Judge: Man Can't Sue Over LHC's Potential "Destruction of the Earth"

By Joseph Calamia | August 27, 2010 12:48 pm

large-hadron-colliderBack in 2008, a Hawaiian fellow named Walter Wagner claimed the Large Hadron Collider’s hunt for the Higgs boson would end in apocalypse, and sued to stop the collider from going online. His suit was soon dismissed by a federal judge, but with the fate of the world on the line, Wagner kept trying.

Now an appellate judge for the United States District Court in Hawaii has foiled Wagner again by knocking down his appeal, as Symmetry reports. The judge found that Wagner failed to show “credible threat of harm” and also noted that the United States doesn’t control the collider, which spans the border of Switzerland and France:

The European Center for Nuclear Research (“CERN”) proposed and constructed the Collider, albeit with some U.S. government support. The U.S. government enjoys only observer status on the CERN council, and has no control over CERN or its operations. Accordingly, the alleged injury, destruction of the earth, is in no way attributable to the U.S. government’s failure to draft an environmental impact statement.

This isn’t Wagner’s first run-in with particle physics. In 1999 he got worried about the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) that was then under construction, and wrote a letter to Scientific American regarding the chance that the machine could create a black hole that would swallow up Long Island–followed by the planet. Although Nobel Laureate Franck Wilcek published a response in the magazine declaring that scenario unlikely, he just happened to mention world-devouring particles called strangelets as a more likely but still very unlikely possibility, adding to Wagner’s panic and fueling a worldwide fiasco (pdf) of misrepresented science and ignorance.

Wagner failed to stop the RHIC, and Brookhaven, with Wilcek’s help, published the charmingly-named report “Review of ‘Speculative Disaster Scenarios’ at RHIC” (pdf) detailing how the collider would not bring about the apocalypse. The LHC has a similar report spelling out why the collider will not kill us with microscopic black holes, strangelets, vacuum bubbles, or magnetic monopoles.

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Image: CERN

  • Nemesis

    Good thing he didn’t prevail. That could have opened the door for a storm of frivolous, technology-opposing lawsuits.
    Can I sue a government for its possession of nuclear arms?

  • Bill

    Loons like Wagner should be hospitalized for their own protection.

  • http://Untitledvanityproject.blogspot.com Rhacodactylus

    The only thing better than an uneducated dimwit is an uneducated dimwit with a lawyer.

  • tin008

    Idiot. He must have read the book called “LHC for dummies”, edited by the catholic church.
    I’m surprised he didn’t face the judge with a pitchfork in one hand and the bible in the other.

  • http://kestalusrealm.wordpress.com/ Troythulu

    OMCC! Is this guy ever gonna get a clue that he needs to maintain his treatment plan and take his meds? He sounds like it. And it’s unfortunate that he’s encouraging delusional thinking in others as well. Sad…very sad. As a first-time commenter and long-time lurker on this blog, good post, Phil.

  • Daviticus

    @tinoo8: Uhh, Catholic Church? Bible? Where’d it say that Wagner was even religious? It says he’s Hawaiian, so I pictured him as a hippie, but that’s just my bias.

    One thing’s for sure…he’s an idiot.

  • shadegem

    @Daviticus, I think he was making a comment based on how often religious groups, such as the catholic church, dispute science when they can’t, or refuse to, understand it in the past. Think of how Galileo was killed because he proved through logic and obsevervations of other planets that the earth was not in the center of the solar system. And then there are Creationalists, of which I don’t mean to affend, who refuse to think of the world as more than a few thousand years old dispite all the evidence saying otherwise.
    Anyway, the guy definitely is an idiot for just pushing aside the explainations by experts that the LHC won’t destroy the world. They’re experts for a reason.

  • http://LHCFacts.org JTankers

    Reasonable people can differ on the merits of Wagner’s case, but he is no idiot.
    Wagner is one of the smartest people I know (he once received the highest math score on California’s CBEST test – no surprise to me).

    The scientific arguments on both sides are sound. Wagner is arguing only for caution, and arguing that the science is un-settled, unknown with certainty. Here he is clearly correct I believe.

    Like the famous saying “Physicists are often wrong, but seldom in doubt”.

  • Otto E. Rossler

    See it the other way: This judge deserves the greatest respect on the part of the whole of humanity. Imagine you were in his place: would you have had the courage to take it all on your own shoulders?
    In the textbooks of the future – as long as the latter exists – this man will have a permanent position. Every politician and every human citizen will from now on know who is responsible for what happens.
    Otto E. Rossler, University of Tubingen, Austrian citizen

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Good one. Next he will go after medicine companies who develops antibiotics, because clearly experimenting with things that have evolutionary effects will not only make superbugs but superbeings that will replace man. You have been duly warned! :-D

    Wagner is one of the smartest people I know (he once received the highest math score on California’s CBEST test – no surprise to me).

    Which, if true (refs please!) in no way means that he knows anything about science or have the competence needed to make a sound analysis in it. Quite the reverse, intelligent people have more resources to fool themselves and others.

    And it is easy to dig up (the) dirt on Wagner. HT Astroengine: Wagner “is a public safety crusader” that also lives on scaremongering for ceramic tiles as “radioactive”, not surprisingly again against all expertise on the matter.

    In 2008 he and his wife was ” indicted … on charges of first-degree identity theft and attempted first-degree theft”: “The indictment alleges that Walter L. Wagner and his wife, Linda M. Wagner, used deception to gain control of property worth more than $20,000 belonging to World Botanical Gardens … [earlier] disputes resulted in civil judgments of more than $900,000 against the Wagners and two other people”.

    So he is a clever scam artist that makes a good living on it. (Or not, as he is so easily found out.) Nothing new or unexpected, the world is filled with them.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ OER:

    Um, you do know that the judge is neither technically or practically responsible, I hope? Sure, people will confuse the matter, but the judge did his job and that is what he will eventually be judged on.

    [Also, the idea that anyone will “know who is responsible for what happens” after a catastrophe that wipes out the planet is hilarious. Good one! :-D]

  • Dirk Hus
  • Sheldon Cooper

    Bazinga!

  • scri

    Well tankers, you believe his man to be intelligent? Then can you explain to me why he doesn’t understand that US courts don’t have jurisdiction over Switzerland?

  • Caboose

    @scri depending on who you ask, there are a number of Americans who think that they have jurisdiction anywhere and everywhere (not trying to start an argument).

    I’m glad that this guy finally got shut up (for now at least). I for one, can’t wait to read the results of the LHC

  • http://www.thetechstop.net Fr. Robert

    @tin008,

    “Idiot. He must have read the book called “LHC for dummies”, edited by the catholic church.
    I’m surprised he didn’t face the judge with a pitchfork in one hand and the bible in the other.”

    That’s interesting… considering the fact that a Jesuit Priest (Catholic) is one of the physicists who designed and will be running the LHC. — Oh, and there’s that pesky little Jesuit Priest,Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaîtr, who first proposed the Big Bang theory of the universe that the LHC is trying to prove.

    Hmmm… but I guess if YOU write that the Catholic Church is anti-science, you must be right.
    .
    Peace,
    Fr. Robert

  • http://keithloh.com/drupal Keith Loh

    Wagner needs to give up this fight to save the world from destruction and instead channel his energies into building an escape rocket for his son. Then when our planet finally explodes, at least his son will be safe. I suggest aiming it at another solar system where that sun’s energies could possibly give his son superpowers.

  • G Hunt

    This guy may or may not be an idiot and conman – who has the time to really care. However a legitimate concern over the actions of scientist pushing the boundaries of known science is hardly foolhardy. Science has an atrociuos record of policing itself and acting responsibly – lets see a few examples: killer bees escaping labs, open air nuclear testing exposing millions to radiation, injecting plutonium into unknowing soldiers to test the affects, GMO foods cross polinating into the wild, etc…. You all are idiots for your arrogance and ridicule. Likely nothing will happen from the Hadron experiments, however such condescension is the problem with the pursuit of science today. A little humbleness and caution would benefit us all.

  • Katharine

    G Hunt, you’re a moron.

    “Science has an atrociuos record of policing itself and acting responsibly – lets see a few examples: killer bees escaping labs, open air nuclear testing exposing millions to radiation, injecting plutonium into unknowing soldiers to test the affects, GMO foods cross polinating into the wild, etc…. You all are idiots for your arrogance and ridicule.”

    This is an example of human stupidity, not problems of science. You’re confusing individual members of the scientific community who did very bad things, who make up a minority of us in the scientific community whom the rest of us ridicule(by the way, GMO foods are mostly not bad – ever heard of Golden Rice? Also, you’re going to have to provide citations for the killer bees. The plutonium exposure was commanded by the US government under the aegis of the Manhattan Project; I have no idea if they got the consent of the people who took the plutonium, but this was ultimately the government’s idea.

    Your argument sucks.

  • Katharine

    ““Idiot. He must have read the book called “LHC for dummies”, edited by the catholic church.
    I’m surprised he didn’t face the judge with a pitchfork in one hand and the bible in the other.”

    That’s interesting… considering the fact that a Jesuit Priest (Catholic) is one of the physicists who designed and will be running the LHC. — Oh, and there’s that pesky little Jesuit Priest,Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaîtr, who first proposed the Big Bang theory of the universe that the LHC is trying to prove.

    Hmmm… but I guess if YOU write that the Catholic Church is anti-science, you must be right.”

    Robert (I refuse to use your religious title; I do not recognize it), it took you folks HOW LONG to forgive Galileo and acknowledge he was right (oh, and let’s not forget about that little debacle regarding Giordano Bruno) and acknowledge evolution?

    No, seriously, you let your imaginary friend either prevent or delay your ability to accept the data and the conclusions garnered from them. It’s pathetic.

  • Thomas Andrew

    @G Hunt. Your arrogance is no less, to paint all of science with the same brush.

  • G. Hunt

    Katharin wrote: “G Hunt, you’re a moron.”
    She wrote in response to my examples of science gone astray: “This is an example of human stupidity, not problems of science. You’re confusing individual members of the scientific community who did very bad things…” She says this is “human stupidity, not problems of science” – as if science occurs without human involvement. It is purely a human endeavor – her statement is meaningless.
    Katharine says: “(by the way, GMO foods are mostly not bad – ever heard of Golden Rice?” I respond has Katharine ever heard of round up ready corn or soybeans? From sourcewatch.org: “…”Roundup Ready” crops have been genetically engineered to permit direct, “over the top” application of the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate allowing farmers to drench both their crops and crop land with the herbicide so as to be able to kill nearby weeds…” The result being residue of their roundup herbicide makes it into our food supply with unintended health consequences and there is a growing plague of weeds now resistant to roundup due to unexpected cross polination (only unexpected by the scientist – not by their detractors).
    Katharine says, “Also, you’re going to have to provide citations for the killer bees.” I can’t believe Katharine is so ill informed – this is common knowledge: from wikipedia though readily available everywhere, “The Africanized honey bee in the western hemisphere descended from 26 Tanzanian queen bees (A. m. scutellata) accidentally released by a replacement bee-keeper in 1957 near Uberlândia, Minas Gerais state in the southeast of Brazil from hives operated by biologist Warwick E. Kerr, who had interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa” This is admitted carelessness in protocol and safeguards for which now we suffer with more aggressive and less productive bees that have killed many.

    Katharine wrote, “The plutonium exposure was commanded by the US government under the aegis of the Manhattan Project; I have no idea if they got the consent of the people who took the plutonium, but this was ultimately the government’s idea.” Again – common knowledge for anyone remotely informed. No there was no consent. It was the government’s idea she says. The government refers to politicians and bureaucrats – it was scientists working for and following the orders of government who built the bombs, tested them in open air, and secretly tested them on unknowing soldiers and the public without consent, but they have no culpability since it was the “government’s idea.” I guess Katharine feels Hitler’s Nazis were innocent too since they were just following orders of their government.
    I find it hard to believe Katharine is a scientist as she implies – and if she is God help us all.

  • x

    never mind

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