The Large Hadron Collider is ready to start smashing particles together again, equipment, the laws of nature, and the Almighty permitting. The $9 billion particle accelerator has been fully repaired after a short circuit put it out of action for more than a year, and should be ready to roll come Christmastime. Scientists have begun firing protons around one section, once again eagerly awaiting proof of the existence of the Higgs boson or "God particle," although a few argue that the short circuit may foreshadow further problems, including sabotage—from the future.
The creation of the Higgs boson may be so“abhorrent to nature” that it would ripple back in time to destroy itself like a time traveler killing his own grandfather, a pair of physicists argued recently. They suggested the failure of the collider and earlier projects might even be proof of the existence of God. Some others suggest that the project could spawn planet-destroying black holes. Just as scarily, the Los Angeles Times notes, a physicist working on the project was arrested for allegedly having al-Qaeda links last month.
A top boffin at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) says that the titanic machine may possibly create or discover previously unimagined scientific phenomena, or "unknown unknowns" - for instance "an extra dimension".
"Out of this door might come something, or we might send something through it," said Sergio Bertolucci, who is Director for Research and Scientific Computing at CERN, briefing reporters including the Reg at CERN HQ earlier this week.
The LHC, built inside a 27-km circular subterranean tunnel deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border outside Geneva, functions like a sort of orbital motorway for extremely high-speed hadrons - typically either protons or lead ions.
The differences are, firstly, that the streams of particles are moving at velocities within a whisker of light speed - such that each stream has as much energy in it as a normal car going at 1000mph. Secondly, the beams are arranged in such fashion that the two streams swerve through one another occasionally, which naturally results in huge numbers of incredibly violent head-on collisions.
These collisions are sufficiently violent that they are expected to briefly create conditions similar to those obtaining countless aeons ago, not long after the Big Bang, when the entire universe was still inconceivably small - it was smaller than a proton for quite some time, seemingly, still with all the stuff that nowadays makes up all the supra-enormity of space and galaxies and so forth packed in somehow.
Naturally, some extremely strange phenomena are to be expected when one mangles the very fabric of space-time itself in this fashion. Various eccentric nutballs have claimed that this would doom humanity in one fashion or another; perhaps converting the entire Earth, everything on it and possibly the rest of the universe too into "strangelet soup", monopole mulligatawny or some other sort of frightful sub-particulate blancmange or custard.
It has also been suggested that cack-handed boffins at the LHC might inadvertently call into being a miniature black hole and carelessly drop this into the centre of the Earth, rather irritatingly causing the planet to implode. It's certainly to be hoped that the button marked "Call Black Hole Into Being" on the control board has some kind of flip-down cover over it.
Obviously all that's utter rubbish. But some boffins have speculated that black holes might alternatively act as spacewarp wormhole portals into alternate universes, or something. This would seem to chime with Bertolucci's remarks this week on hyperdimensional "doors" out of which might come unspecified "somethings".
Anyone who has watched a TV, read any sci-fi or seen any movies will be well aware that hyperdimensional spacewarp wormhole portals don't normally lead to anything boring like empty space, parallel civilisations where humanity lives in peace and harmony or anything like that.
Rather, it seems a racing cert that we're looking here at an imminent visit from a race of carnivorous dinosaur-men, the superhuman clone hive-legions of some evil genetic queen-empress, infinite polypantheons of dark nega-deities imprisoned for aeons and hungering to feast upon human souls, a parallel-history victorious Nazi globo-Reich or something of that type.
We took the matter up with Dr Mike Lamont, a control-room boffin at the LHC.
"We're hoping to see supersymmetry and extra dimensions," he confirmed.
Pressed on the matter of doors through which something might come, as hinted at by Bertolucci, Lamont rather elliptically said "well, he's a theorist", before recommending the book Warped Passages by physicist Lisa Randall. This explores ways in which extra-dimensional space and entities might interact with our own. It uses among others the example of how a sphere moving in 3D space would appear to someone living on a single 2D plane-space - that is as a mysterious circle suddenly blossoming into existence, growing, perhaps moving about and then shrinking down and vanishing again.
"There's no maths in it," added Lamont encouragingly, having assessed the intellectual level of the Reg news team with disconcerting percipience.
Summarising, then, it appears that we might be in for some kind of invasion by spontaneously swelling and shrinking spherical or wheel-shaped creatures - something on the order of the huge rumbling stone ball from Indiana Jones - able to move in and out of our plane at will. Soon the cities of humanity will lie in smoking ruins, shattered by the Attack of the Teleporting Juggernaut-tyrants from the Nth Dimension.
Dr Bertolucci later got in touch to confirm that yes indeed, there would be an "open door", but that even with the power of the LHC at his disposal he would only be able to hold it open "a very tiny lapse of time, 10-26 seconds, [but] during that infinitesimal amount of time we would be able to peer into this open door, either by getting something out of it or sending something into it.
"Of course," adds Bertolucci, "after this tiny moment the door would again shut, bringing us back to our 'normal' four dimensional world ... It would be a major leap in our vision of Nature, although of no practcal use (for the time being, at least). And of course [there would be] no risk to the stability of our world."