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Feds urge court to dismiss lawsuit protecting life on Earth

'We'll take our chances with the strangelets'

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The US government has asked a court to throw out a lawsuit that seeks to stop the world from ending.

Late last week, federal lawyers along with other defendants asked for summary judgment in a lawsuit designed to halt the start-up of the most powerful particle accelerator yet built. The lawsuit, which was filed in Hawaii last March by Luis Sancho, a Spanish science writer, and Walter Wagner, a retired radiation expert, against the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, and its American quislings, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, claims that the Large Hadron Collider could create microscopic black holes, strangelets and the ominous-sounding “magnetic monopoles.”

The collider will smash subatomic particles together at close to the speed of light in search of ever more fundamental principles of physics, but Sancho and his cohorts contend that the collider runs the risk of creating new and dangerous particles with the potential to devour the earth.

The so-called “strangelets” would in theory be created when the quarks that form the basis of the atom recombine to form novel, more stable quarks that would then fuse with normal matter. As the complaint warns, “repeated fusions would result in a runaway fusion reaction, eventually converting Earth to a strangelet of huge size.”

The lawsuit also contends that there is a very real possibility that the collision of matter at near light speed will result in an implosion and the creation of a miniaturized black hole, and “eventually all of Earth would fall into such growing micro-black hole, converting Earth to a medium size black hole, around which would orbit the moon, satellites, the ISS, etc.”

Not to be outdone by known hazards such as black holes, the complaint claims that magnetic monopoles are massive magnetic particles that would catalyze the decay of “protons and atoms, causing them to convert into other types of matter in a runaway reaction.”

Attorneys for the Department of Justice moved to dismiss the complaint on a variety of grounds, not least of which is its theatrical absurdity. Government attorneys argued in supporting memoranda that the case was moot, since the American contribution to the project had already been made, and that, regardless, the United States was not part of CERN. An American injunction would consequently have no impact on the operation of the accelerator.

Government filings also note that this is not Mr. Wagner’s first rodeo, so to speak – he filed an almost identical lawsuit against the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, in 1999, to no avail - the complaint was dismissed for lack of credible scientific foundation. The motions for summary judgment and dismissal will be heard on Sept. 2, 2008, giving us at least a couple of summer months to enjoy life as we know it. ®

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