The End of the World is a Legal Matter Now

NYT: Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More

“But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.”

I’m reminded of the (variously reported, often contradictory) stories of Fermi and others at the Trinity site laying bets on whether the atom bomb would ignite an atmospheric chain reaction consuming the state of New Mexico. I guess the stakes are higher this time.

1 comment:

[…] Wynn in the How to Think About Science series. He tells a story reminiscent of the physicists wagering the apocalypticness of the first atomic bomb explosion. Wikipedia provides a slightly drier, but more complete […]

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