September 6, 2008
Scientists working on the world’s biggest machine are being besieged by phone calls and emails from people who fear the world will end next Wednesday, when the gigantic atom smasher starts up.
The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, where particles will begin to circulate around its 17 mile circumference tunnel next week, will recreate energies not seen since the universe was very young, when particles smash together at near the speed of light.
Such is the angst that the American Nobel prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has even had death threats, said Prof Brian Cox of Manchester University, adding: “Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t—.”
The head of public relations, James Gillies, says he gets tearful phone calls, pleading for the Â£4.5 billion machine to stop.
“They phone me and say: “I am seriously worried. Please tell me that my children are safe,” said Gillies.
Emails also arrive every day that beg for reassurance that the world will not end, he explained.
Others are more aggressive. “There are a number who say: “You are evil and dangerous and you are going to destroy the world.”
“I find myself getting slightly angry, not because people are getting in touch but the fact they have been driven to do that by what is nonsense. What we are doing is enriching humanity, not putting it at risk.”
There have also been legal attempts to halt the start up.
The remarkable outpouring of concern about turning on the experiment, the most ambitious in history, comes as a new report concludes that it poses no threat to mankind.