Awhile back, I quoted Brian Cox, a scientist on the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator project, who called the idea of politicians micro-managing scientists “nonsense”.
That post garnered a somewhat rambling comment, which, if I understand it correctly, suggested that Cox had no business talking about politicians’ nonsense, since the LHC might well create a black hole that would swallow the Earth! Honest!
Taken aback at this evidence of my own rash credulity, I authorized the comment, in the hopes of giving myself the barest patina of respectable questioning of authority.
Bad Astronomy breaks the bad news: “Oh noes! We’re safe!” quoting Cox himself:
Please pay particular attention to a key point that is often missed in these “discussions”. The argument based on cosmic ray collisions is not limited only to cosmic rays impacting on the Earth, but on every astronomical body in the observable Universe, including very dense ones such as neutron stars. It is estimated that the Universe conducts of order 10^13 complete lifetime runs of the LHC every second, with no observable consequences at all. This is on top of very sound theoretical arguments that IF micro black holes can be created, then they must also decay. This statement is based not on speculative stuff like extra dimension theories, but on pretty basic quantum mechanics.
I must grudgingly admit his argument seems sound.
Nevertheless, as we all know, the facts of science, particularly Big Science, are determined not by the quality of one’s data and the rigor of one’s argument, but by the weight of popular opinion, the dictates of politicians, and, if even that does not suffice, the ponderings of our noblest and wisest exemplars, journalists.
Therefore Cox himself, having questioned the scientific acumen of, my gosh, politicians, might not be an acceptable authority. However, in this case, I’m going to have to side with him, simply because I, in my simple ignorance, can understand what he said, while Walt’s words remain almost totally opaque.