Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it (maybe)

In less than 24 hours, CERN is going to flip the switch on the Large Hadron Collider, inarguably the world's largest and most expensive science experiment. Built at a cost of $5.3B from an international collaboration, the bulk of the LHC consists of a gigantic ring of magnets about 25 km in circumference. It will accelerate protons to almost the speed of light...and then smash them into each other. Each beam of protons will have the combined energy of an aircraft carrier moving at 60 km/hr. And they're not just going to do this once: they're going to do this 600 million times per second for several months.

The purpose of this experiment is to find the elusive Higgs boson, otherwise known as "the God particle", a particle that may have been present at the creation of the universe.

Of course, all this is raising concerns that the end of the world is nigh: in the imaginative worst case scenario, the LHC could create a black hole that would destroy the earth and everything in it. If this fear is true, the next few hours could spell the end of the world.

And you know what? I feel fine about it.

In the scheme of things, the end of the world wouldn't be so bad, considering how badly things are already going. It's not just the politics or the poverty or the prejudice. Most days, I look out the window and ask: is this all there is?

Maybe I've hit a philosophical midlife crisis, but it's getting harder and harder to think of goals that are worthwhile. Right now, the pinnacle of what the world is able to offer is wealth and recognition, and really, that's not a whole lot. But that's just me.

Given the choice, I would have said knowledge, but even that's tied up in an academes that are philosophically stagnant and politically hamstrung.

So maybe the end of the world -- ultimately egalitarian -- wouldn't be so bad.

On the bright side, maybe with the LHC we'll finally be able to build spaceships and warp drives and antigravity. Now that's worth sticking around for.

Who knows, we may even finally get our own superhero.

But seriously, if I had to place any bets, I would say that the world will still be crummy tomorrow. That ain't fine.


  1. there is a limit on what life can give to you unless there is somebody you can share it with.

    fame, reputation, wealth, knowledge will give you something to yearn for but not as much as love and family can make it worhtwhile.

  2. DOM,

    You just made good your conviction to write a science fiction story someday, or is this for real? Your story seems logically coherent.

    When fiction writers of long ago fancy about defying gravity, they thought that the only gravitational pull comes from the earth's core. Then we came to know that gravity is a phenomenal universal force that provide balance between and among intra and inter-galactic bodies. This gravitational balance is so delicate that a single body of compact mass going into the wrong place would be catastrophic, as in, it could trigger a deadly domino-like collision of heavenly bodies. This is one theory on the end of the world.

    Another one is the 'cooling sun theory'. As we know it, the sun gives out energy through rapid and continuous explosion of helium and hydrogen gases on its surface. Time will come when these elements will be exhausted. Then the sun will begin to cool off and expand to an unbelievable size getting too close to earth. The sun's tremendous expansion will affect the delicate universal gravitational balance, and so it will now begin to swim in any direction depending on the pockets of gravitational build-up.

    Though relatively cooled off, the surface of the sun will still be red-hot capable of burning and possibly evaporating everything that it comes across with.

    Just as the big bang theory was thought of as the phenomenon that possibly caused the formation of the universe, the same theory may also be the cause of its end.

    (Just for the heck of it, but of course, I believe in the Biblical/Quranic genesis of the universe and Judgment Day.)