GENEVA, Sept 20 (Xinhua) — The atom-smasher designed to probe into the origins of the universe was forced to shut down for two months after a helium leak, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said Saturday.

    Preliminary investigation showed that the possible cause of Friday’s helium leak into the tunnel on the Swiss-French border, where the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) machine was located, is a faulty electrical connection between two magnets.

    “A full investigation is underway but it is already clear that the sector will have to be warmed up for repairs to take place. This implies a minimum of two months down time,” said CERN.

    “Strict safety regulations ensured that at no time was there any risk to people,” it said.

    The atom-smashing machine, which began its operation last Wednesday under minus 271.3 degrees Celsius, was built to simulate the conditions of the “Big Bang” that recreated the universe.

Via Xinhua.


While the rest of you are worrying about punks like Ahmadinejad, scientists are arguing about whether a lab experiment will result in the Earth being swallowed by a Black Hole:

MEYRIN, Switzerland (AP) — The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.

But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists’ wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth?

Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?

Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN — some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC.

“Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on,” said project leader Lyn Evans.

David Francis, a physicist on the collider’s huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets.

“If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here,” he said.

The collider basically consists of a ring of supercooled magnets 17 miles in circumference attached to huge barrel-shaped detectors. The ring, which straddles the French and Swiss border, is buried 330 feet underground.

The machine, which has been called the largest scientific experiment in history, isn’t expected to begin test runs until August, and ramping up to full power could take months. But once it is working, it is expected to produce some startling findings.

Scientists plan to hunt for signs of the invisible “dark matter” and “dark energy” that make up more than 96 percent of the universe, and hope to glimpse the elusive Higgs boson, a so-far undiscovered particle thought to give matter its mass.

The collider could find evidence of extra dimensions, a boon for superstring theory, which holds that quarks, the particles that make up atoms, are infinitesimal vibrating strings.

The theory could resolve many of physics‘ unanswered questions, but requires about 10 dimensions — far more than the three spatial dimensions our senses experience.

The safety of the collider, which will generate energies seven times higher than its most powerful rival, at Fermilab near Chicago, has been debated for years. The physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million — long odds, to be sure, but about the same as winning some lotteries.

By contrast, a CERN team this month issued a report concluding that there is “no conceivable danger” of a cataclysmic event. The report essentially confirmed the findings of a 2003 CERN safety report, and a panel of five prominent scientists not affiliated with CERN, including one Nobel laureate, endorsed its conclusions.

Critics of the LHC filed a lawsuit in a Hawaiian court in March seeking to block its startup, alleging that there was “a significant risk that … operation of the Collider may have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet.”

One of the plaintiffs, Walter L. Wagner, a physicist and lawyer, said Wednesday CERN’s safety report, released June 20, “has several major flaws,” and his views on the risks of using the particle accelerator had not changed.

On Tuesday, U.S. Justice Department lawyers representing the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The two agencies have contributed $531 million to building the collider, and the NSF has agreed to pay $87 million of its annual operating costs. Hundreds of American scientists will participate in the research.

The lawyers called the plaintiffs’ allegations “extraordinarily speculative,” and said “there is no basis for any conceivable threat” from black holes or other objects the LHC might produce. A hearing on the motion is expected in late July or August.

In rebutting doomsday scenarios, CERN scientists point out that cosmic rays have been bombarding the earth, and triggering collisions similar to those planned for the collider, since the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

And so far, Earth has survived.

“The LHC is only going to reproduce what nature does every second, what it has been doing for billions of years,” said John Ellis, a British theoretical physicist at CERN.

Critics like Wagner have said the collisions caused by accelerators could be more hazardous than those of cosmic rays.

Both may produce micro black holes, subatomic versions of cosmic black holes — collapsed stars whose gravity fields are so powerful that they can suck in planets and other stars.

But micro black holes produced by cosmic ray collisions would likely be traveling so fast they would pass harmlessly through the earth.

Micro black holes produced by a collider, the skeptics theorize, would move more slowly and might be trapped inside the earth’s gravitational field — and eventually threaten the planet.

Ellis said doomsayers assume that the collider will create micro black holes in the first place, which he called unlikely. And even if they appeared, he said, they would instantly evaporate, as predicted by the British physicist Stephen Hawking.

As for strangelets, CERN scientists point out that they have never been proven to exist. They said that even if these particles formed inside the Collider they would quickly break down.

When the LHC is finally at full power, two beams of protons will race around the huge ring 11,000 times a second in opposite directions. They will travel in two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space.

Their trajectory will be curved by supercooled magnets — to guide the beams around the rings and prevent the packets of protons from cutting through the surrounding magnets like a blowtorch.

The paths of these beams will cross, and a few of the protons in them will collide, at a series of cylindrical detectors along the ring. The two largest detectors are essentially huge digital cameras, each weighing thousands of tons, capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.

Each year the detectors will generate 15 petabytes of data, the equivalent of a stack of CDs 12 miles tall. The data will require a high speed global network of computers for analysis.

Wagner and others filed a lawsuit to halt operation of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state in 1999. The courts dismissed the suit.

The leafy campus of CERN, a short drive from the shores of Lake Geneva, hardly seems like ground zero for doomsday. And locals don’t seem overly concerned. Thousands attended an open house here this spring.

“There is a huge army of scientists who know what they are talking about and are sleeping quite soundly as far as concerns the LHC,” said project leader Evans.

Via CNN.  I’m fine with this whole thing — except for that last part about a “huge army of scientists.”  That’s almost as scary as swarms of shape-shifting micro-robots.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, November 13 (RIA Novosti) – Cult followers in central Russia’s Penza Region have dug a shelter, stocked it with food and are waiting for the apocalypse, which they say is due in May 2008, a local prosecutor said on Tuesday.

A total of 29 sect members, including four children, of the so-called True Russian Orthodox church have moved into the shelter, which contains underground wells, a kitchen, monastic cells and other facilities. They wrote a letter to local authorities saying they had gone underground of their own free will.

“The inhabitants of the underground shelter have threatened to set themselves on fire if forced out,” Alevtina Volchkova said, adding that a criminal investigation has been launched against the sect leader, who calls himself Father Pyotr.

He is likely to undergo a psychiatric examination and will face up to three years in prison if found guilty of infringement of his followers’ rights. The prosecutor also said all the cult members are from other Russian regions or former Soviet countries, and some have breached Russian laws.

Full article here.

Walker Percy, in his novel Love in the Ruins, describes an apocalyptic America in which the Gross National Product continues to rise, yet the war with Ecuador has gone horribly awry, terrorized Middle-Class citizens wax nostalgically about the defunct Auto Age, and the political landscape has devolved from earnest ideological debate, to snarky verbal assault to out-and-out violence and social fracture:

These are bad times.

Principalities and powers are everywhere victorious. Wickedness flourishes in high places.

… Americans have turned against each other; race against race, right against left, believer against heathen, San Francisco against Los Angeles, Chicago against Cicero. Vines sprout in sections of New York where not even Negroes will live. Wolves have been seen in downtown Cleveland, like Rome during the Black Plague. Some Southern states have established diplomatic ties with Rhodesia. Minnesota and Oregon have their own consulates in Sweden (where so many deserters from these states dwell).

I am as optimistic an observer of pessimistic, apocalyptic reflexes as they come, but even I, I must admit, feel the welts begin to pop upon my temples when I see, for the umpteenth time in the space of a few breaths, more news about the recall of toys made in China. Aqua Dots laced with date rape chemicals, lead-smeared faces on plush Curious George dolls, lead-smeared pull-and-release toy cars, lead-smeared kids’ fashion sunglasses … they jump out as scary, Percine portents of America’s impending doom, don’t they? Or is it just me?

The vines began to sprout in earnest a couple of months ago. People do not like to talk about it. For some reason, they’d much rather talk about the atrocities that have been occurring ever more often: entire families murdered in their beds for no reason. “The work of a madman!” people exclaim.

If you’re looking for signs of the apocalypse, look, as Percy’s Dr. Thomas More does, at the little signs, like new white ivy vines sprouting through the country club bar and grabbing hold of a bottle of Southern Comfort, or the Virginia creeper overtaking the $500 lead statue of Saint Francis that his wife had ordered from Hammacher-Schlemmer. Or that weak, sickly grin on poor Curious George.  If you’re looking …

If anyone needs me, I’ll be drinking bootleg fizzes today.

… China made a move towards Chinese Religion. Seeing that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are now leading the world into Nuclear World War III, The Apocalypse, China seems to be saying, “Hey wait, our religions don’t lead to the Apocalypse.”

… At the six nation summit, Pan Yue, of China’s Environmental Protection Agency quoted from his recent article in “The Western Confucian”, in which he wrote that China’s Religions held the key to world peace and solving China’s environmental crisis. Pan Yue wrote,

“From the Taoist view of the Tao reflecting nature, to the Confucian idea of humans and nature becoming one, to the Buddhist belief that all living things are equal, Chinese Religion has helped our culture to survive for thousands of years. Chinese Religion can be a powerful weapon in preventing an environmental crisis and building a peaceful harmonious society.”

Full article here.

While the mainstream media continues to debate the merits of allowing Iran’s Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia and whether he gained points on us, in the final analysis … the ‘net is buzzing about Ahmadinejad’s messianic message:

This will sound alarming. A literal reading of Ahmadi-Nejad’s UN address suggests that he is predicting a total war coming soon.

The key is in his invocation and his conclusion. Normal official communications by Muslims start with, “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” A’jad followed that formula immediately with:

“Oh God, hasten the arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attend to his rightfulness.” [italics in the official Iranian version]

Sounds like a pretty standard invocation, but it’s not. It is a specific call for the Shiite Messiah, who will bring a final holy war, the final jihad, which in the Khomeini cult implies all-out war with the infidels to bring about the Millenarian Age of Paradise on Earth. (For Khomeini, the term “infidels” includes Sunni Muslims, who do not recognize the Mahdi). That is why Khomeini started the nuclear program twenty years ago, and why it has been pushed consistently by all the major cult leaders.

A’jad put the message explicitly in his peroration, i.e., his summary and conclusion.

“I officially declare that the age of relations arising from the Second World War as well as materialistic thought based on arrogance and domination is now over.” (italics added)

Translation: The West, and particularly the United States, emerged dominant after World War Two. Israel declared independence in 1948. The dominance of the West is now over.

A’jad’s use of the phrase “I officially declare” indicates how he views himself as Allah’s representative on earth; a very common paranoid fantasy, but one that is taught by the Khomeini cult as part of its explicit doctrine. Cult members who are otherwise quite sane can believe such things (as in the Rev. Jim Jones’ suicide cult following.)

Full article here.  Rev. Jim Jones?  That begs the question: have Ahmadinejad’s own countrymen gotten around to drinking the Kool-Aid?  Some say no:

… Mr. Ahmadinejad has nothing like Hitler’s power. He never replied to my second question: “Who really makes foreign and security policy in Iran?” Those decisions aren’t his, but are made by Iran’s supreme clerical leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s popularity is dropping at home because he hasn’t delivered on economic promises (although insults hurled at him in America may boost his standing). Many observers think he will lose in 2009 elections.

Frustrating he is, because his rhetoric inflames tensions and gives ammo to politicians who want military action. But Hitler he is not.

Full column, by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Trudy Rubin, here.

A 91-year old Roman Catholic bishop who was present when Pope John XXIII received the so-called “Third Secret of Fatima” in a sealed envelope says conspiracy theorists are all wet when they claim that the secret tells of the final days of the Earth.

The only surviving witness to a decades-long conspiracy theory has firmly denied the Catholic Church is hiding details about a predicted apocalypse.

Archbishop Loris Capovilla, 91, said there was no truth in the rumour that the Vatican was suppressing a vision of the end of the world.

The vision said to have been revealed 90 years ago by the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children on a hillside at Fatima in Portugal.

The three “Secrets of Fatima” were written down by one of the children, Lucia Dos Santos, who later became a nun.

Two of the secrets were revealed by the nun in 1941.

The first was a vision of hell, while the second apparently predicted the two world wars and the return of Russia from communism to Christianity.

The third secret, which was sent to Pope John XXIII in a sealed envelope in 1959, was only revealed by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The Vatican said it referred to an assassination attempt on the pope in 1981 by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca.

However, many Catholics suspected that parts of the secret were not disclosed in order to avoid panic about the apocalypse.

The rumours swelled when the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, gave an interview in 1984 suggesting that the secret concerned “the dangers threatening the faith and life of Christianity, and therefore the world. And also the importance of our ultimate days”.

He added that the “things contained in this third secret correspond to what is announced in the Scripture.”

Full article here.

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