When worlds (and particles) collide

When worlds (and particles) collide

Notes from the field

I don't know about you, but all the news about Europe's Large Hadron Collider has me more excited than a kid in a candy store.

I think sending particles zipping around a 17 mile race track just so they can crash head on into each other and explode into a billion bits is the coolest thing in the world. The notion that the universe is held together like an enormous ball of rubber bands is fascinating to me, though I also don't believe it (personally, I could never build one bigger than a softball). Anything involving stuff named protons, gluons, and muons has to be cool. And I love the fact that every time science believes it has gotten down to the essential elements of matter, somebody finds something even smaller and more elusive.

Call me a physics geek.

Of course, some people believe the LHC is going to end life as we know it. Black holes will emerge from the collider and swallow up the earth like a jawbreaker. Never mind that protons collide at high speeds oh, about a billion times a second out there in the solar system. Or that many of the same people who believe humans could not possibly have had any impact on global warming still think we're capable of obliterating the universe.

So they're doing things like issuing death threats to some of the scientists involved and suing in court to try and stop it. (Though as I understand it, black holes are not bound by temporary restraining orders.)

On a related note, some religious zealot is trying to organize a boycott of Will Wright's Spore because she thinks the game teaches kids to believe in evolution. And that, as we all know, is tantamount to eating apples and talking to serpents.

All these people are really doing is proving that evolution truly is selective -- and they weren't picked.

I don't believe in the infallibility of science. The great thing about science is its fallibility -- the fact that no assumption is safe and every theory must eventually prove its merit. That's why they spent US$9 billion building that enormous atom-smashing toy -- to prove their theories right or start all over again from scratch.

What you have to watch out for are the theories that claim to be infallible. Because the only way their believers can win is to stomp out everyone who disagrees with them.

It's just part of the war on rational thought that has been waged for hundreds if not thousands of years. But you know what? Rational thought is actually a good thing. It's what brought us the computer, the Internet, and yes, that cool atom-smashing machine under the earth in Switzerland.

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