Brian Cox talks at TED

By Phil Plait | April 30, 2008 2:34 pm

I don’t mean to make this blog all LHC all the time, but Brian Cox gave a moving and wonderful speech at the TED conference this year.

He’s a great speaker, and I’m glad he’s on our side.

Tip o’ the Higgs boson to Gia.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (73)

  1. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again – sorry but I really do have a bit of concern over the risks posed to … well everyone on Earth .. by CERN & the LHC and of the arrogance in those scientists thinking its okay to ignore these concerns. I don’t think they’ve allowed enough for any unforeseeable, unpredicted events or outcomes. :-(

    (Eg., creating Strange matter that converts the rest of the planet into itself or splitting the neutrino like they split the atom only worse or ..well really who knows ..)

    I don’t think the chances of such a disaster are high – but I do think they’re there. If the chance is only 10 % – even only 5 % – of something utterly catacylsmic occurring then I’d far rather they didn’t turn it on anywhere on the Earth’s surface and shifted the supercollider to a distant asteroid – or better yet Pluto or Sedna instead.

    Risking their own lives is fair enough & their choice.

    Possibly killing us all is NOT.

    So I’d far rather they didn’t turn it on .. & I’d rather the BA either told them so too or managed to really, & I mean *really* seriously, convince me & theother rational folks like me that the chances of such unforeseen eevents is well, well, *well* below 1 %!

  2. Duane

    It’s not 10%, 5%, or even “well, well, **well** below 1%.”

    It’s 0%.

    There is absolutely no chance that any collider we have now or will have into the future will cause destruction of the Earth.

    None.

  3. Fitz

    Shalom,

    Particles with higher energy than will be used in the LHC hit our atmosphere every second. If these things were going to happen they would have happened.

    Anyway that was a great speech. The scientific creation story was wonderful. Far more interesting and moving to me than any other I have heard.

  4. Tim G

    The Large Hadron Collider will use particles with energies on the order of 10^13 electron-volts.

    Some observed ultra-high energy cosmic ray particles had energies in excess of 10^20 electron-volts.

  5. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    Their searching for the “God particle” the Higgs-Boson right?

    Which nobody really knows whether it even exists or what it actually does (I gather) apart from .. well ..being very important to everything .. matter-energy /spacetime, all our laws of physics, etc ..

    Now if they find it or split it or do something to it that they don’t intend because they don’t understand .. & it seems to me that they don’t know enough to be sure of NOT doing this …

    Well .. I’m not anti-science & technology, I’m really not but we’re talking energies and particle physics (lets not forget the A-bomb please – ever!)and science generally that is _so_ unknown & _so_ uncertain that we literally do NOT know what we’re doing and …

    .. well, doing that with high-explosives is more than bad enough .. isn’t it? :-(

    … Doing that with nuclear reactions (Eg. the first A-bomb test at Alamadgoro (spelling?) was crazy & smart-enough-tobe-really-stupid enough .. wasn’t it? :-( :-(

    Do we really have to up the stakes until we *do* destory ourselves? :-(

    Or can we be intelligent enough to know that just because we could do something – doesn’t mean we should???

    At what energies, at what point, do we say :

    “Hey, lets just think about this a moment – maybe we’d be better off NOT to press that big red button, NOT to ignite this possible bomb … Not to open this Pandora’s box, NOT to play with this dynamite?”

    Phil Plait?
    Anyone?

    _______——————–____________——–_________—-

    I’ve often thought that really super-intelligent aliens would classify us humans as semi-sentients : smart enough to design nuclear bombs (or LHC Supercolliders?) NOT wise enough to know NOT to do so! ;-)

  6. Jake F.

    I think that with a .00000001% chance of something happening destroying the Earth, it is just fine to turn it on. After all, as soon as you step outside, or drive in a car, or plug in your toaster, there is a greater chance that you will die from something than the LHC. If you really are that concerned, I am sure you can find someone who still has an active running bomb shelter that you could camp out with.

  7. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    Noted # Fitz on 30 Apr 2008 at 3:33 pm

    “Shalom, Particles with higher energy than will be used in the LHC hit our atmosphere every second. If these things were going to happen they would have happened.”

    Really? Maybe so … Are we really that sure? I’m no expert but it strikes me that these are :

    1) Coming from a long way off

    2) Being produced by NATURAL physical processes in the cosmos NOT experimental ARTIFICIAL human methods

    3) Perhaps not the same thing that we’re doing at all ..

    How confident are we that the LHC will do us all no harm & that it is well understood enough to have no “error bars” for destroying our planet?

    100 %?
    99.9 %?
    98 %?
    95 %?
    90 %?

    … Or less?

    At what point do the potentially disasterous consequences over-ride the admittedly slim risks enough to say lets wait?

  8. AJ

    I can’t believe most of the comments on *this* post, on *this* site of all places, are FUD-driven “oh no we can’t do this it will kill us all” posts.

    That was the most inspiring and moving speech I have heard in a very long time, and this project is without a doubt one of Man’s greatest achievements.

  9. AJ

    @shalom,
    “I’m no expert but [...]”
    Exactly. Now be quiet and let the experts be the experts.

  10. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    Said # Jake F.on 30 Apr 2008 at 3:50 pm
    < “I think that with a .00000001% chance of something happening
    < destroying the Earth, it is just fine to turn it on.”

    At those odds probably so. But _are_ those the odds? Do we even know what the odds are?

    < “After all, as soon as you step outside, or drive in a car, or plug in your
    < toaster, there is a greater chance that you will die from something than < the LHC.”

    Sure – personal risk to me & not taking out our planet! When its just me involved I’m happy to do risky things. I’ve jumped out a plane with a parachute & loved it!

    But when its not just me but other people too .. When it could potentially
    be our whole Earth at stake – then I get squeamish .. & I reckon only a
    pyschopath wouldn’t. :-(

    (NOT calling you one or anything, Jake F, just sayin’.)

    < ” If you really are that concerned, I am sure you can find someone who
    < still has an active running bomb shelter that you could camp out with.”

    Actually no. I don’t. Bomb shelters arepretty rare where I live – in fact I’ve never seen one.

    Nor would any such shelter be any use if – & ,yes, I know its a very big *if* but still – _if_ the sort of Earth-annhiliating worst of our fears does take place … :-(

  11. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    # AJ on 30 Apr 2008 at 3:54 pm

    < @shalom,
    < “I’m no expert but […]”
    <Exactly. Now be quiet and let the experts be the experts.

    … & some of you folks wonder why there is such hostility towards science and why scientists are often seen as condescending and arrogant bustards by the wider community???

    Thanks AJ I’ll trust you. When pigs fly!

  12. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    Oh & part of being an expert – at least a good one – means being able to help other people and explain things simply to them not just rudely brush off their concerns and treat them like sheet…

  13. It seems odd to fear something only because of what you know of physics, when those who know a lot more about it say there is nothing to worry about.

    It also seems odd to make a distinction between natural and artificial processes, when you, me, everyone else on Earth, the Earth itself, and by extension everything we do, is a natural process.

    It should be clear that the odds of anything bad happening are tiny. It should also be clear that the odds of the Earth eventually being utterly destroyed (by natural processes) is exactly 100%, and hopefully the LHC will keep us on the path to avoiding a premature death and give us the opportunity to abandon this rock before that happens.

  14. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    Incidentaly, I didn’t say Brain Cox’s speech wasn’t good – it was.

    However, sorry but I’m just not 100 % convinced by it and I am uneasy because I do remember little things like mushroom clouds at Trinityand DDT as a cure-all &isn’t nuclera power wonderful (&never mind thewastes or Chernobyl ad nauseam ..) and scientists thinking at the Trinity test site that was a chance of destroying the whole planet then but just shrugging it off as not worth worrying about & so forth..

    As for the LHC as “… without a doubt one of Man’s greatest achievements… ” well that’s your subjective opinion.

    My own opinion would be say the Apollo program or the Wright bros first plane or the Montgolfiers first flight or eradicating smallpox or the painting of the Mona Lisa but there we go.

    Besides its not achieved yet so we can’t really tell …

  15. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    CORRECTED VERSION :

    However, sorry, but I’m just not 100 % convinced by it and I am uneasy about glib scientific reassurances because I do remember little things like :

    mushroom clouds at Trinity and scientists thinking at the Trinity test site that was a chance of destroying the whole planet then but just shrugging it off as not worth worrying about;
    &
    DDT as a cure-all &
    “isn’t nuclear power wonderful” (& never mind the wastes or Chernobyl ad nauseam ..)
    &
    thalidomide
    &
    agent orange

    & so forth..

    Being Skeptical for scientists seems very easy when they’re attacking other people’s beliefs .. But when it comes to questioning their own on the other hand …

    What if the worst case scenario happens?

    What if your confidence is misplaced or your understanding catastrophically wrong what then …?

    & what if you kill not just yourselves but also everybody else?

    How comfortable are doing that – really?

    —–
    Oh & AJ since you’re such an “expert” you might want to actually answer my questions rather than just stick your fingers in your ear and say “la -la=-la! Shut up & trust the experts” – that have already been proven wrong on other things (Nukes-DDT-Ice age vs Greenhouse FXT, Weather forecasts, Thalidomide etc ..) beforehand.

    Remember, even experts can be wrong.
    In this case, if they are the consquences are just too serious to ignore …

  16. Colin J

    I’m staying out of the ongoing conversation, as it’s already been dealt with.

    As for the talk, it was phenomenal. I’ve never heard him speak before, and now I see why BA speaks highly of Brian. Articulate, intelligent and able to explain why these types of scientific endeavors are needed. We need more science communicators like him!

  17. Brando

    Shalom – are you actually going to let the conspiracy theorists drive your anxiety? Honestly, they’ve got a pretty poor track record compared to global science. At LHC there are tens of thousands of the best chefs in the world making one incredible meal, and you’re going to say “don’t make it! We may all get sick!”?

  18. Derek

    Tell you what, Shalom. If the LHC blows up the planet, I’ll buy you a beer.

    No, seriously, you have nothing to worry about. As has already been pointed out, higher energy collisions occur in our atmosphere all the time that will occur in the LHC. That makes the LHC less ‘dangerous’ than things that have already been happening to our planet every day for the last four and a half billion years.

    Don’t fall prey to fear-mongering. It’s true that experts can be wrong, but the fact that experts can be wrong doesn’t necessarily mean that the world will be destroyed if they are. That’s what we call a “false dilemma”, and it’s an insidious type of logical fallacy. Watch out for it.

    To see how the logic is fallacious, it can also be used to argue that an iPhone might explode and destroy the world, so we shouldn’t make iPhones. The ‘experts’ who insist that the iPhone is not in danger of destroying the world could be wrong, couldn’t they?

  19. Rachel

    Great link! Thanks BA!!!!
    Seriously – your site keeps making me finish my astronomy homework…
    Not only is the information amazing and spectacular is it great to be able to follow sites (like this and others) thru the intertoobs.
    Seriously..I can’t imagine trying to get all this from a ham radio..YAY INTERTOOBAGE!!!

  20. I have no problem agreeing that AJ is a jerk.

    (>^^)>

  21. Martin Moran

    From what I have managed to understand the black holes the LHC would create would only last for a trillionth of a trillionth of a second and would require the heat of the Sun to maintain their existence.

    In my opinion anything that may further our chances of survival, has got to be a good thing especially with these limited risks and who knows where these potential new discoveries may lead.

    I am all for it, Higgs, and who knows what else, let’s go!

  22. Salaam, what makes you think scientists have ignored this problem? In point of fact, it has been studied over and over again, by top scientists in the field. In fact, Lisa Randall co-authored a paper about this. It’s online at arXiv..

  23. What an amazingly fantastic talk that was! Brian Cox is a wonderful public speaker. You can really get a sense of his excitement and his knowledge. Thanks for linking this Phil. :-)

  24. sandswipe

    “All the elements of the Earth except hydrogen and some internal helium have been cooked by a kind of stellar internal alchemy billions of years ago in stars, some of which are today inconspicuous white dwarfs on the other side of the internal Milky Way Galaxy. The nitrogen in our internal DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

    Carl Sagan, Cosmos

  25. Yep, watched this on YouTube. Really enjoyed it.

  26. Kevin White

    AJ, well said. I trust the hundreds of the planet’s brightest engineers and physicists.

    Excellent talk, I’m enthusiastically recommending the link to many people! As essentially a “physics and astronomy hobbyist,” I enjoyed this for the same reasons I enjoy this and other science and blogs and the same reasons I’m enjoying Neil deGrasse Tyson’s latest book (and Michio Kaku’s is my next read). It captures my imagination, temporarily removes me from the doldrums of the workaday life in a healthy way, gives me immense pride in the achievements and future potential of mankind, and pegs my shock and awe meter at the minuteness and immensity of our universe.

    Good stuff.

  27. Good looking, smart, looks like he could front a Brit pop band… um… physicists don’t really look like this. What have you done with the real Brian Cox?
    ;-)

    Saturn 5 rockets and Sputnik and DNA and literature and science. These are the things hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years.

    Love it. Excellent talk.

  28. I’ve just spent the last hour or so attending a Web conference on Enterprise Management. I feel like my brain has bled out through my ears. So thank you for drawing attention to a very entertaining talk on a fascinating subject. This place is really re-igniting my enjoyment of science.

  29. About two minutes in, well before his mention of Sagan, I was thinking:
    Carl Sagan haircut (okay, somewhat similar)
    British accent

    No wonder BA likes him.
    ;)

    J/P=?

    (blatantly ignoring the troll — I’m all out of Purina Troll Chow[TM])

  30. madge

    Not only do I trust the experts at Cern 100% I volunteer to strap myself to the LHC when they throw the switch! In fact I am begging them to let me. PLEASE! This is the biggest and most exciting endeavour we “hydrogen atoms” have attempted and finding the Higgs bosun (or not) will teach us so much about the fundamental processes that drive our universe. Great talk.

  31. madge

    Oh and Salaam? Questioning is EXACTLY what scientists DO! They question EVERYTHING they do at every point. This is not just a bunch of guys hazarding a guess and crossing their fingers : )

  32. shane says: “Good looking, smart, looks like he could front a Brit pop band…”

    Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing.

    “Saturn 5 rockets and Sputnik and DNA and literature and science. These are the things hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years.”

    I didn’t want to point it out, but that was actually a Saturn IB.

    - Jack

  33. C.Carpenter

    First I want to say that this was an excellent speech by Brian Cox, I would invite him to talk in my classroom anytime. Not only is his information easy to comprehend, he also talks very naturally, not placing himself ‘above’ the audience.

    Second I feel it’s too bad that again this discussion about the LHC destroying the earth is arising again. I thought that most answers were already given. Ok, I’m no scientist (like I said, I’m a teacher) but here is what I’ve been reading about the “risks” of the LHC and I’ve been reading about the LHC a lot the last few years.

    1. Black Holes: some people are afraid that the LHC will create a very small black hole what will then “eat up” our planet.
    * Don’t be afraid, particles collide with much more energy on the earth every second of every day and we are all still here. If a black hole was created in the LHC, then it would immediately close down because of Hawking radiation. If there is no such thing as Hawking Radiation, then it will be impossible to create black holes in the LHC.

    2. Strangelets: some people are afraid that after the mini-big bang in the LHC all matter will turn into stranglets. Well strangelets are only theoratical at this point and the same argument with black holes counts here. If a collision of particles of such energy would create strangelets, it would have happened on earth in nature a long time ago.

    Man may be very smart in building the LHC, but we are not smart enough to destroy ourselves with it yet. For that we need a much more powerfull collider, next one will be finished in 2018 I think. That will give us another 10 years to worry again about the next collider (sigh)

    I hope the info I gave was correct, it’s the talk I use in class (but then in Dutch) to ease my students if I get tough questions about the LHC that is going to destroy our world. If this isn’t correct, I would be very happy to know.

    Btw is this TED talk with Brian Cox on YouTube as well? I think I want to show this in class..

    Thanks for sharing this Phil!

  34. Gareth

    I think the concerns that Salaam has shown here are precisely what you get when you really haven’t a clue what is going on, so let the media be the sole source of information.

    I don’t have a clue what is going on either, really. But my powers of critical thinking lead to one question:

    How the heck would the scientists have got the funding for such a project if there was a plausible chance that the thing would destroy the earth and all life on it?

  35. Sue Mitchell

    Just one word: BRILLIANT!!! :-D

    Thanks to Brian for doing it and Phil for showing it.

  36. overstroming

    Superb, this stuff should be on mainstream TV.

    The quote Shane made above is deeply moving.

  37. Excellent talk. Some of the responses here remind me of a great, funny, ridiculous line cliched in so many old monster movies, “There are some things Dr. Frankenstein (Cox?) into which the mind of man must not delve.”

  38. DaveS

    “There are some things Dr. Frankenstein (Cox?) into which the mind of man must not delve.”

    My initial thought: Women.

  39. Beelzebud

    Very cool speech. Thanks for posting it. I wish there was a sort of youtube for science.

  40. Stu

    Feel a little embarrassed admitting this, but I’m sure I’m not alone… after listening to that truly excellent talk I “get” for the first time why this is such a big deal. I have to be honest, I’m usually left absolutely cold and unmoved by particle physics, cosmology, any aspect of astronomy that is displayed on a blackboard. I love the pretty pictures of Mars taken by Spirit and Oppy, of Saturn and its rings and moons taken by Cassini, etc. I’m an amateur astronomer and Outreach educator who can show a field full of people the stars and constellations, or take a classroom on a breathtaking Powerpoint tour of the solar system, but dark matter, dark energy, and all these particles whizzing about… naaah, not bothered. Until I heard this talk. Stunning, just stunning.

    Thanks BA for posting it, and introducing those of us out here who were ignorant or dismissive of this field of astronomy to, literally, a whole new universe of possibility and wonder.

  41. Alan

    Of all of the people that promote science today, only Brian Cox can really get me excited about science like the way Carl Sagan could. Not only can these two get you excited about science, but they make you feel as if you are an integral part of it, know it or not.

    One sign of a great speaker is the ability to portray the love of your subject without explicitly saying it, and Brian has that. He has that smile that with every word tells you he’s passionate about his work.

    I really hope that he continues to promote science. Perhaps in a more mainstream fashion like Sagan did with Cosmos.

  42. Melusine

    Finally watched this – I second Kevin White.

    CERN employees don’t want to die either.

    I’ve seen a bunch of Brian Cox’s talks and this is another great one. I have a simple book on particle physics and he manages to encapsulate that book in an even briefer and more succinct way without talking down to his audience nor treating them like 5th-graders. He manages to convey wonder too. Good stuff.

    TED talks tend to be very inspiring. It’s worth a look into their archives.

  43. Melusine

    BTW, I don’t know if it’s been done (I’m kind of lazy about looking it up), but it would be interesting to see PBS collect and show a few of these TED talks on TV. I don’t know about licensing and all that, but heading a program with Brian’s talk above, which could be a grabber, and then others like Carolyn Porco’s or Steven Pinker’s (whomever) to me would be a program I’d watch. Most people probably have no idea about TED.

  44. Sili

    I don’t need to say how excellent a talk this was.

    More importantly: DAYUM! that’s one sexy voice. I luuuuurrrrrrrve his /?/. I cannot for the life of me reproduce that vowel reliably, myself.

    In fact had that talk been any longer, I’d prolly have entered into creepy stalker mode and started pondering the demise of Gia …

  45. Sili

    And that /?/ was supposed to be an an ‘open mid back unrounded’ vowel as in “strut”, “but” &c.

  46. Ronn Blankenship

    Do you suppose there would be as much controversy if the Higgs particle had a different nickname?

  47. OMG BA. D:Ream! I was doing a fair bit of DJing back in the 90s and they were huge on the dance floor. Now I have “Things Can Only Getter Better” going through my head…

    Smart, good looking and talented. sigh The rest don’t stand a chance. :-)

  48. Actually Brian isn’t perfect… Science advisor on Sunshine He is mortal after all. ;-)

  49. Salaam =Shalom = peace

    Okay AJ apology accepted.

    I might’ve over-reacted a bit too.

    BA thanks for the link.

    Look, I really don’t expect that the LHC / CERN will destroy the planet.

    Most likely the scientists are right & like most (if not all) medical doctors _do_ know what they’re doing …

    But … it is just that very slight chance that they don’t , that they haven’t thought of everything, & that something they’re not seeing or thinking about goes horribly wrong .. That’s all.

    Okay, _almost_ all. There’s also my personal distrust & suspicion of experimental physicists, particularly nuclear / particle physicists based on past history reading & the whole A-bomb story. I’ve visited Hiroshima. I grew up in the Cold War times when there was the very real threat of nuclear armageddon. I can’t help but think how much better it would have been if we’d never split the atom & never invented nuclear bombs.

    Brain Cox seems like a nice bloke, another Carl Sagan figure sure .. but the community he’s coming from has a history that isn’t all that good for Humanity. X-rays &stuff fine THX. Nukes though not-so-much.

    I’m a passionate amateur astronomer but also a passionate environmentalist.

    I have seen & read a bit about this. Saw for example a TV science show called ‘Catalyst’ (ABC-TV, in Oz) discussing CERN that was very fascinating, very pro-science but that also noted the uncertainty of the result the “yeah-we-really-don’t -quite-know-what-the-results-will-be” aspect.

    Now when we’re talking about something nicknamed “the God particle” (for good reasons), a particle fundamental to the structure of the cosmos that creates phsyics as we know it and helps glue everything together at the most fundamental level … Is it really _that_ silly to be worried that maybe, just maybe, we should really think hard before messing about with it?

    Is anyone but me thinking that splitting the atom has created some pretty
    nasty consequences well splitting other particles may also have some pretty negative implications too?

    Should we split the electron? The neutrino? The quark? The Higgs boson? The tachyon?

    I’m all for observing these things happen in the centres of AGN, Seyfert galaxies, quasars & the like. Turning our home into an AGN or black hole or Starnmge-matter star however … well has some drawbacks! Observational physics fine – let the cosmos provide! But invasive, “let’s blow things up & smash ‘em together to see what happens” type physics .. Well let’s think twice or even three or four or a hundred times before we act!

    Where do we stop & is there not a point where scientists have to
    consider the ethical, social and cultural implications outweigh the desire to experiment?

    At least as a thought-experiment I’d like folks here to consider : Isn’t there a level of doing this sort of thing where going any deeper or higher energy becomes just too dangerous to risk – at least onthis one pale blue dot?

    BA?
    Anyone else?

    (Besides I’d love to see the LHC built on Pluto – wouldn’t that be just cool! 8) Apart from anything else doesn’t saving LHC type science for other less ecologically vulnerable & human-survival-necssary planets help
    make an excellent case for further human space exploration? Eh? ;-) )

    ————–

    I’m no troll. At least I think I’m not .. but then I ‘spose if I _was_ a
    troll would I know it? Do they? ;-)

  50. Salaam =Shalom = peace

    Asked # Ronn Blankenship on 01 May 2008 at 6:05 pm :

    <Do you suppose there would be as much controversy if the Higgs
    < particle had a different nickname?

    Whatever they called it or nicknamed it, it’d still be what it is.

    Still if it helps, shall I propose an alterantive name?

    Let’s see now how does the :

    “Leave-it-alone-or-we’re-all-goanna-DIE!!!” particle

    sound to you? ;-)

    Any better? ;-)

  51. Salaam =Shalom = peace

    Questioned # Gareth on 01 May 2008 at 4:44 am :

    <I think the concerns that Salaam has shown here are precisely what you < get when you really haven’t a clue what is going on, so let the media be < the sole source of information. I don’t have a clue what is going on either, really.
    <
    < But my powers of critical thinking lead to one question:
    <How the heck would the scientists have got the funding for such a
    < project if there was a plausible chance that the thing would destroy the < earth and all life on it?

    Given the amounts spent on research for better (or should that be *worse*?) WMD’s like A-bombs, H-bombs, bioweapons, space-lasers, ‘Starwars, nuke bunker busters, ad nauseam ..

    I think the sad answer to that one is : All too durn easily. :-(

    Persoanlly I’d rather the funding on CERN-LHC & all thefunding on Iraqw went to NASA & JPL instead …

  52. Ghosts-of-Palestine

    If the LHC was guaranteed to blow up the Earth (or even the universe) I bet it’d get even more funding & the Pentagon would really be backing it & keen to use it to blackmail the planet into doing their will. ;-)

    Never forget the people running the US at present; the Jewish fundamentalist, pro-Israeli Neo-Con pack of war-mongering fools are genuinely evil people. :-(

  53. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    CORRECTED VERSION :
    ————————————–
    Questioned # Gareth on 01 May 2008 at 4:44 am :

    < … .. But my powers of critical thinking lead to one question:
    <How the heck would the scientists have got the funding for such a
    < project if there was a plausible chance that the thing would destroy the < earth and all life on it?

    Given the amounts spent on research for better (or should that be *worse*?) WMD’s like A-bombs, H-bombs, bioweapons, space-lasers, Reagun / Bush the Mads “Star Wars” shield fantasy, nuke bunker busters, ad nauseam ..

    I think the sad answer to that one is :

    All too durn easily.

    Personally, I’d rather the funding on CERN-LHC (& all the funding on the Iraq war) went to NASA & JPL instead …

  54. Sean

    Shane:
    While Sunshine’s science wasn’t perfect, listening to Brian Cox’s audio commentary on the DVD shows that he’s aware of the inaccuracies but is OK with them. He actually pointed out what the movie got wrong (and right), *why* it was wrong, and usually mentioned that it didn’t bother him because a lot of the inaccuracies were left in for the sake of advancing the story or making it more interesting.

  55. Sean

    Salaam=Shalom=Peace:
    Coal-burning power plants are far worse for the environment that nuclear ones. Don’t fall for the “ZOMG ATOMS WILL KILL US ALL!” nonsense.

    Caring for the environment doesn’t mean throwing your hands up in the air and running around screaming every time someone mentions atoms or sub-atomic particles.

  56. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    Reassured # The Bad Astronomer on 30 Apr 2008 at 5:09 pm :

    I don’t think they’ve necssarily _ignored_ the problem – just fear they’ve been perhaps a bit too dismissive of the remote possibilities of things going catastrophically wrong & too over-confident they know and can deal with things if they do.

    I don’t think the scientist at Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl thought they’d ignored problems either …

    < In point of fact, it has been studied over and over again, by top
    < scientists in the field. In fact, Lisa Randall co-authored a paper about

    Thanks again. I did check it out :

    “Black Holes and Quantum Gravity at the LHC
    Authors: Patrick Meade, Lisa Randall
    (Submitted on 22 Aug 2007)

    Abstract: We argue that the highly studied black hole signatures based on thermal multiparticle final states are very unlikely and only occur in a very limited parameter regime if at all. However, we show that if the higher-dimensional quantum gravity scale is low, it should be possible to study quantum gravity in the context of higher dimensions through detailed compositeness-type searches.”

    but .. I’m afraid to say it may as well be in Chinese (which langauge I don’t understand) for all the sense it makes to me.

    I’m sure the scientists involved *believe* that there’s minimal risk and danger. I’m sure they *think* they’re right and, yes, I very much doubt any of them are suicidal.. (Well okay perhaps one or two of them may be for all I know!? ;-) )

    But still the engineers who built the ‘Titanic’ were equally sure that ship was unsinkable too weren’t they … ;-)

    So again what if something totally unexpected happens? What if all the theories are wrong or haven’t taken into account some unpredictable, unforseen factor that we can’t expect because we don’t know enough about this level of supercolliding physics yet .. What then?

    I’ve asked these questions before BA :

    1) Just because we can split the atom, is it really such a good idea to try to split the neutrino? The quark? The Higgs boson?

    2) “Well .. I’m not anti-science & technology, I’m really not, but we’re talking energies and particle physics (lets not forget the A-bomb please – ever!) & science generally here that is _so_ unknown & _so_ uncertain that we literally do NOT know what we’re doing aren’t we …?

    3) .. & well, doing that with high-explosives is more than bad enough .. isn’t it? Doing that with nuclear reactions (Eg. the first A-bomb test at Alamagoro (spelling?) was crazy enough .. wasn’t it? :-( Do we really have to up the stakes until we *do* destory ourselves?

    4) At what energies, at what point, do we say :

    “Hey, lets just think about this a moment – maybe we’d be better off NOT to press that big red button, NOT to ignite this possible bomb … Not to open this Pandora’s box, NOT to play with this dynamite?”

    5) Isn’t there a level of doing this sort of thing where going any deeper or higher energy becomes just too dangerous to risk – at least on this one pale blue dot?”

    Sorry but I really don’t feel or think I’ve actually _had_ those questions answered yet.

    Please Dr Phil Plait (& anyone else who wants to try) can you answer those 5 above questions of mine?
    Phil Plait?
    Anyone?

  57. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    # Derekon 30 Apr 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Okay, you’re on, thanks …

    … Only if the planet is destroyed – a beer from where? ;-)

  58. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    D’oh! Not another post I hafta correct ..

    (BA – please let us edit here! Please!)

    CORRECTED VERSION :
    —————————————-

    Offered # Derek on 30 Apr 2008 at 4:51 pm :

    < “Tell you what, Shalom. If the LHC blows up the planet, I’ll buy you a
    < beer.”

    Okay, you’re on, thanks …

    … Only if the planet is destroyed – a beer from where? ;-)

    ***

    Derek did go on to both reassure me & accuse me of committing a logical fallacy. Oh well it beats being called a troll I ‘spose & I guess I’ll just have to disagree politely.

    I hope I’m wrong to be so anxious about the LHC,
    I do think the chances are very small of CERN creating the End of Everything instead of evidnce of the Theory of Everything but .. well y’know what I fear…

    ****

    Responded # Sean on 02 May 2008 at 2:23 am :

    < Salaam=Shalom=Peace:
    < Coal-burning power plants are far worse for the environment that
    < nuclear ones. Don’t fall for the “ZOMG ATOMS WILL KILL US ALL!”
    < nonsense.

    < Caring for the environment doesn’t mean throwing your hands up in
    < the air and running around screaming every time someone mentions
    < atoms or sub-atomic particles.

    (Hmm. I really must work out how to get those quote blocks, italics, etc ..here ..)

    First : thanks & congratulations! 8) I think you are the first person to actually get my tag right so far!

    Second : Don’t worry, I don’t throw up my hands & run around screaming every time someone mentions atoms or sub-atomic particles.

    Third : But I gotta say I don’t think nuclear power – esp. nuclear fission is the answer to our environmental woes either .. If nothing else, uranium / plutonium are in shorter supply than oil and non-renewable anyway. Plus there’s all the issues over nuclear wastes, possible nuclera warfare spin-offs, potential for more Chernobyls, ad nauseam .. Nuclera fusion, well, maybe, just maybe but I’d reallyprefer more alterantive nergy incl. solar& perhaps microwaves from space as well as OCean Thermoclime Energy generators … There’s lots of better things than oil and coal – & nuclear. Its a pity, we don’t put more money & effort into developing them.

  59. gia

    Salaam,

    Suggestion: start your own blog instead of filling up Phil’s comments with your long, extended rambling thoughts and what appears to be your stream-of-consciousness inner dialog. That’d be cool. Then anyone who actually wants to read what you have to say has a place to go… and everyone else who comes to BA for intelligent discourse can continue to do so without having to scroll for fricken ages to get past your ill-informed comments or expend vast amounts of energy on rustling up the patience to deal with you in a calm and respectful way.

    Thanks!!!

    Yours calmly and respectfully (well, as much as I can muster here),

    Gia

  60. Al

    Given his attitude to risk, I trust that Salaam does not drive a car.

  61. Melusine

    I saw Sunshine in the theater last year. I thought it was a pretty good movie – something different – and I liked the spacecraft and all. I wasn’t crazy about the psycho-dude ending, but whatever. I don’t think all the science can be exactly right in any sci-fi adventure type movie; that’s what imagination and creative license is about. No harm in pointing out where the science is wrong but being so cynical about it – bah. Worth checking out…no “sunshiney day” there.

  62. MedTek(sandra)

    I can’t really comment on the content. But I have to agree with the other accolades, that talk gave me the same feeling as I get listening to, say, Robert Fripp play Soundscapes at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

    We are so lucky to have people like this in science.

  63. quasidog

    Now that is how you communicate science! What a great speaker.

    Polite, tactful, not a hint of sarcasm, completely engaging. If anyone wants to communicate their facts about certain issues of science, then taking notes on how Brian Cox does it would be beneficial. I could listen to that guy speak all day.

    Great post BA. Bring on the proton smashing !!

  64. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    Gia thanks for your suggestion but following your linked blog (clicking on your name here) I couldn’t help but notice this:

    “Gia … a Minnesotan (short in stature, but loud, very loud) who came to the UK in search of fame and big-haired rock stars and settled for presenting on the telly, writing blogs, being married to Dr Brian Cox and being mum to Alex.”

    Married to the same Dr Brian Cox who’s the star of this I take it?

    Hmm … Some may well say that makes you biased.
    Some may also say you should’ve disclosed that straight-up to everyone.

    Now pardon me for participating & for having something to say. Funny thing is that I kind of thought that getting people’s responses and thoughts was the whole point of having these blog-comment thingys.

    Incidentally, no I don’t have a blog myself. Maybe I should get one … if & when I do, feel free to drop in & ramble or comment all you like, I’m quite open & welcoming to civilised discussion. ;-)

    Anyway, I’ll try not to ramble on any further but will just note that you haven’t actually answered any of my questions – & nor has anyone else.

    If you (and your hubby) wish to reassure the many people like me who are worried about CERN – & nice talk again BTW Dr Cox, seriously – you might try actually _talking_ to those who are afraid of what you’re doing rather than treating them with disdain, rudeness and contempt.

  65. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    Asserted # Alon 02 May 2008 at 5:01 am
    < Given his attitude to risk, I trust that Salaam does not drive a car.

    Actually Alon, since you ask, no I don’t drive a car.

    Instead I cycle & use public transport – & depending what your buses / trains / trams are like & how far you are from your work I’d recomend that for you & others as well. It keeps you fit, is great for the environment & even lets you catch up on reading! (On public transport anyway I do NOT recomend reading & cycling! ;-) )
    —————————————————–
    &, Gia, hey, sorry to be commenting again but hey the bloke did ask! ;-)

  66. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    Incidentally Mrs Gia Cox just wondering but who annointed you Queen of Dr Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog?

    If the Bad Astronomer tells me he doesn’t want my comments then I’ll listen to him & abide by his wishes but for you to do so seems … well a bit presumptous & high-handed really.

    I haven’t commented on your blog (Can’t seem to work out how to do so anyway to be honest ..) but I’ll respect your wishes & refrain from asking awkward questions there if you insist.

    But as far as Dr Phil Plait’s blog goes, until informed otherwise – by him personally – I intend to participate fully within his rules.

    I don’t think I’ve breached his rules here or been a troll – if Ihave then my apologies .. & please feel free point out what I’ve done wrong (other than disagree with you & maybe explain why I disagree a bit lengthily?) so as I know. Is there a word limit to posts here or something? If so its thefirst I’ve heard of such. Or do you (Gia that is NOT the BA) just want to hear only from those who agree with you?
    ——————————————–
    Oh dear, I’m commenting again, yegods, on a public comment-seeking blog & all. Gee (or is that Gia?) how dare I? ;-)

  67. Salaam=Shalom=Peace

    Gia :

    Please remember I may have been – heck I _was_ angry at you at the time I responded above. Forgive me please for being human and responding whilst feeling hurt and cheesed off.

    I try to be a peacemaker & I did get, perhaps, a bit carried away and I’m not proud of myself for that so I hope you’ll accept my apology for that.

    I do respect you & your husband, but I am uneasy over CERN & I feel upset & hurt at how you’ve responded to thoughts, questions & comments so far. Sure, I am not perfect (& ok maybe I do ramble a bit at times & over-react at others. Mea culpa.) but I do think I have the right to express my views and ask questions of the Bad Astronomer & others.

    I do think folks like myself are justifiably nervous over this sort of experimentation similar to that which did lead to the development of the atomic bomb – at least as I see it although I suppose you disagree. I’d like to see a reasoned, full debate on this treating all sides with respect and consideration. I try to be polite and civilised & I do want to hear the alternative views even if I don’t share them. Please return that courtesy. I find it hard to understand why my comments apparently anger you so much – & if you wish to tell me so then I’ll bear that in mind.

    Please thank your husband from me for his excellent talk – I too am a fan of Dr Carl Sagan & science esp. observational astronomy. However, also please ask him if he can answer my questions posed on the BA blog & whether he really – & I mean deep-down in his heart really – feels the CERN-LHC is ethical in the risks it may be taking with the entire planet if anything like the worst fears of folks like me come true.

  68. gia

    Salaam,

    I’ve gone through the comments here and have found:
    You wrote approximately 4,400 words
    *Everyone* else – about 38 different people- wrote approximately 3,700 words- that’s approximately 100 words each- some posted more, some less.

    To me, your commenting in this thread *is* a bit excessive. I merely suggested you start your own blog where you can write all you want rather than filling up Phil’s comments. If, of course, you think writing 40 *times* more than anyone else here is *normal*, than forgive me, but I just think it’s a bit much.

    Also, who I may be married to has absolutely no relevance whatsoever on what I think about the excessive amount you have commented here. I was commenting about *your inability to self-edit* not on Brian’s talk or your reaction to it, therefore there was no need to have stated who I sleep with at night before giving my opinion. To suggest otherwise is actually offensive, I’m afraid. It implies that I am not allowed to form my own opinions about things without announcing upfront that I am married. Surely that’s not what you were suggesting, is it?!

    Oh. And my surname isn’t Cox.

  69. Salaam = Shalom = Peace

    Gia : what does “normal” mean anyway these days?

    Yes, I’m a bit wordy sometimes – guilty as charged. That’s because I care strongly & is an indication of how much I want to convey my views clearly and in depth. Is that so bad? Is it so frustrating & enraging for you to skim through comments if you don’t choose to read them?

    As for filling up Phil Plait’s comments I rather thought he’d appreciate serious discussion even somewhat lengthy discussion. I do try to edit – as you noted I’m not great at that yet. I’m not great at computers either.

    As for your surname? Please excuse me for making the asumption that as a married couple you would both adopt the male surname. It is how it has been (& remains) in my culture and is even, I percieve, usually still the case in yours. If that offends you, my apologies, no offence was intended. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but this new-fangled custom of keeping your names separate post-marriage is one that puzzles me & one I find hard to understand.

    However, Gia, your posted the link (& thanks for that btw) and you’ve commented on the story – and the fact that your husband is the person in question surely isn’t irrelevant and doesn’t make you an impartial observer but rather a *partial* one.

    I assume you love & care about your husband (or is ‘partner’ the word to use now even post marriage? Sorry if I’m not feminist-culture-adept enough.. ) so why reject sharing his name? But that’s a whole other discussion really..What does make me wonder is :

    Why not make it clear that you have an emotional (I’d presume) attachment in this topic?

    Anyway I will just say one more thing :

    If these ultra-high-energy particles in question are always entering the atmosphere anyway as someone noted – then why do we need the LHC to generate them? Can’t we study them well enough by observation and not need to risk turning our planet into a something like a quasar or Active Galactic Nucleus from whence these particles – I gather – arise?

  70. quasidog

    @ Salaam = Shalom = Peace,

    you asked: “….If these ultra-high-energy particles in question are always entering the atmosphere anyway as someone noted – then why do we need the LHC to generate them? Can’t we study them well enough by observation …..”

    I would assume that it is far easier to study a particle in a controlled environment where you know nearly exactly where the particle is going to be when it collides, rather than trying to study a particle that enters our atmosphere, where you would not know where or when it would be striking, rendering further observation extremely difficult and making the results virtually useless. Its just too difficult.

    The fact you bring that up however, is strong evidence that the LHC is going to be fine when it does collide these particles. If it happens in the atmosphere, and we are all fine, then one can assume the same sort of forces involved at the LHC will be safe for our environment also.

  71. Salaam,

    I have to admit that eventually I just started skimming over your comments. It seems you feel that “the experts” are obligated to provide you with an explanation to alleviate all of your fears. An explanation which you must be able to easily understand at that. I wish you would express your concerns in a succinct manner, but my guess is, you are not capable of doing this because, just like the anti-vaccine crowd (it’s thimerosal! No, wait, it’s other toxins! No, wait, it’s [insert anything {sucrose anyone?} to try and make the case]! nothing the experts can say will allay your fear.

    That’s okay, BTW. Can’t win ‘em all or convert 100%, but at a certain point, we can and should say, ’nuff said.

    You want easily understood and are told that the chance isn’t 10% or 5% but MUCH MUCH less. And your response is to wonder if we can trust that those numbers are accurate or can be trusted. BA provides you a link to check this info out and you plead that it’s over your head.

    Do you see the problem?

    And the natural vs artificial experimental occurrence is a false dichotomy. All naturally occurring things are good while the man made stuff is bad? Come on.

    You say you jumped out of an airplane? All that carbon spewed out into the atmosphere so you could enjoy a momentary thrill?!?!? And you call yourself an environmentalist. This is sarcasm BTW, to try and get you to see some of the absurdity you are putting forth.

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