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Nov 6, 2011

Eminent physicists who dismiss LHC conspiracy theories — 1

Posted by in category: physics

I thought I would offer a series of quotes to counter the codswallop frequently expressed here — suggesting that mainstream physicists have genuine concerns about the safety of the LHC.

So, here’s one:

“The operation of the LHC is safe, not only in the old sense of that word, but in the more general sense that our most qualified scientists have thoroughly considered and analyzed the risks involved in the operation of the LHC. [Any concerns] are merely hypothetical and speculative, and contradicted by much evidence and scientific analysis.

Prof. Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Boston University,

Prof. Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Prof. Richard Wilson, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Harvard University.

(from http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/lhc/safety-en.html).


Steve Nerlich (Space Settlement Board member and Death-by-LHC skeptic)

12

Comments — comments are now closed.

  • Ed Sweet on November 6, 2011 5:14 am

    Steve,

    Interesting post. Keep up the good work!

    While I agree that the LHC poses no danger (in spite of Rossler’s papers and other stuff cited in endless detail by the anti-LHC crowd), I have to admit that the I am starting to get fascinated by the sociology of the whole anti-LHC web controversy.

    Seems to be similar to other web conspiracy theories. You have critics and devoted supporters, and a general lack of anybody outside the small group involved even paying any attention. You have people getting worked up about things so esoteric that most people don’t even know what they are.

    Why are some people so passionately convinced that the LHC will destroy the Earth? Why does Otto Rossler keep making post after post, in spite of the fact that his equations were seemingly refuted by a number of web posters, and the fact that CERN just does not care? Why do no actual physicists take this whole thing seriously enough to even post comments here?

    Are there any actual physicists involved in this whole discussion? Were there any actual physicists involved in the German version of this controversy, on the Achtphasen blog? I don’t understand German very well…

    Are there any actual physicists who think that the LHC will destroy the Earth? I am certainly not convinced…while not a physicist, I am quite familiar with writing and reviewing technical papers, and find the relevant math and concepts quite easy to follow.

  • jtankers on November 6, 2011 6:35 am

    Hello Mr. Sweet,

    I think you may find law professor Eric Johnson’s sociological insight into this issue as fascinating as I did in his 5 part thesis Black Holes and the Law [1]. Dr. Johnson does not take sides, but he includes this insightful quote:

    “serious reprisals and negative repercussions for their careers if they were to speak out about perceived dangers of the LHC. Denial of tenure, unaccepted manuscripts, and ostracism by peers are among the penalties an academic in such a situation might plausibly face.“

    [1] Culture and Inscrutable Science, Dr. Eric Johnson, Assistant Professor of Law (24 Oct 2008) http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/10/culture-and-ins.html

  • Ed Sweet on November 6, 2011 8:17 am

    Thanks, Mr. Tankers,

    Looks like an interesting article.

  • Missionman on November 7, 2011 2:43 am

    Ed,

    You are raising some questions that are of general interest, so I thought I through in my cents based on almost 3 years of observation of (and partly active participation in) the discussion. Your three questions need to be looked at almost holistically:

    “Are there any actual physicists involved in this whole discussion?”
    “Were there any actual physicists involved in the German version of this controversy, on the Achtphasen blog?”
    “Are there any actual physicists who think that the LHC will destroy the Earth?”

    First, no physicists are involved on the side of the critics. This also answers your last question, as there is not a single physicist who thinks (or argues) that Cern will destroy the earth. And this is an interesting observation. Let’s have a look, who some of the main characters of this play are:

    Otto Roessler: a medical doctor with no education in physics.
    Walter Wagner: well, certainly not a physicist, maybe a lawyer (however the facts are till unclear, see here: http://shouldersofgiantmidgets.blogspot.com/2008/10/return-of-radiation-man.html)
    Luis Sancho: a self acclaimed “system scientist”, whatever that is

    The “achtphasen” discussion was mainly driven by:
    Marc Fasnacht: an “artist”, who has never seen a university from the inside
    Rudolf Uebbing: a retired engineer
    Alf Pretzell: a student of bio-physics (the closest they could find for claiming to be a physicist)

    On the other hand, many physicists and other scientist have taken side of Cern – not only the ones working there. The most popular seems to be Prof. Nicolai, whose arguments have been dismissed by Roessler without any proof (something you can observe on this board as well, he just states “That’s wrong” and requests that everyone follows him!).

    http://www.ketweb.de/stellungnahmen/20080730_Antwort_von_Pro…iulini.pdf

    Also you could look up Prof. Bruhns comments; he killed Roessler’s arguments, and despite his claims, Roessler has never answered the falsification or corrected any of his errors

    http://www.mathematik.tu-darmstadt.de/~bruhn/CommRoesslerPaper.html

    There are many more. Many of the people discussing here and elsewhere against Roessler’s campaign are in fact physicists. This btw includes me; I got my PhD at Cern about 17 years ago. I am not working as a physicist anymore, but still understand enough to easily see the flaws in Roessler’s (and others) arguments.

    Now you may ask, as Roessler does, why the anonymity? The answer is easy: Roessler is mobbing, if not threatening, everyone who is not joining his “cult”. I had some very interesting discussions with scientist who publicly stood up against Roessler. Roessler has been bombarding them with emails, letters and calls, their secretaries had to listen to tirades of screaming and wishing them hell. Some were close to getting a restraining order. Roessler is not a nice man (as he wants you to believe). So this is why we remain anonymous to Roessler.

    Also please keep in mind that scientists working at Cern have received death threads, and on achtphasen.net; Marc Fasnacht called for physical and military force against Cern (http://www.achtphasen.net/index.php/kunst/2008/07/09/heute_i…ie_ganze_c). So it is understandable that there is some protection necessary.

    Ed, I hope that helps.

    Best,
    Missionman

  • Hansel on November 7, 2011 11:50 am

    “he just states “That’s wrong” and requests that everyone follows him!).”

    This behavior is in fact pure dogmatism with the dogma “Rössler is right because he can not say anything wrong”

    so the Rössler-followers are in fact the real true and blind believers as they never ask any questions about the obvious flaws and inconsistencies in Rösslers “papers”

  • Hansel on November 7, 2011 11:58 am

    For example if guys like Houston would pick words in Rösslers “papers” like they are doing with the CERN-papers, they normally should ask more questions, for example about Rösslers probabilities. It is very strange that no one of this true believers never asked himself why Rössler was proposing so many different values wihtout giving any kind of derivation. There were 16, 8, 3, now 4% and no one from this group was ever asking how these values are derived.

    True believers, really.

  • Robert Houston on November 7, 2011 11:20 pm

    Prof. Rossler gave the basis for his risk estimates in several papers, which Hansel apparently never bothered to read.

    Since CERN and the LHC represent the future of particle physics and many of its career opportunities, physicists have been eager to endorse the safety of the LHC. Obviously, Steve Nerlich could subject us to a long series of such quoted endorsements, since most physicists have joined the CERN bandwagon. Those who are impressed by such self-serving pronouncements might also have been impressed in the mid-20th century by all the distinguished physicians who attested to the safety of cigarettes — now estimated by the AMA to cause 400,000 deaths yearly in the USA.

    Ed Sweet asks, “Why are some people so passionately convinced that the LHC will destroy the Earth?” Name one. Nobody knows for sure that it could — or could not — do so. The LHC critics have made it clear that they are concerned about the RISK that it might. We call for caution, prudence and outside multi-disciplinary safety reviews — not just the feel-good reassurances from CERN employees and friends. At present, the LHC is operating with no outside regulation or oversight, such as would be required for any nuclear plant.

    Dr. Missionman claims that “no physicists are involved on the side of the critics.” This is incorrect, for the critics of large collider projects such as the LHC have included a number of Ph.D. physicists, such as German government physicist Rainer Plaga, Ph.D., long with the Max Planck Inst. for Physics; theoretical physicist Adrian Kent, Ph.D. of Cambridge Univ.,; Francisco Calogero, Prof. of Physics, Univ. of Rome; physicist Rafaela Hillerbrand, Ph.D. of Oxford Univ. to name a few. For a well-documented review of their critiques and others, see “Critical Revision of LHC Risks” — available at http://www.lhc-concern.info/ . For the testimony and papers of two dozen CERN scientists that strangelets — including the dangerous, planet-threatening kind — might be produced at the LHC, see the review paper at HeavyIonAlert.org: “How CERN’s documents contradict its safety assurances.”

    In fact, two of the physicists quoted by Steve Nerlich once wrote, “A new-born strangelet could engulf atomic nuclei, growing relentlessly and ultimately consuming the entire Earth” (S.L. Glashow and R. Wilson, Nature 402::596, 1999.

  • Hansel on November 8, 2011 12:51 am

    No, Houston, there is nothing like a rational derivation of any of this values. They are made up from nothing.

    Perhapos you should start to learn critical thinking.

    For example I have asked Rössler several times for data, calculations for these values. There was never an answer.

    So now the 3% are used up, he will go to 4%, again without any justification from data, calculations, modelling or something else that would at least look scientific. Instead he blocks any questions, avoids to answer them and expects that everyone should believe him blindly.

  • Steve Nerlich on November 8, 2011 1:35 am

    Robert,

    What is ‘the CERN bandwagon’? Why is the European LHC your target instead of (for example) the US relativistic heavy ion collider. What has CERN got to do with a concern supposedly based on physics.

    You guys switch from ‘OMG we are all going to die’ — to ‘oh well there’s still a teeny-tiny risk that no-one can completely rule out’ as soon as anyone challenges you to justify your claims.

  • Robert Houston on November 8, 2011 10:54 pm

    Steve asks, “What is ‘the CERN bandwagon’?” As an Australian he perhaps is unfamiliar with this American term, which I used in the sense of a popular cause attracting support. About 10,000 physicists take part in CERN’s LHC experiments. with 2,250 employed on site. Many more are supporters for, as Nature put it (3/24/2010), “The LHC carries the hopes of generations of physicists…”

    He also asked why the LHC is the target instead of the RHIC collider in New York. Safety skeptics did file lawsuits in 1999 against BNL to block the start-up of RHIC, as was noted in Steve’s Wiki article. These were both dismissed, but the BNL director did convene a panel to produce a safety report. Their draft was heavily critiqued by Cambridge physicist Adrian Kent and partly revised as a result.

    CERN scientists have pointed out the difference of the LHC and RHIC: “Pb-Pb collisions with the LHC will have an energy 28 times that of Au-Au collisions studied at RHIC. With this huge increase in energy a wealth of new phenomena is almost assured. Because of the much larger mass number, Pb-Pb events can be expected to show exotic phenomena that is beyond the reach of cosmic rays” (from Abs: E. Norbeck et al. Int J Mod Physics 16:2451–56, 2007). See:

    As I challenged Ed Sweet, name one guy who claimed “OMG we are all going to die” from the LHC. The risk may be “teeny-tiny” or huge but was never quantified by CERN, which had no risk assessment experts on its safety panels. Since all its safety rationales have been shown to contain holes, even by CERN’s own analysts, there may be no adequate basis for calculating the risk.

    Moreover, even a tiny risk may be far too great when the world is at stake. As physicist Adrian Kent of Cambridge concluded in regard to colliders, “a catastrophe risk no greater than approximately 10^−15 per year would be required for consistency with established policy for radiation hazard risk minimization” (Kent, Risk Analysis 24:157, 2004). That’s 1 in 1000 trillion!
    (Abs: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15028008 )

  • AnthonyL on November 9, 2011 7:32 am

    Ed Sweet responds to Steve’s Post by saying “Interesting post. Keep up the good work!”

    Thus ignorance cheers on ignorance. Why is this? — why is it that if someone, anyone, not necessarily the distinguished Steve, writes a post of this kind, quoting bemedaled generals of physics, or any field, supporting their shared wisdom to the effect that the public need not worry, all is in good hands, etc etc, another lay person will gleefully cheer them on for confirming their own delight in believing and supporting the pronouncements and wisdom peddled by the top brass, and condemning the questions raised by the whistleblowers?

    Is this not the teacher’s pet syndrome, well known to all in high school
    as a frequent phenomenon seen in adolescence, but usually put aside in adult life, especially by those whom education has taught to think for themselves, which is the primary purpose of all good education, and not stuffing the mind with received wisdom, which is then all the student knows ever afterwards?

    What is the emotional motivation for this syndrome, as it lingers on among superannuated adolescents later in life? Is it not the anxiety which lies under the need for reassurance, a fear of the dark chasm which lies before us if we admit that the people who run things do not know what they are talking about/doing, and are leading us to a very alarming cliff edge?

    As in Wall Street during the 200s, culminating in the collapse of 2008, which is still smoking and not yet finished crumbling, it seems, judging from Greece and Italy and Berlusconi and the EU.

    If this is so, it seems that the fear and panic is in the case of the LHC and its danger on this set of Rossler discussion threads on Lifeboat is more deeply felt by Steve and Ed than by the stalwart worryworts such as Houston, who has at least the courage and leadership quality to actually read CERN’s papers instead of simply collecting quotes for a preconceived attitude as in the case of Steve and his podcast, which it should be noted relied on material which predates CERN safety arguments of 2008.

    But then I corrected Steve on his earlier post, and he seemed without answer to my information update, which he received in his usual graceful manner. What has happened here? He returns to the fray as if nobody had informed him of anything!

    In other words, Steve, you are incorrigible. You will stick to your attitude of scorn and derision for those who raise serious questions about the CERN generals and their leadership, come what may — come whatever information we point to. Why is this Steve? Why has such a distinguished mind from Down Under blocked off what we have told him? Is this cognitive dissonance and its dreaded influence? Surely not.

    Others reading this may, however, have a more sensible attitude, and actually want to know what is going on, even aside from Rossler’s raising the alarm here at Lifeboat, the scorn and derision that has met him from those with physics training who object to his physics, and the support they receive from Steve and others who like to feel they are on the right side of power and position, perhaps not only out of anxiety, in fact, but also because they feel they may get a few crumbs of recognition, a little reflected glory, and perhaps invited into the club if they are really lucky, to share the caviar.

    Perhaps these openminded readers, if they exist at Lifeboat, would care to read this post at Science Guardian
    http://www.scienceguardian.com/blog/eric-johnson-drops-bunkerbuster-on-cern.htm
    which will tell them about the most thorough briefing on this topic currently available, the very important and thorough analysis written by Eric Johnson after his blog post referred to my JTankers above, which will show them why intelligent outsiders who do not share Steve’s and Ed’s naive and rather self demeaning automatic faith in CERN and its incompetent safety arguments have serious conCERN about this matter, quite aside from Professor Rossler’s strenuous efforts to penetrate smugness on the matter.

    Instead of the dribs and drabs of preconceived opinion peddled here at Lifeboat by too many posters on this important topic (the fate of the world, some say) they will read a through expositioin of almost 100 pages on just how scandalously irresponsible the behavior of CERN and its brass and PR and rank and file has been in this matter.

    But I do not wish to give the impression that Steve and Ed’s and Hansel’s efforts to deflect this conCERN with posturing are not valuable. They are very valuable, in my opinion, since they provoke the apparently temperamentally discreet Robert Houston to cite chapter and verse and inform all objective students of this affair of the key information which they would like us all to ignore, just as they ignore it.

    Steve, are you going to ignore Robert Houston’s informative replies here to your reflex fondness for your heroes of physics, or are you going to acknowledge what he has pointed out?

    I hope the latter, since you are one of the few people on your very large continent to have even noticed this debate is more than standard Web conspiracy blather.

  • Otto E. Rossler on June 15, 2012 12:42 pm

    Does anyone know who posted this text?

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/426078/update-black-hol…c-upgrade/