Calling a Crackpot a Crackpot

By Mark Trodden | September 8, 2008 9:35 am

As John has already described, on Wednesday, the Large Hadron Collider will circulate protons for the first time, marking a critical milestone on the road to the hopefully imminent discovery of new physics. Physicists the world around are tingling with anticipation, looking forward to the discovery of the mechanism of electroweak symmetry breaking, and wondering if this will be revealed to be due to supersymmetry, extra dimensions, new gauge interactions, or something as yet unthought-of.

None of them are worried about the end of the world.

Not that you’d know this from the attention that a few crackpots have received in media the world around. The lawsuit filed by biochemist Otto Rössler, and the restraining orders sought by Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho have been covered by almost every major newspaper, and while they eventually get around to the views of people who actually know what they’re talking about, the pressure of trying to appear balanced often leaves one with the impression that there is a genuine debate on this topic (for a particularly empty example of this, take a look at this Guardian snippet).

Saturday’s London Times article by Joanna Sugden does do a little better though. It isn’t perfect; for example it contains the claim that Rössler

had deduced that it would be “quite plausible” to conclude that black holes resulting from the collider experiment “will grow exponentially and eat the planet from the inside” across a devastating four-year period of decay.

which seems misleading, since “deduce” means “arrive at (a fact or a conclusion) by reasoning; draw as a logical conclusion”, and hardly seems appropriate in this case. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the final couple of paragraphs, particularly the plainly stated and clear statement that

The saner voice of science is shining through, however, …

That’s right – these crackpots are insane! It feels good to say it plainly every now and again. And as an example of this saner side of science, the Times then goes on to quote Valerie Jamieson, friend of the blog and snowmobiler extraordinaire.

as Valerie Jamieson, deputy features editor of New Scientist, explains on her blog.

“Scale the cosmic ray sums up to cover the 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and the 100 billion galaxies in the visible Universe and you find that nature has already made the equivalent of 1,031 LHCs. Or if you like, 10 trillion LHCs are running every second. And we’re still here.”

Ignoring the little issue with superscripts (1,031 isn’t a particularly impressive number, but 1031 gets your attention), it’s nice to see an article in which crackpots are called crackpots and that shows that the author reads the right kind of blog!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and the Media
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  • John R Ramsden

    What’s the betting some future James Bond movie, or similar thriller, features an arch-villain who devises a scheme for sabotaging the LHC to make it start producing strangelets or black holes.

    The script writers had better get their skates on though, because the mystique and (to some) fear will be dispelled once it starts running at full pelt, after which a plot on those lines risks being received more like a lame millennium doomsday scenario released in 2002!

  • B

    Interesting… I just gave a talk in which I commented on this story, and more generally on the sometimes problematic interaction between the scientific community and the public.

    The black-hole-eats-the-world case is interesting because is raises the question whose task is it to deal with these accusations, whose task is it to answer all these questions (over and over again) that the concerned public has because of such irresponsible scary stories? It is also puzzling since here the opinion in the community has been abundantly clear. I mean, sure, somebody is always the odd one out, but there is certainly not – as some of these critics have claimed – a controversy about this. It is indeed a very uncontroversial question, but then why has it been to prominently covered by the media? (And not for the first time! This story has already been around for RHIC in ’99.) The only reason that I can come up with is because it sells well, which is very unflattering for science journalism. What will that do to science in the long run?

    Chad Orzel gave a very interesting talk after mine commenting on how to improve the information exchange between science, journalists, and the public.

    The recordings should be online soon on our conference website.

  • Count Iblis

    The world has been slow to react when there is legitimate scientific concern about something, even when there is a strong scientifc consensus about it. Take e.g. CO2 emissions. We knew in the mid 1980s that this would be potential problem, but only now are we starting to do something about it.

    I guess that this has to do with people being apprehensive about new developments. In case of curbing back on CO2 emissions, it means that our lifestyles have to change. This is balanced somewhat by the prospect of having to deal with sea level rise and other consequences of global warming.

    Typically, what you see in such cases is that the nedia are biased in favor of the people who argue that we don’t need to do anything until you get a huge scientific consensus that says that something must really be done.

    Another example: GM foods. In this case, there isn’t any evidence that this is dangerous. But, since we can do without it and you don’t have huge scientific consensus that says that we must have GM foods, the media are biased in favor of the GM sceptics.

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  • Ginger Yellow

    I don’t intend to excuse the Guardian piece, but I do want to stick up for the newspaper itself. It’s important to realise that Henley’s article isn’t a news story or even a feature, it’s part of the daily Diary which is a (supposedly) humorous and very frivolous segment. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the internet (and the Guardian’s web layout) that pieces like this get presented and linked to out of context. The Guardian has probably the best science journalism of any UK newspaper and its serious stories (see here for example), not to mention its Science Weekly podcast, have given the appropriate weight to the views of physicists and scaremongerers.

  • Ginger Yellow

    Oh, and for the umpteenth time, it’s not the London Times. It’s the Times. Or the UK’s Times, if you prefer.

  • jeebus

    Can anyone comment on the Plaga paper on Arxiv?

    No earth-swallowing, but maybe a little earth-quaking! :)

  • Mark

    Dear Ginger Yellow. I’m a big fan of the Guardian, as you’ll see if you look through my previous posts. The science coverage is the best of British papers, and I’m particularly and of Ben Goldacre’s columns.

    As for calling it the London Times; as a Brit, I am well aware of how calling it just “the Times” can lead to confusion with the NY Times over here, and I’ve usually found it simplest to just add “London”. Not sure what you mean by “the umpteenth time” – I don’t recall seeing you make that comment here ever before.

  • Michael Bacon

    I know that Rainer has been concerned about this for some time and at least beginning in March he was following the law suit filed in the US by Walter Wagner.

    I suspect that most folks on this blog and others generally don’t think his concerns to be justified by the evidence — and I am not an expert in any of this so I would certainly go with the clear consensus view.

    Having said that, the list of mitigating actions he suggests at the end of the article don’t on their face seem entirely unreasonable — at least to a layman like myself — although I suppose it’s pretty late in the game to make any changes at all.

  • Kai Noeske

    CNN have a decent article too, except for the flashy headline :

    Big Bang experiment creates excitement, fear

    See the readers’ comments; one even argues LHC might trigger the Rapture, resulting in the Faithful and children suddenly disappearing (to heaven, presumably), leaving behind Earth, LHC, and the less faithful; I’d certainly miss the children.

    Frank Wilczek even received death threats, says “Der Spiegel”,1518,576906,00.html

    No translation on their English page yet, but in a nutshell: no fear-mongering.

  • Count Iblis
  • Ben Lillie

    On the bright side, the BBC just published a very nice article about the subject. They lead with the scary end-of-the-world stuff, but the meat is about why people keep predicting the end of the world. To my mind, that’s the interesting part of the story.

  • Albatross

    I’m suing to have the sun extinguished, or at least temporarily restrained.

    First, the subatomic particle interactions within the Sun’s depths are much more energetic than those planned for the LHC, and could at any moment result in a black hole that eats the solar system.

    Second, there is a small but nonzero chance that the Sun could itself supernova and then collapse into a black hole (although this would probably involve several other solar-sized bodies all falling into ours at the same time, it COULD happen).

    Finally, the sun is a single-point-of-failure for life in this ENTIRE solar system, and yet comes with NO warrant, NO service agreement, and NO safety mechanisms. If you don’t believe me, take your average physicist out of the lab and expose him or her to the sun for as little as an hour and see what happens. That sucka’s DANGEROUS!

    We need this highly dangerous black-hole producing nova-detonating menace SHUT DOWN until a team of experts can review it.

  • Moshe

    I’m not sure that any article about the subject, with or without the right disclaimers, is something to be happy about. If these issues are marginal,as they surely are, they should be treated as such, namely neglected in favor of issues not so marginal. Just imagine such articles about the US elections, barely mentioning those guys Obama and McCain, instead focusing on some obscure candidates with a support base of a few dozen eccentrics. How many articles like that in the NY times and the Washington Post are too many?

  • Steve from brisbane

    Yeah, I too am waiting on your comments about Plaga, Mark. I am aware that Margano and Giddings have rebutted it in their comments at Arxiv, but for the layman like me, it is hard to understand the “inconsistency” that they claim for Plaga’s argument.

    Also, it would be helpful if Plaga himself, who seems to be a very widely published astrophysicist, would acknowledge the mistake if in fact the Mangano comment has made him realise an error. Until he does that, a layman gets the impression that there are physicists possibly still in dispute as to whether a potential danger has not been addressed in the safety reviews to date.

  • Dylan Dog

    I wonder if you have all read

    So: does the LHC meet Kent’s criterion for “acceptable risk”?

    In addition to that, there is the question of trust. As a non-scientist put it to me: these guys who built the LHC have invested their whole working lives in this thing. They might well be prepared to take risks that the rest of us would consider intolerable……not that I agree, but you have to bear in mind that academics generally are not particularly well-regarded these days; they are seen as just another pressure group. For many people, the only benefit arising from running the LHC is that a few people will get tenure and a few students will complete their PhDs. When the benefits are so low, the cost [computed a la Kent] had better be *really* low…..

  • Otis

    When I worked on NASA’s Apollo project in the 1960’s, we had our own doomsday scenario. The concern was that some super virus or bacterium would be on the Moon and would infect the astronauts. After the astronauts returned, the bug would supposedly spread throughout the population and be deadly. NASA answered this concern by isolating the astronauts for two weeks in an Airstream trailer. I remember that an MIT scientist who designed the lunar landing guidance equations was of the opinion that a nuclear weapon might need to be set off at the space center in Houston in order wipe out the virus and save humanity.

    A friend of mine worked in NASA’s photography department. When his lab received film canisters from the first lunar landing mission, lab workers noticed that the canisters were covered with a layer of dust. Some of the workers carefully scraped off the dust, collected it and took it home. Samples ended up on kitchen refrigerator doors and in other places. Some children took samples to school for show and tell time. Meanwhile, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were confined to the trailer.

    When NASA management heard about the moon dust caper, they came unglued, threatening punishment for stealing government property. Fortunately, no one got sick and the whole thing blew over.

  • Mark

    jeebus, Iblis, steve, I don’t think I can do a better job than Giddings and Mangano themselves did in demonstrating where Plaga went wrong. They take issue with a lot of things he says, including incorrect quoting and sloppy, out of date, selective referencing.

    Plaga is considering a warped extra dimensional scenario. In such models, there is a regime in which one is allowed to use the four dimensional quantities and laws, and a regime in which the phenomenology is described by the five dimensional laws (I describe this a little, in a simpler model, here). In their rebuttal, Giddings and Mangano point out that Plaga is applying four-dimensional formulae where they don’t apply, obtaining an incorrectly high result. This is perhaps the main clear problem.

  • Steve from brisbane

    Thanks Mark, that is helpful. I still think you shouldn’t be calling those who called for a better safety review “crackpots”. There is a hell of a lot at stake, and a real need to look at scenarios other than Hawking Radiation (an unobserved phenomena) saving the day. If Mangano’s detailed work looking at neutron stars etc had been done a couple of years ago, instead of just a couple of months before the LHC was turned on, you wouldn’t have had the same degree of public concern that you have now. (So I reckon anyway.)

  • Anthony Shaughnessy

    The “four year period of decay” is interesting. Imagine that a non-evaporating black hole did get produced – how long would it take to eat up the earth? Just for fun, of course. I’m not suggesting this will actually happen but it would be interesting to know how long it would take if it did. Would the earth disappear in a microsecond or would it be a slow and painful death?

  • Mark

    I’m glad it helped Steve. I think it is a mistake to think that these guys are honest citizens calling for a better safety review. In my opinion they are crackpots, and as has become clear time and time again, they aren’t really interested in the studies that people have done or what physicists know – they’ll just behave the same way anyway.

  • Ginger Yellow

    Mark, glad to hear it. Goldacre is pretty much my favourite journalist. Incidentally, you should definitely check out his new Bad Science book, if you haven’t already. It’s superb.

    As for the Times, I understand the need to differentiate it from the NYT (or the LAT for that matter). That’s why I suggested the UK’s Times. The point is that it’s not a London newspaper, it’s a national newspaper. The UK media may be very London-centric, but there’s a world of difference between the sorts of things the Times covers, and the sorts of things, say the Evening Standard covers. Let alone truly local London papers.

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  • Mark

    A nice little article that takes the correct route of not even mentioning the crackpots!

  • Ben Lillie

    On the subject of calling these people crackpots: it’s worth noting that at least one of them was involved in a similar scare with RHIC, the accelerator at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which turned on in 1999. Almost all of the counterarguments that apply to the LHC case were articulated then in a safety review commissioned in response. Ignoring previous rebuttals of ones position is one of the classic signs of a crackpot. I talked about it a little bit here.

  • onscrn

    I think the crackpot name fits Rössler perfectly. Read more on my blog. I don’t know why he is getting such a free ride by the press. Wagner may know what he’s doing a little more, i.e. have some self-serving scheme in mind beyond gaining fame. My guess is that Plaga just couldn’t resist the chance to get in on the fun and then made some hasty, embarrassingly bad calculations. I hope he will withdraw his claims before actual collisions are scheduled.

    I hate to talk about people that way, but they have made themselves public figures, and they are still causing a lot of trouble, not to mention costing money for legal fees etc.

    I wrote about the situation and the personalities on my blog in a post called Large Hadron Collider: What’s the Risk?

  • none-of-the-above

    16. Steve from Brisbane wrote:
    “I am aware that Margano and Giddings have rebutted it in their comments at Arxiv, but for the layman like me, it is hard to understand the “inconsistency” that they claim for Plaga’s argument.”

    Giddings and Mangano spell out in detail the mistake in Plaga’s argument. Read the
    paragraph in their paper beginning: “Where did [1] go wrong?” ([1] is the Plaga paper).
    You only need to read that one paragraph to understand exactly why Plaga is wrong.

    Let’s be clear: it is not the case: “that there are physicists possibly still in dispute” on this point. There was one paper, with an elementary mistake in it, put on the arXiv by someone who has never before worked on black hole radiance. When examined by an expert in the field of black hole quantum radiance [Giddings] the mistake was immediately found, and a paper posted indicating the mistake. Calculations are not a matter of opinion; you either do the calculation right or you do it wrong. Giddings has made a career of doing these calculations right; Plaga had never tried one of these calculations before, as is clear from the elementary mistake that he makes.

    I feel real sympathy for Giddings, who is one of the world’s true experts on quantum black holes, and who had to take time away from his own research program to write a rebuttal to a trivially wrong paper by someone with no prior record of work on black hole radiance. Sadly, I expect to see more of this in the future, with active research scientists having to take time from their own research programs to debunk alarmist nonsense on the web.

  • Steve from brisbane

    None of the above: it was not easy for a lay person to follow that paragraph. You might spent all day reading papers with maths and physics terminology at a university level discussed in them: most of the world doesn’t.

  • Colin J.

    The first time I heard about any of this was this morning on the BBC. I was listening on my drive to work and when I heard Otto Rössler say the bit about the micro-black holes consuming the earth the first thing I actually shouted “COOL!” I mean come on, if the world is going to come to an end it might as well be black holes eating it from the inside out. My only fear is that if it does happen the government will just cover it up and we will never know.

    You gotta love those crackpots.

  • capitalistimperialistpig


    Internal collision energies in the Sun are a million times lower than those in the LHC. They are much lower even in a newborn neutron star at the heart of a supernova. Only collisions of ultra high energy cosmic rays with planets, stars, etc. (that we know of) have center of mass energies larger than those produced in the LHC – and even they have only an order of magnitude or two to spare.

    If you want to debunk doomsday scenarios it helps to get your facts right.

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  • Michael Walsh

    I find the word Crackpot to be one of the best words we have for quickly defining another person and the views s/he is presenting. It’s someone off the mainstream to such a degree they have become more entertainment than rational.
    Our problem with crackpotism is not that they exist (I challenge any of us to walk by a good crackpot on a soapbox in Hyde Park without pausing to collect a quiet inner smile.) No, the problem is the dissemination of their views. The problem comes when reporters have so little discernment that they can’t spot a crackpot and instead write them up — an effect which snowballs of it’s own until significant editors who have perhaps 20 seconds to decide on how to fill an issue does a reprint which gets our attention.
    How to stop? No way. It’s going to happen and keep happening. The why of it is that the many thousands of reporters who start the spread come from a population of which is unable to know a crackpot from a scientist. 50% of Americans believe in creationism. Think about that. It’s a miracle it’s not being taught in schools. It’s a miracle that 49% of Americans take the humble route and accept they are “in over their head” and permit the more intelligent to prevail. They are not crackpots — because they accept consensus over personal belief. The 1% who cherish their pet beliefs as correct in the face of reality AND insist on soapboxing are the crackpots. But still, it’s the publishing of their lunacy (insisting their personal mistakes be considered for everyone) which is the difficulty. Calling reporters and editors to account will mostly likely have the widest affect, not being surprised that crackpots exist! Shoot, there’s nothing like a nice entertaining crackpot — just not published in the Science sections!
    Me, I don’t believe gravitons will ever be found because “gravity” doesn’t exist per se — that it’s really really really just probability that something will “choose” to decohere or exist where there is higher probibility of existence, and so likely there are other things “choosing” to exist nearby. Now I can write that theory up, work up the math and present it, or I can shut up, or I can assume you should take on my delusion too. But nobody should support me until I write it up and get some peer review. If someone publishes me in Times Science section, that doesn’t make me a crackpot. I was already wrong, or, not. It’s the publishing of junk that’s the problem and real crackpots are not bother without the publishing.
    So say I. And I’m right. *smile*


  • http://FirstBeamfulltraverse! Michael Walsh

    Geneva, 10 September 2008. The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN1 was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometres of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning.


  • Gustavo Canas

    I wonder how the inventor of nitroglicerine arrived to the production of this explosive.Was he or she on purpose trying to make it, or was it rather an accident?
    When we talk about stranglets and micro black holes, we are worse off.In the case of black holes no matter model of quarks, and gluons, or anything else is out there to serve as a guidance to propose the make up of the grid of particles that make up the substance a black hole is made of.In classic physics there is not minimum size per se of stables blach holes,perhaps because size is a dimension that for those regions of space does not make sense.
    So we do not know in truth the Minimum critical mass for one to be made.As for stranglets same case, no data about the minimum mass of strange quarks to start a stable one…
    In both cases with the tangible,practical knowledge comes death….same case like with Eve in paradise long ago…Human stupidity…Maybe Adam should have sent Eve to eat the apple far away from paradise with the warning of NOT comming back if it was not good.Same case with the LHC.Perhaps it could have been a good idea to buid it in mars…far away fom earth,just in case we come intentionally or not to the production of cosmic nitroglicerine.

  • Mark

    37. By the same reasoning, we should never do anything we haven’t done before just in case it creates a solar-system sized pink dragon that will eat the earth.

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  • none-of-the-above

    Steve from brisbane on Sep 9th, 2008 at 6:40 pm writes:
    “None of the above: it was not easy for a lay person to follow that paragraph. You might spent all day reading papers with maths and physics terminology at a university level discussed in them: most of the world doesn’t.”

    Well if you can’t read the papers you can certainly look into the credibility and credentials of the people writing these allegations. That IS something even “most of the world” can do.

    As an example of one blogger out there who has looked into the credibility of Rossler and Plaga see:

    Having read that don’t you think that “most of the world” could easily have come to the same conclusion as Mark as to whether these individuals are crackpots?

  • James Blodgett

    There were similar concerns when the relativistic heavy ion collider at Brookhaven started up in 2000. Because of those concerns, Brookhaven did a safety study before startup. The study concluded that black hole creation required energy beyond the reach of any collider. Within months, physicists published papers predicting creation of black holes at colliders. In 2003 CERN did their first safety study for the LHC. This study anticipated black hole production, but stated definitively that black holes would dissipate via Hawking radiation. At about the same time, physics papers were published that questioned the fundamental theory behind Hawking radiation. Despite these gaffs, physicists touted these studies for years. Finally, at the last minute, Mangano and others did a better study that accepted many of the criticisms that others had disparaged and went beyond them to find new safety factors. If it is appropriate to assert the ad hominem of “crackpot” there should be an equally malodorous name for those who think that any but the last part was an appropriate way to assure safety.

  • Mark

    Not a single expert I know (and I know many) would agree that there were ever any sensible concerns about black holes at colliders. Your account just doesn’t gel with reality, as understood by people who know about the physics involved.

  • JTankers

    Hello Mark,

    One of the best recent articles I read was from Queen Marry’s Math Professor Shahn Majid, author of “On Space and Time” with contributions by Roger Penrose. Prof. Shahn Majid writes “”I’m only not worried because I do not think that step 1 [micro black hole creation] will occur in the first place. But this is just my personal skepticism.”[11]

    Another question is how disinformation and censorship can short circuit legitimate safety debate.[12]

    Disinformation includes stating that Large Hadron Collider safety is assured and global danger is not possible (as most people would understand not possible) when in fact safety is disputed by multiple credible sources[1][2] and safety is unknown[3][4].

    Disinformation includes stating that micro black holes evaporate without noting that Hawking Radiation is unproven theory disputed by multiple credible papers as fundamentally flawed and may not or does not exist.[5][6][2]

    Disinformation and censorship includes directing CERN scientists to affirm no risk in all interviews regardless of personal opinion[7], and attacking the credibility of independent scientists who publicly express concern.

    Are scientists more concerned with public opinion and funding scientific experimentation than safety? At the Global Catastrophic Risk conference when Toby Ord estimated a 1 in 1,000 chance that CERN’s safety assumptions may be fundamentally wrong, an author of CERN’s safety report replied “Jeopardizing the future of scientific research would be a global catastrophe.”[8]

    The fact is some credible scientists have credible concerns about a potentially credible danger. Senior Astrophysicist Dr. Plaga refutes safety conclusions of particle physicists who conjecture safety based on disputed properties of dense stars (astrophysics) and proposes feasible risk mitigation measures[1]. Dr. Rössler is a an award winning former visiting Professor of Physics famous for inventing Chaos theory’s Rössler attractor and founding the field of Endophysics[2], he calculates that micro black holes could be catastrophic to Earth in years or decades. Former University of Berkeley cosmic ray researcher and Nuclear Safety Officer Walter L. Wagner originally discovered fundamental flaws with CERN’s safety arguments and filed a US Federal law suit to require reasonable proof of safety[3]. Other physicists, theoretical scientists and risk experts have also expressed concerns both publicly and privately[4].

    Of the independent scientists who created detailed safety reviews and rebuttals not employed by CERN or asked to comment as a favor to CERN[9], a common theme is concluded, safety is unknown. Some scientists are very concerned, and that is not misinformation or propaganda.[10]

    [1] On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders – Rainer Plaga Rebuttal (2008)

    [2] Abraham-Solution to Schwarzschild Metric Implies That CERN Miniblack Holes Pose a Planetary Risk, Prof. Dr. Otto Rossler (2008)

    [3] US Federal Lawsuit Filings – Walter L. Wagner (2008)

    [4] What the Experts Say (2008)

    [5] Do black holes radiate?. Dr. Adam Helfer (2003)

    [6], On the existence of black hole evaporationyet again, Prof. VA Belinski (2006)


    [8] A 1-in-1,000 Chance of Götterdämmerung, Will European physicists destroy the world? Ronald Bailey | September 2, 2008

    [9] CERN?s Dr. Ellis tells only half of the story – (2008)

    [10] An agument for caution, risk mitigation and an open independent and credible safety conference before high energy collisions begin.

    [11] Particle Accelerators, CERN, and Doomsday. Prof Shahn Majid (2008)

    [12] CERN wins battle at Wikipedia, LHC history scrubbed, TWO MOSQUITOES

  • James Blodgett

    Mark says I am wrong. I have citations for each sentence. I tried to post them, repeating each sentence and listing the citations that back it up. I kept getting the error message: “Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!” apparently because I am quoting things I said earlier. I sent my post to an administrator. Perhaps it can be posted by hand.

    There may be crackpots associated with collider concerns, but those concerns are not all crackpot. It was questionable for collider advocates to predict black hole production, and posit for a safety factor a Hawking radiation questioned in the literature. The collider/cosmic ray analogy was also questionable, Mangano was willing to question it. If we are looking for a high level of safety, as is appropriate when earth is at stake, the safety factors provided before Gidding and Mangano were not the high level of safety that we deserve.

    The issue goes beyond colliders. There are several areas of science and technology that may pose risks. We need a protocol for consideration of such things. Crackpotism is not helpful, but neither is hubris on the part of scientists who state that “nothing can possibly go wrong” without careful consideration.

  • none of the above

    James Blodgett on Sep 17th, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    “There are several areas of science and technology that may pose risks. We need a protocol for consideration of such things.”

    You’re right about that. The problem is that you undermine the argument for such protocols when you take a case where such protocols have been carefully followed [twice!], such as the studies of LHC safety, and choose to ignore the thorough careful studies that have gone into them, in favour of the “star-trek” fashionable [but completely nonsensical] alarmism that a handful of people [and at least one serial litigator] have been perpetrating on the internet.

  • Jim Wright

    As noted in the post Walter L. Wagner is a crank.

    But it’s far worse than that, Walter L. Wagner is a complete and total fraud, and dangerously mentally ill. He is not now, nor ever has been, a “Doctor” of any kind. He is not a lawyer, and the details of his ‘law’ education are disturbing to an astounding degree. His not a doctor of physics of any kind – and the most he can point to is some undergrad coursework in general physics and some time as a minor lab tech. He’s been convicted of disturbing crimes, and is currently under indictment for embezzlement in Hawaii. Every single thing this man has claimed is a complete and total fabrication and a construct of his disturbed mind.

    Confirmed and validated details can be found at the following links:

    Stonekettle Station

    Refugees from the City – The original post which turned the baleful eye of the UCF blogger community on Wagner in the first place and where Wagner’s and Tankersley’s (jtankers) credentials are soundly debunked in the comments thread.

    Refugees from the City Where wagner’s so called science is debunked and James Bloggett gets handed his ass and change.

    The blog of Siram a summary of the events.

    and finally a detailed examination of Wagner’s law career can be found here along with the most damning evidence regarding Wagner yet.

    Note all of these blogs are linked together are part of the UCF online community. Both Wagner and jtankers have construed this to mean that we are involved in some sort of conspiracy to cloud their ‘message.’ Make of it what you will.

    Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

    <a href=”


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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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