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It's the End of the World As We Know It

Sep 9, 2008
Wednesday the 10th of September could be the last day in the history of the World, which wouldn't be very convenient for those with travel plans at the weekend. What could cause the end of the world; a meteor strike? A mass tsunami? Or something man made? Something mechanical in the good name of 'science' perhaps.

It could either be the end of the world or the start for a great period of scientific discovery in one of the most highly debated areas.

Fears are building as quick as protests can be mustered as scientists in Geneva at the European laboratory for particle physics (CERN) prepare to switch on its Large Hedron Collider. If the fears are held true we will all vanish into a black hole as the Earth and the solar system cease to exist. In this dimension at least.

While many are opposed to the experiment and fear it means the end, the physicists and scientists all agree that the collider is perfectly harmless and the chances of destroying the Earth through the experiment are infinitesimally small. CERN, who have been building the collider since 2003, have dismissed the risk of micro black holes and quasars being created by the experiment.

The idea is to gain a greater understanding of the Big Bang and the Universe as the Large Hedron Collider will explore the tiniest particles and come closer to re-enacting the Big Bang. The LHC will smash two beams of particles head-on at speeds close to the speed of light and scientists hope to see new particles in the debris of the collisions.

Proton beams - nuclei - will spin 11,000 times a second around the 17 -mile tunnel, nestled under 150-500 feet of earth on the French-Swiss border. Once a beam has been successfully fired counter-clockwise a clockwise test will follow before the scientists will aim the beams at each other so that the protons collide. Enough energy will be created to recreate conditions that existed one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

The energy will liberate thousands of quarks and gluons, normally imprisoned in the proton beams, which will then form the quark-gloun plasma. The plasma then cools and the quarks and gluons stick together forming protons and neutrons, the building blocks of matter and thus enabling scientists a greater understanding of the creation and makeup of matter.

The size of the tunnel and superconducting magnets give a hint but the size of this project is a monster in itself, black hole or no black hole. Researchers of 80 nationalities are involved and the price of the project sits at a cosmically large 5 billion pounds.

The first beams of protons will be fired to test the strength of the superconducting magnets, the largest on Earth, on Wednesday 10th and it will still be almost a month before the beams travelling in opposite directions are bought together in the collisions that so many are worried about.

So worried, in fact, that some protesters have filed suit in the U.S District Court in Hawai and in the European Court of Human Rights in an attempt to stop the project - citing that it incurs upon the basic human right to live.

It's not just the potential calamity that could ensue that people are protesting over. The cost of the experiment has got a lot of people rattled especially considering the contributions from individual countries. With pressing issues such as climate change, many feel that the funding and research could be better spent.

While it may sound like the readings of an overly complicated science-fiction novel to some, the ideal cure for insomnia to others, a terrifying portent of doom to protesters or a huge waste of money and resources to those remaining nay-sayers, Wednesday's experiment has certainly fired up a lot of debate before the machine has even been fired up.
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