Cutting-edge science is an exploration of the unknown; an intellectual step into the frontier of human knowledge. Such studies provide great excitement for those of us passionate about understanding the world around us, but some are apprehensive of the unknown and wonder if new and powerful science, and the facilities where it is explored, could be dangerous. Some even go so far as to ask whether one of humanity’s most ambitious research projects could even pose an existential threat to the Earth itself. So let’s ask that question now and get it out of the way.
But it’s not really a silly question for people who haven’t thought carefully about it. After all, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, is explicitly an instrument of exploration, one that is designed to push back the frontiers of ignorance. It’s not so unreasonable to ask how you know something isn’t dangerous if you’ve never done it before. So how is it I can say with such utter confidence that the LHC is completely safe? Well, the short answer is that cosmic rays from space constantly pummel the Earth with energies that dwarf those of the LHC. Given that the Earth is still here, there can be no danger, or so the reasoning goes. READ MORE