Massive miscalculation makes LHC safety assurances invalid


It just gets worse for CERN and its attempts to reassure us that the Large Hadron Collider won’t make mincemeat of the planet.

It’s beginning to look as if a massive miscalculation in the safety reckonings means that CERN scientists cannot offer any assurances about the work they’re doing.

In a truly frightening study, Toby Ord and pals at the University of Oxford say that “while the arguments for the safety of the LHC are commendable for their thoroughness, they are not infallible.”

When physicists give a risk assessment, their figure is only correct if their argument is valid. So an important questions is then: what are the chances that the reasoning is flawed?

Ord and co say that roughly one in a 1000 scientific papers have to be withdrawn because of errors. And errors are by no means unknown among particle physicists, even those doing safety calculations

The Oxford team points to a 1999 study of the risk of a “dangerous event” at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state. This study calculated that the chance of such an event was tiny: 2 x 10^-9.

On the strength of this study, the Collider was deemed safe and operated for five years before a serious error was found in the calculations. (It turned out that the actual risk was closer to 10^-12 but the important point is that there was an error).

The problem is compounded when the chances of a planet-destroying event are deemed to be tiny. In that case, these chances are dwarfed by the chances of an error in the argument. “If the probability estimate given by an argument is dwarfed by the chance that the argument itself is flawed, then the estimate is suspect,” say Ord and co.

Nobody at CERN has put a figure on the chances of the LHC destroying the planet. One study simply said: “there is no risk of any significance whatsoever from such black holes”.

Which means we are left with the possibility that their argument is wrong which Ord reckons conservatively to be about 10^-4, meaning that out of a sample of 10,000 independent arguments of similar apparent merit, one would have a serious error.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the LHC is dangerous, only that there is no reasonable assurance of safety which, as Mark Buchanan writing in New Scientist this week says, is not the same thing at all.

Even still, when it comes to the lives of 6.5 billion people, we need to have better assurances than this.

Ref: Probing the Improbable: Methodological Challenges Risks with Low Probabilities and High Stakes

[Via New Scientist]

Update: as an aid to the discussion here is a link to CERN’s analysis of the safety of LHC collisions, which was published last year.

75 Responses to “Massive miscalculation makes LHC safety assurances invalid”

  1. Um, as Brian Greene noted in his interview with Stephen Colbert, the real safety assurance doesn’t come from convoluted physics calculations, but from the fact that the atmosphere is bombarded every second with cosmic radiation orders of magnitude more energetic than anything that will ever be produced in the LHC. Seen any black holes in the sky lately? No? Hmm. Curious.

    Anyway the article shows that there is a minuscule chance that there is a miscalculation, not that a “massive miscalculation makes LHC safety assurances invalid.”

    Normally I like this blog but this post is the worst kind of reporting.

  2. CERN whisperer says:

    And the chance that Brian Greene’s argument is flawed? That there is some unknown but significant difference between the processes that go on in the upper atmosphere and those that will take place inside the LHC, what would that be?

    Nice try Juan, but citing a Stephen Colbert interview isn’t going to cut it with anyone.

  3. ZEPHIR says:

    /*..atmosphere is bombarded every second with cosmic radiation orders of magnitude more energetic..*/

    OK, I’ll try to give you an cheap & easy hint, how it could be really working in my broken English: cosmic ray protons are 10E+18 times more energetic, then LHC protons, right?

    But the cosmic ray protons are colliding with stratosphere matter, which is 10E+6 thinner, then the underground of LHC. This increases a risk by six oders of magnitude or so.

    Furthermore, the protons of cosmic ray are individual particles. But LHC protons are coming in bunches of 10E+6 higher proton density and frequency. This increases a risk by another six oders of magnitude or so.

    In addition, the effective crossection is diminished by non-zero rest momentum toward Earth by six orders of magnitude. But at the case of head-to-head proton collisions the resulting momentum and velocity of products of collision may be zero, so they would have a lotta time to interact with their neighborhood. This increases a risk of disaster by another six orders of magnitude or so.

    By such way, we have 10E+18 times increased risk of black hole formation for LHC collisions with compare to cosmic rays in stratosphere without any problem.

    Now the only remaining question is: are the LHC proponents so giant trolls, they didn’t even realize it – or they ignore this risk analysis purportedly? In both cases such people are simply incompetent to control such sort of experiments.

  4. ZEPHIR says:

    By my opinion the risk of BH swallowing the planet is rather low due the high activation energy required – but the problem is, they’re not even required to form during LHC experiment, as the risk of strangelet alternative formation is much higher high – simply because we observed it already!

    The muon pairs formation during recent Tevatron experiments in Fermilab well outside of collider pipe may be related to recent pentaquark and tetraneutron evidence and it can demonstrate the stabilization of large matter clusters via supersymmetry and the danger of strangelet formation.

    We can understand the dark matter, WIMPS and supersymmetric bosons as a surface tension effects of gravitational field. At the case of large distances / energy densities the energy density of space-time curvature near large particle or galactic clusters can become a dominant force, because it manifests itself as a additional mass density of vacuum with antigravity effects.

    In particular, the formation of tiny dense particle clusters can stabilize the exotic forms of matter due the hydrostatic pressure inside of tiny particle droplets like the neutrons inside of neutron stars or atom nuclei by such way, these droplets can escape from collider pipe and they can start the avalanche conversion of normal matter to another strangelets under development of giant explosion, which could vaporize a substantial portion of Earth.

    Therefore the latests Fermilab results should serve as a very last warning of people before high energy LHC experiments planned. The confirmation of supersymmetry could become a supersymmetric event for science as well: the best triumph of mainstream science and it’s very last mistake at the same moment.

  5. John says:

    Pathetic blog post, and pathetic replies. I was enjoying this blog, but wow this is a dumb post.

  6. ZEPHIR says:

    /* this is a dumb post */

    It may be, but what was so dumb about it? Do you have some relevant matter of fact objection againt such way of reasoning?

    I can say easily, LHC proponents are dumb as well, because they’re just waiting for their jobs, supplier contracts, publications, personal self-fulfillment, Nobel prices and glory without care about the rest of civilization.

    Are you interested, why apparently clever people can initiate things like wars and disasters? Their intelligence compensates mutually in many mutual interactions. Even mutually repulsing particles forming a gas are following the places of minimal potential unmistakably – they’re clever as hell. But when they become too dense, their mutual interactions will compensate mutually and whole system will change into chaotic superfluid.

    The HT superconductivity is working so, just because electrons are attracted by hole stripes, thus making squashed crowds around them. At the case of LHC the people are attracted by potential profit of LHC. They’re simply feel smell of money, self-fulfillment
    and glory.

    And the things are going wrong suddenly.

  7. wcoenen says:

    I don’t worry about it. Think of it as Max Tegmark’s “quantum suicide” experiment (

    If the LHC does have planet-destroying potential, we will always find ourselves in a world-line where it broke down before it could do any harm.

  8. Eivind says:

    That’s a well-known problem. It’s a bit like the DNA-test-people saying that there’s a 99.9999% chance that a certain person is the father of a certain child.

    That may be true — assuming that the theory used is correct, AND that the testing-procedure was carried out without mistakes.

    But these are big assumptions, claiming 6 nines is saying that this claim will only be wrong in one of a million cases.

    I don’t know how many such tests have been performed up until now, and I don’t know how many mistakes have been made. Neither does anyone else. Quoting only the mathemathical uncertanity (matches X different markers, each match has likeliness Y if the persons are unrelated blablabla) ignores the very REAL possibility that a simple mistake (or malice for that matter — what is the odds that the lab-worker knows that HE is the father but cheats the test?) was done in the lab-work.

  9. ZEPHIR says:

    /*..we will always find ourselves…*/

    Tegmark’s “quantum suicide” theorem doesn’t say, how large portion of original system the word “me” really means. The existence of global wars illustrates, we are willing to test our survival abilities quite thorougly at times.
    Therefore it may be really possible, some amoeba survives our test of “quantum suicide”, thus proving Max Tegmark correct – but I’m not so happy about such perspective.

  10. Josh says:

    If an identical argument were made by a creationist in an effort to point out that evolution is only a theory, it would laughed at and scorned. And yet, here we stand with a wild conjecture and claims that ‘you can’t prove me wrong!’
    There is no theory or argument that gives even vaguely compelling evidence that any such world destroying event is possible in this energy range. Of course anything could happen! We haven’t done it yet! But I’ve never dunked a basketball. So if I buy a trampoline, am I endangering the solar system, nay the universe? Come now – why keep baiting the public, even a scientifically literate public, into senseless outrage?

  11. Zephir says:

    /*.. there is no theory or argument */

    Ignorantia iuris neminem non excusat. The lack of theories shouldn’t cover our ignorance. In general, if such theory doesn’t exist, it just means, we aren’t able to calculate risk of black hole formation at all. Which is indeed not an argument for doing black holes – on the contrary.

    What I’m missing is the GUT based estimation of black hole formation probability and the list of all possible meaningfull factors, which would multiply or diminish such probability. The rest is pure algebra.

    At qualitative level such theory and arguments exists already, too. I can really see a connection between muon particles tunnelling through collider tube at centimeter distance, strangelets and supersymmetric bosons, called WIMPS. We are trying to detect very same things in this case.

    For me the risk of black holes formation is quite distant problem from this perspective. Did anybody analyze the behavior of semiclassical thing, like dense cluster of ordinary neutrons or neutral pions, for example? Has anybody an idea, how such cluster should behave in contact with ordinary matter?

    Maybe we should take care about it – instead of saying, we don’t know nothing about it, yet.

  12. mp says:

    Okay, and what are the chances that this 1 in 10,000 error would make the chances of disaster MORE likely?

    Being extremely generous, you might put the answer to that at 50%, which wouldn’t affect the averaged probability.

    My guess would be that most errors would make the chances of disaster at the LHC even less likely, much like the only example cited herein, actually lowering the overall probability.

    Oh yeah, and there are the above mentioned cosmic rays. The same experiment is being conducted in our atmosphere right now without destroying the Earth.

  13. Zephir says:

    /** the same experiment is being conducted in our atmosphere **/

    If yes, why to spend money for LHC? Every baloon could do the same job for us.

  14. tyler says:

    1) is there any chance to put a moderation system in place on this blog so I can automatically hide Zephir’s responses? I flinch whenever I see his name, which is often. Very, very often. *sigh*

    2) Arguments by Brian Greene are not of interest to me. The points he makes are trivially obvious and yet not really germane. He is not a serious person, but a mere media construct; I would actually put more weight in Stephen Colbert’s opinion. He is at least clearly cognizant of his own irrelevance.

    3) Tegmark is an interesting and creative thinker, and I suspect wcoenen is joking, but it must be pointed out that Tegmark doesn’t believe that immortality is an actual implication of this thought experiment. Which is, I think, a profoundly silly one in every regard, but even if you take it seriously, it doesn’t have this implication.

  15. JustAnotherGradStudent says:

    ZEPHIR—Statistics and background, and well prepared initial states, and the LHC collisions happen in a known area. Maybe 50-100 events per year have energies in excess (some in FAR excess) of the LHC—where do you put the balloon?

    Either way, this experiment IS being preformed in South America now, and they can learn very little about fundamental physics. Why not try talking to some AUGER people some time, and ask them how the search for supersymmetry is going?

    CERN whisperer—you’re an idiot. Physics is the same no matter where you preform the experiment. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a neutron star, in Jupiter’s atmosphere, in our atmosphere, or in the LHC. The physics will be the same.

    If black holes were easily formed, they’d be everywhere, by the arguments presented above.

  16. Zephir says:

    Physics is the same, conditions not.

    Nowhere in the nature energetic collisions occurs with such density and asymmetry, like inside of LHC. This asymmetry is a product of long term human evolution.

    Re: tyler: Why not to hide posts on strictly personal basis? Maybe other people have different opinion about me – public moderation just intrudes the opinion of others. A private moderation engine would be a good idea, definitelly.

  17. “there is no reasonable assurance of safety”

    This is actually not our conclusion, rather that previous ones have been much weaker than people thought they were. The Mangano paper does a pretty good job at bounding the risk to < 10^-9 even if we assume a one in thousand chance for each independent sub-argument to be wrong. Add an extra solid argument (perhaps something like arXiv:0807.1938, assuming it works) and we will be in the region of acceptable risk. The trick is to use several independent arguments. Experimental arguments like cosmic rays are nice (less risk of theory errors) but not foolproof (the center of mass and anthropic bias issues): it would be *really* useful if we could find some additional clear example.

    As for quantum suicide computation/immortality, I did a calculation for how many suspicious events at LHC we would need to see before we should suspect that it could be used for it:
    We need about 30 or more.

  18. 0xABADC0DA says:

    That cosmic rays strike the air is a poor argument, because what they don’t do is strike the air next to gigantic magnetic fields and they never have, for the entire history of our planet or any other body that we know of.

    Prove, with our incomplete knowledge of physics, that a miniture black hole cannot possible run amok under any circumstances. It can’t be done, and LHC cannot be proven safe. You either take an educated leap of faith, but still a leap of faith, or you don’t.

  19. Byron548 says:

    Not an expert, but as I asked in another forum…

    If any large-scale disaster/doomsday was possible, why are we only hearing about it through science blogs and minor posts on Seems to me that talk show hosts, tabloids, moneymakers, and politicians would be all over this story considering the attention they would get for the sansational topic. (look at global warming)

    Since we know the media knows about this “threat,” and has chosen to largely ignore it, would it be safe to say that such fears are baseless?

  20. kinematik says:

    Not an expert either, but how is it possible that the chance of a success scenario with these experiments and its resulting benefits would outweigh the risk (as small as it may be) of our entire planet disappearing as well as the cost of the equipment and facility? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    I don’t care how beneficial it would be to humanity, if there is even a slight chance for catastrophic failure to destroy the entire planet it isn’t worth it, IMO. Then again I’m not the greedy selfish bastard calling the shots now, am I?

    Here is yet another possible scenario for the end of the world come December 2012… awesome

  21. Megaflops says:

    SO, People of the future, came back to fix the LHC months ago, I hope they came back again and saves us again

  22. jerry lagrou says:

    I would just like to point out, that only 6.5 billion people are currently living. If the planet is destroyed, there are the 100s of billions lives that could have existed that simply won’t.

  23. Megaflops says:

    The othter day, I calculated the posibilitys of found my ex gilfried in my city, and the results was 9000 in 1. very close!! It happen

  24. Megaflops says:

    I don´t know to much physics, but if a Comet strikes the Earth, ¿is a force in minor magnitude than a particles colliding in the LHC?

  25. dwk says:

    @quote: “atmosphere is bombarded every second with cosmic radiation orders of magnitude more energetic.”

    Oooh, well if the same experiment is replicated naturally all the time, it looks like they won’t be needing their multibillion dollar largest-ever-built, creating-never-before-seen-particles LHC after all then… That’s a relief.

  26. […] Massive miscalculation makes LHC safety assurances invalid. It just gets worse for CERN and its attempts to reassure us that the Large Hadron Collider won’t make mincemeat of the planet. […]

  27. Neeneko says:


    “But the cosmic ray protons are colliding with stratosphere matter, which is 10E+6 thinner, then the underground of LHC. This increases a risk by six oders of magnitude or so.”

    At which point they rays then pass through a few hundred kilometers of atmosphere, then a few thousand kilometers of solid iron, followed by a few more hundred kilometers of atmosphere on the other side.

    You also have a much larger cross section, say, a whole planet (as opposed to the tiny target at the LHC) and a constant (not infrequent) bombardment that has been going on for at least 4 billion years.

    All added up this results in a much lower then 10e18 risk difference and easily cancels out any probability increases with the LHC.

  28. kevin says:

    why should I take any risks whatsoever so a lot of physics types can compete for a prize? no, shut it down and destroy it.

  29. Eric says:

    Infact, around 25 extremely high energy cosmic ray events a year are analysed at the recent Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Detector and its network.

    These rays each have an energy of ATLEAST 10,000 x that of lhc lead-lead collisions and 1,000,000 x that of the lhc proton-proton collisions. According to two studies, such cosmic ray detectors even have the capability to look for micro black holes produced by such cosmic rays. And for Higgs, supersymmetric and other particles also? Perhaps they already could or otherwise it could be worked out how they could. I can’t what see would prevent that.

    Then the only remaining pro lhc argument would be that there would be much greater frequency of their collisions. But, this against a huge range of energies atleast as high as the lhc’s, even though with decreasing frequency upto the highest energies I mentioned.

    This against the annual cost and CO2 emissions associated with the collider equivalent per year to that of the town of Geneva.

    This against that only in the case of lhc, the micro black holes could be captured by earth’s gravity.

  30. matt says:


    Your argument is that all theories and experimental/observational evidence indicate there is no danger, BUT all of the data COULD be in error, and all of the physics COULD be wrong. Well I COULD eat creamed corn and crap a pile of gold coins, couldn’t I?

    And ZEPHIR, you are clearly out of your league here. How exactly is beam density, target density, or a B field relevant to the likelihood of creating one of these dangerous items?

  31. Nanoo says:

    I agree with the quantum suicide perspective.

    If we all die, there’ll be nobody around to miss us, so it won’t matter. QED.

  32. Angus says:

    In response to all the people saying “Why should I take any risk whatsoever” and “It can’t be proven safe” and things like that:

    There is a such thing as a risk so small that it doesn’t matter. For example, when you get out of bed tomorrow there’s a chance that you might step on an alien and start an intergalactic war and destroy the world. Theoretically, it could happen, and of course it can’t be proven impossible. But you still get out of bed every morning without considering the risk that you’ll destroy the world by doing so.

    Similarly with the LHC. It can never be proven safe. There’s a chance of it destroying the world. But that chance is so ridiculously small that we might as well ignore it.

  33. ZEPHIR says:

    How exactly is beam density, target density, or a B field relevant to the likelihood.

    I dunno. This is exactly my question for scientists, who are saying, they’ve safety analysis ready and checked. You apparently missed the whole point.

    I’m not obligued to compute or prove anything. It’s not me, who is planning some explosions and black hole production to the prejudice of our safety.

    I’m just saying: here are aparent safety risks following from these points:

    1) head2head collisions, zero momentum of products toward Earth, they’ve a lotta time to interact with it
    2) multiparticle collisions: when some piece of heavy matter appears in the accelerator line, the whole content of LHC will feed it by new matter
    3) proximity of dense environment with compare to stratospheric collisions of gamma rays
    4) the strong possibility of formation of charged and magnetic black hole. As we know, real black holes have always charge and they rotate rapidly. But only gravitational interactions were considered so far, while gravity is way, way weaker, then EMG forces..
    5) The surface tension effects of large dense particle clusters, which CAN stabilize the unstable forms of mater and interact with atom nuclei
    6) The risk connected with formation of dense clusters of quite common neutral particles, which are stable well outside from LHC energy range, like the neutrons.

    By my opinion, these objections are quite trivial and evident, but no safety analysis has considered them so far. So I’m asking by now, who is responsible for it.

    The names of particular persons is, what I’m interested by now – nothing else. It’s very simple and no further discussion about it is necessary.

  34. ZEPHIR says:

    If no such person was established at all, then my very last question is, why such project was allowed to start at all. In real life it’s not possible to add new floor or even window to my house without explicit stance of some safety expert.

    Where all these scientists are living? On Mars? And how is it possible, the rest of society doesn’t care about it? Did everyone really lost self-preservation instict?

  35. ZEPHIR says:

    /*…that chance is so ridiculously small…*/
    Sorry, but this is just a personal belief of yours, nothing else. I can say easily, Britney Spears can handle it with the same factual relevancy.

    The scientists are supposed to do science, logical reasoning, calculations – not a religion. Wake up.

  36. ZEPHIR says:

    What I’m missing is openly publicly available web site maintained by CERN with anonymous discussion evaluating all possible risk factors of all meaningfull parallel scenarios in table and graphs with error bars thoroughly and transparent organized. And the person responsible for actualizing its content, which will be recomputed daily, whenever some new proposed risk factor appears.

    We are subjects, who are paying it from our taxes, we are the subjects, whose safety is threaten by now. Scientists have nothing to say about it more, then any other person, which has some relevant objection or safety concern on mind.

    Of course, some other can have a different idea, how such safety analysis should be maintained and I’m fully opened to discussion about it.

  37. R Man says:

    What is the chance that Toby Ord is wrong?

  38. ZEPHIR says:

    What is the chance that Toby Ord is wrong?


    The formal logics is fundament of math as such, not saying about formal calculations in physics. If you miss some important factor in safety analysis, then the whole result is wrong.

    For example, if you consider the geocentric model at the very beginning, the heliocentric model can never appear in final results of calculations. If string theory considers light invariance in its postulates, it can never derive the oposite by formally rigorous way. Math is not supposed to be a box of chocolates or tool of inventions – but a formal language based on sequential logics. This is simply the way, by which formal math is working: what you put it is what you get.

    Of course, here’s still a theoretical possibility, some forgotten risk factor will exactly compensate some forgotten safety factor, but such possibility doesn’t make resulting analysis more relevant to reality.

  39. Drew says:

    “But the cosmic ray protons are colliding with stratosphere matter, which is 10E+6 thinner”

    Ever heard of Asteroids?

  40. Alex says:

    Amazing! Apart from the wholesale stupidity of Zephir arguments (number pulled from a hat without any reference to processes in the real world), the main point of the article is: everything can be wrong. And it concludes: we need better assurances.

    How it is possible to give better assurances? Every argument that can be put in the field will be dismissed on the basis of the first principle, i.e. everything can be wrong. The conclusion is that we cannot have any decent assurance on any matter whatsoever.. so why asking for another one?
    Please be serious!

  41. ZEPHIR says:

    Ever heard of craters on them and/or of acidental solar flares?

    The main point here is, the products of asteroid collisions have large momentum toward center of asteroid mass, so that they shouldn’t interact with them too long.

  42. ZEPHIR says:

    /* ..we cannot have any decent assurance ..*/

    Yes we can.

    I’m not saying, the safety analysis is impossible. It just didn’t calculate any of the trivial risk factors above claimed. Because no person is responsible for it and scientists aren’t apparently very willing to threaten perspective of their own jobs and experiments.

  43. ZEPHIR says:

    /* ..we cannot have any decent assurance ..*/

    Yes we can.

    I’m not saying, the safety analysis is impossible. It just didn’t calculate any of the trivial risk factors above claimed. Because no person is responsible for it and scientists aren’t apparently very willing to threaten perspective of their own jobs and experiments.

  44. Mu says:

    Massive misinformation followed by minuscule intelligence discussion on the level of irreducible complexity…
    As for the black hole/strangelet/pink unicorn possibility, there are neutron stars with extreme densities and extreme magnetic fields out there that are getting bombarded by the same high energy particles, for some reason they don’t spontaneously convert to black holes either, so I feel rather save from it happening in the LHC.

  45. vepxistqaosani says:

    My calculations show that the probability the sun will rise tomorrow is 1; however, since Ord et al. have demonstrated that there is a probability of 1 in 10,000 that physical calculations are wrong, it follows that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance that the sun will not rise tomorrow.

    I expect to live another 50 years. Simple probability demonstrates that there is an 84% change that the sun will fail to rise during that time.

    But wait! In the 5000 years of recorded human history, the probability that the sun failed to rise at least once is asymptotically equal to 1.

    Everything we think we know is wrong!

  46. Luboš Motl says:

    If the LHC is not running in full force by the end of 2009, our civilization will die by 2010.

    Do you have an argument that our civilization can surely survive termination of the LHC? What if your argument is wrong?

    We better speed up the preparations for the LHC.

    More seriously, I am flabbergasted if the host promotes this stuff seriously. Click my name for more comments about this topic.

  47. DaveK says:

    Vepxistqaosani has hit the nub of it. Even if the argument for the LHC’s safety does turn out to be the one-in-ten-thousand that’s wrong, that does not mean that therefore the LCH is dangerous. This is an elementary fallacy in propositional logic known as “Denying the Antecedent”.

  48. DaveK says:

    Three for Zephir:

    “/** the same experiment is being conducted in our atmosphere **/

    If yes, why to spend money for LHC? Every baloon could do the same job for us.”

    Did you ever try to dangle a whole lab full of scintillators, detectors, and scientists from a balloon? They can’t possibly do the same job for us.

    “Where all these scientists are living? On Mars? And how is it possible, the rest of society doesn’t care about it? Did everyone really lost self-preservation instict?”

    No, they are living in Geneva. And nobody’s lost any self-preservation instinct. We are rationally prioritising our efforts against what we see as the most probable risks to our continued existence, and LHC doesn’t even come onto the radar.

    “I’m not obligued to compute or prove anything. It’s not me, who is planning some explosions and black hole production to the prejudice of our safety.”

    No, and it’s not them either. That’s not what they’re planning and you’re twisting language into propaganda here. Your other posts are full of insinuations about their evil motives which are nothing more than baseless products of your own nasty paranoid suspicious imagination.

    You really need to take that tinfoil-hat off and get outside in the fresh air a bit more. What, me worry?

  49. @ Anders Sandberg

    Great paper! You were a little unfair to Lord Kelvin though. His mistake was not that he didn’t take into account radiation, it was that he neglected convection (and in fairness, there was also the apparent age of the Sun to contend with–it wouldn’t make any sense if the Earth were older than the Sun). Check out the following recent analysis:

    As for your point above that Giddings and Mangano risk analysis can be bounded at 10^-9 (i.e., (10^-3)^-3), I think that’s way overly generous. Your estimate of scientific wrongness is based on retraction rates. But retractions are mainly for blatant mistakes in calculations, experimental techniques, if not outright data fudging. How much more often do theories put forward with due diligence and good faith simply turn out to be wrong? In deed, it would not be surprising if a comprehensive historical survey of scientific ideas found that the majority of published scientific ideas eventually turn out to be false. Granted, you all make this point yourselves, but then when you apply it to Giddings and Mangano’s analysis, you give THEM the benefit of the doubt and go with your lower estimate of 1 in 1,000 based on retraction rates. But really, since the Earth itself is on the line, shouldn’t we go with the more conservative 1 in 100 chance? In that case, it’s a merely 1 in a million chance.

    And let’s not kid ourselves: Bayesian analyses of these sorts have more in common with setting betting odds on horse races than they do with true frequentist probabilities like lotteries or even rates of asteroid impacts.

    And then you say that if only they could come up with yet one more independent safety guarantee, that would put the risk into the acceptable range, (by that I guess you mean that 10^-12 is acceptable)–THAT is debatable. If UK standards of radiation risk (1 in a million chance of causing 5 deaths) are applied, then the risk would have to be below 10^-18–and that’s not taking into account the value of future generations.

    My problem, however, is that I don’t think it’s right that we subject Mother Earth to any form of cost-benefit analysis. In the US, anyway, when it comes to endangered species, we don’t apply CBA when deciding whether to preserve them or not. The law is clear: don’t cause extinction of species. Period. There’s no CBA about it. Should we hold the entire planet to a LOWER risk standard than we do to snail darters? If there’s anything in the universe that has infinite value, it is the Home Planet. Unless you can assure me that the risk to Our Mother from the LHC is not more than the risk caused by heating a burrito in a microwave oven, we shouldn’t be fooling with it.

    Just one man’s opinion. And thank you for your important contribution to the debate. Unfortunately, your ideas will never get a hearing in court because CERN has totally subverted the democratic process. It seems that only direct action will put a stop to it.

  50. ZEPHIR says:

    /*..are full of insinuations about their evil motives…*/

    Nope, these people just wants to measure something interesting on LHC, they just want to finish dissertation, make some money, nurse children, learn French, and so on… Just innocent wishes all the time, am I right?

    So, nobody has lost his preservation instincts – but somehow, the basic precautionary principles were neglected from very beginning of LHC project.. – because till now no security analysis of well known and predictable risks were published. Do we know, for example, how fast should interact with Earth the charged black hole with compare to uncharged one? This is not rocket science, indeed – but somehow nobody from responsible people has analyzed it… maybe it’s too trivial task, I dunno..

    AWT explains, how even subtle forces of interests between individuals crowded around common targets cumulate under emergence of irrational behavior gradually. Nobody of actors realize consequences of his behavior until very end. This is because environment becomes more dense at the center, so that space-time dilates here – everything wents OK. Therefore nobody from sectarian community will realize, he just lost control over situation.

    It’s all just a trivial particle physics, my dear Watson.