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Environmental Law

Plaintiffs Want to Stop Particle Accelerator and Earth’s Oblivion

Posted Mar 31, 2008 1:18 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Two men claim in a lawsuit filed in Hawaii that a Swiss particle accelerator could produce a black hole and swallow the Earth. They seek an injunction blocking the project.

The suit claims scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research near Geneva aren’t taking the risks seriously and failed to conduct an environmental impact statement, the New York Times reports. The plaintiffs say the accelerator could produce a black hole that eats the earth or could “spit out something called a ‘strangelet’ that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called ‘strange matter,’ ” according to the Times account of the suit.

The suit highlights the issue of how to evaluate the risks of experiments and who has the power to block them, the Times story says.

In the Hawaii case, jurisdictional issues could prevent an inquiry into those issues. Plaintiff Walter Wagner said the court could not reach CERN unless the center submits to its jurisdiction. But he contends the court could issue a restraining order barring Fermilab and the Energy Department from providing needed materials and aid.

The Large Hadron Collider, the largest accelerator ever built, will re-create conditions of the Big Bang that gave rise to the universe, Science Daily reports.

CERN is conducting a new safety review. “The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” a member of the anonymous Safety Assessment Group, Michelangelo Mangano, told the Times.

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