The NYT has recently run two articles (one, two) on the fear that exists (among some) that the Large Hadron Collider — when started — will destroy the earth through the creation of a black hole. Interestingly, this was exactly the topic my undergraduate thesis (in STS) was on, except instead of being about the LHC, it was about the particle accelerator being built at Brookhaven National Laboratories.
But when you delve into the history of it it, it isn’t all that surprising. The guy who is making the black-hole-possibility claim about the LHC is exactly the same guy who made the black-hole-possibility claim at Brookhaven: Walter Wagner. The newspaper stories take the same tenor now that they did back then too.
Although my thesis isn’t awesome (I’ve read some of my friends’ undergraduate theses and I know mine doesn’t stack up) nor well written, I can say it’s timely, so I’m uploading this PDF version of it. I was just trying to find a choice paragraph to lob off and stick up here, but I figured: hey, why not? Unfortunately, in this particular electronic version, some of the websites cited in the footnotes have disappeared (“ERROR!”), and this is the only electronic copy I have. (One of many consequences of the many Great Computer Crashes which have befallen me.)
As an added enticement for those on the fence, I spend a whole “chapter” talking about the fear that the atmosphere would ignite when the atomic bomb was set off for the first time.