Court dismisses lawsuit to halt particle collider tests

Suit called for more safety reviews to be done before any experiments could be conducted at the collider.

A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to halt experiments in the world's largest particle collider.

Chief Judge Helen Gillmor made her ruling late last week in US District Court in Honolulu. The civil suit called for more safety reviews to be done before any experiments could be conducted at the collider.

The Large Hadron Collider, which sits on the Franco-Swiss border, ran its first test last month when it sent two particle beams - one at a time - around the 17-mile vacuum-sealed, underground tube. As that first test neared, however, criticism about the collider and the experiments being done there escalated. Many critics cited reports circulating around the Internet that the experiments might destroy the universe by accidentally creating a black hole that would suck everything and everyone into it.

Walter Wagner, a retired nuclear safety officer, and Luis Sancho, a Spanish science writer, had raised those concerns in their lawsuit against the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which runs the Large Hadron Collider.

Gillmor wrote in her decision that the US Federal Courts do not have jurisdiction over the European-based collider, even though the project received US$531 million in US funding. Gillmor concluded that the US contribution was not a "major federal action" because it accounted for less than 10% of the cost to construct the collider. The judge also noted that a 1997 agreement between the U.S. and CERN gave the US a "non-voting observer" status, and no role in financial, policy, management or operational decisions.

Under the Big Bang theory, many scientists believe that more than 13 billion years ago, an amazingly dense object the size of a coin expanded into the universe that we know now -- with planets, stars, black holes and life. Some people fear that by smashing the particle beams together in the collider, a similar cataclysmic reaction might occur, vaporizing our planet or sucking it into a black hole that would shoot it out into an alternate universe.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that a runaway fusion reaction could destroy the Earth, or that the collider could create a "micro black hole" that would swallow the Earth.

CERN released a report last month contending that that such safety fears are "unfounded." CERN Director General Robert Aymar was quoted as saying that any suggestion that there's a risk is "pure fiction."

Fears about the experiments reached such a furor that Frank Wilczek, an MIT physics professor and Nobel laureate, received death threats because of his involvement with the Large Hadron Collider.

Wilczek sat on the science advisory committee at the LHC for six years. He more recently took the government's side in this US-based lawsuit.

While the lawsuit has been dismissed, the collider still won't be running any more experiments for the next several months.

Last week, CERN announced that an apparent melted electrical connection between two magnets has brought the Large Hadron Collider down until the northern spring. Technicians there reportedly need to investigate the issue further and do repairs. And those repairs are unlikely to be completed before the project enters its "winter maintenance" period.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hadron collider

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Sharon Gaudin

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Imou: At home with security

Modern living is all about functionality and security for everybody from the very young to the very old. With Imou anybody can enjoy smart life – the solution is at their fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?