Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, September 10, 2021

Well, we’re still here, despite the Large Hadron Collider’s power-up during today’s wee hours.

Talk about a letdown. I know the prospect of a technocratically-delivered doomsday sparked plenty of online chatter, indicating that a good chunk of the world population was actually looking forward to it. Mass morbidity, in a way.

As it stands, the ongoing big-bang experiment in Switzerland is nothing more than the latest in a historical string of apocalyptic anti-climaxes, from 1844’s Great Disappointment to the more recent Y2K dread.

Not that we’re out of the woods yet:

This time around, to be technical about it, Wednesday was not the day the savvier ones in the doomsday crowd were most worried about. That day is still a month or two away, when the particles in the accelerator actually start colliding with each other.

Stay tuned.

Actually, the Cern experiment has an historical antecedent more direct than past religious doomsday predictions. All the way through to the final stages of the Manhattan Project in 1945, the brightest minds of the early 20th Century didn’t know just how much fire they were playing with:

Both the United States and Germany wanted to make an atomic bomb. Neither knew whether it was possible. And both contemplated one very frightening possibility: that a nuclear chain reaction, if started, wouldn’t stop. In fact, the force of the explosion might cause the atmosphere to catch on fire. Even the oceans could ignite. As the science writer Chet Raymo has put it, physicists worried that they “might inadvertently turn the entire planet into a chain-reaction fusion bomb.”…

The night before the test, Enrico Fermi offered to take bets on whether the atmosphere would catch fire, and, if so, whether New Mexico would be destroyed or the entire planet. Some people found this annoying.

This lack of eggheaded prescience goes a long way toward explaining why we’re still holding our breaths regarding the latest effort to smash together atomic particles. Here’s hoping underestimation reigns again.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/10/2021 10:32:00 PM
Category: History, Science
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    Last week, there was much anxiety over the Large Hadron Collider potentially blowing up the world.
    Of course, that didn’t happen. But, only a few days after the massive atom-smasher came online, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch implode…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 09/18/2008 @ 10:28:04 AM

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