Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Count Down to the End of the World

We are not really a morbid bunch down at the Diogenes Club, though it is true that the conversations in the library can turn from the funereal practices of the ancient Egyptians to how best to murder your wife in the blink of an eye -all in a purely academic realms you understand. But this week it was old Entwhistle who set our minds racing along eschatological lines.

Entwhistle had been involved in some kind of hush-hush work for some government ministry or other during the war and it was said he had been behind the development of almost every atomic device the government had ever worked on. His services had often been used by those colonials across the atlantic who called upon ' The Prof ' (as they used to refer to Entwhistle) when they got bogged down in some of their more complicated mathematical theories. It has been said that the atomic bomb would never have been got off the ground without The Prof's intervention.

So it was with some surprise and alarm we learned that yesterday Entwhistle was talking about the end of the world because of the LHC.

None of us knew what the LHC was, but we knew it was serious because he had cancelled his copy of The Times.

"I think it's this new fangled machine jobby they are building at CERN," said Xeno, one of our more technically minded members.

"Yes I read about that," said Carruthers, "- the... Large something or other," he rumaged through the pile of old copies of The Times on table next to him. "Yes, here it is - the Large Hadron Collider. It says here it is a £5 billion pound machine that's 20 miles long and has taken 13 years to build and they are going to use it to smash particles together with cataclysmic force."

"What's the point of that?" shouted out Pridian.

"You're just a technological philistine," replied Xeno

Carruthers ignored the interupption. "It's a vast circular tunnel running under the French-Swiss border made up of more than 1,000 cylindrical magnets arranged end-to-end."

"What a bloody waste..." said Pridian.

"The magnets will steer the beam of protons around the ring at close to the speed of light and two proton beams will be steered in opposite directions around the LHC until they smash into each other."

Large Hadron Collider

Yes, and that's the danger'" it was the Prof. "My calculations show that there is a real risk of the collider creating a miniture black hole."

"And what will happen if it does create one?"

"Oh, not much... to begin with. It will eat up anything it comes in contact with. First it will fall to the centre of the earth under gravity, eating everything as it goes. Then it will ocillate around the earth's core till it is all consumed. Then all that will be left of the earth is a crust that gets thinner and thinner until it all collapses destroying the earth. Next the moon will be sucked in and eaten, then Venus and Mars and the rest of the planets, and then finally it will be drawn into the centre of the sun and consume it from within."

"And when does all this happen?"

Switch on is Wednesday 10 September -tomorrow.

"How probable is all this?" asked Xeno

"I calculate a 1 percent chance."

"That seems reasonable odds."

"That's what the people at CERN said to me. An acceptable risk they called it."

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