons will race around the huge ring 11,000 times a second in opposite directions. They will travel in two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space.
M. Weiss / CXC / NASA
Gow, Pressens Bild / AP