As some of you may have read, an Indian teenager committed suicide two weeks ago, due to fears propagated by the media in India that the LHC would cause the end of the world. This unfortunate loss of life was entirely preventable, and I suggest that the parties responsible for her death be brought to justice with manslaughter charges.
In most civilized societies there is a balance between free speech and endangerment. This balance is often known as the "shouting fire in a crowded theater" argument, due originally to US Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The argument goes like this: one has a right to say just about anything, to the point that one endangers the lives of others. If one were to shout "fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire, the ensuing panic and stampede for the exits would endanger the lives of the theater occupants, and people may be harmed or killed by trampling. Of course if there is actually a fire then shouting "fire!" is of course justified. The creation of unjustified fear is an assault in itself, and causes harm.
The "LHC Doomsday" crowd have done the equivalent of shouting "fire!" with a slight twist. They have not directly claimed the world will end, but instead have demanded that the physics community prove that the world will not end. Of course proving a negative like this is much harder. Try proving that you will not be eaten by a dragon the next time you open your front door. They have demanded that the theater owner prove there is no fire (loudly so that everyone can hear it). This is equivalent to shouting "fire!" in its consequences and the harm created. They have absolutely no evidence that the LHC is dangerous in any way, and never have. They rely instead on unfounded speculations. To believe there is a danger is to misunderstand the difference between an unproven scientific model and a proven scientific theory. I can create models for anything, including spontaneous human combustion and that pink dragons will be created by the LHC and eat the Earth, but this does not mean I should be worried about them. There's a big difference between these models and reality. Not to mention that the "models" are not only erroneous, but violate physical laws as we know them (specifically, Quantum Mechanics, Time Reversal, and Thermodynamics).
Therefore, I suggest that the plaintiffs of the Hawaii court case, Luis Sancho and Walter L. Wagner, the plantiffs of the case in the European Court of Human Rights, represented by Markus Goritschnig and Adrian Hollaender, as well as the "scientists" Ranier Plaga and Otto Rössler be brought up on manslaughter charges. Furthermore, internet cranks such as Alan Gillis, and James Tankersley must be brought up on charges as well, for fanning the flames across the internet and promulgating the fear that led to the girl's death. All these people have endangered the lives of the citizens of Earth, to the extent that they have caused one death now. They must be stopped, and their unjustified claims dismissed before they cause more harm. They must prove that there is an actual danger, or they are shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater when there is none, and endangering all our lives. Unlike the entirely hypothetical unscientific "dangers" they are suing over, the danger they create is present, and has caused real harm.
The media shares a significant portion of the responsibility here as well. By not verifying facts, and not checking that this is an actual scientific issue by corresponding with multiple scientists, they have promulgated this false sense of fear to sell their newspapers and raise their ratings. They too are accessories to manslaughter. If you want to report on science, it is not sufficient to ask one scientist (or two, from opposite viewpoints). This misunderstands the concept of scientific consensus. When the media reports only one opinion, there is no way to tell they have not reported the opinion of a discredited scientist or crazy person, and the public generally does not have the knowledge or resources to discredit scientists. It is the media's responsibility to make this determination to the best of their ability, before they endanger us with their fear. Science is not individual opinions, it is consensus. They did not verify their facts, and are endangering us in their negligence.
If news agencies use fear to sell their product, then they must be held legally accountable for the fear they incite and the endangerment they create. This is tied up in the death of investigative reporting. News agencies have decided to just report "facts" and we're supposed to decide. This is exemplified directly by the FOX news mottos, "we report, you decide" and "fair and balanced". By reporting the fair and balanced story that there might be a fire in the theater, they endanger us, and must be held responsible.
Therefore I further suggest that every newspaper, TV network, and website which falsely claims there is some world-ending danger from the LHC be brought up on manslaughter charges. This information persists in internet archives and is not generally corrected. Therefore the continued existence of these unsubstantiated claims presents a continuing clear and present danger to Earth's citizens and must be corrected before more harm is done.
The LHC has been sadly delayed due to a Helium leak and will not start again until spring, 2009. By then I hope we can clean up this mess, bring the guilty to justice, and have no more deaths when the LHC does turn on next year. May the excitement of discovering what the world is made out of be in the news instead, without every single article mentioning these lawsuits and inciting fear.
I hope some enterprising lawyer in India and elsewhere will take up this cause legally, because the lives of the worlds citizens, and the accuracy of our media are of paramount importance, far beyond this particular issue with the LHC.
I can be contacted at email@example.com. This is a personal opinion and not an official CERN position.
Physics Week in Review: April 29, 2017
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