Every now and then, it’s healthy to be reminded of the triviality of your daily preoccupations. From the New York Times:
[T]wo men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii…. think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.
Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.
That’s nice to know.
[Plaintiffs] Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Alas, this valiant effort to save human civilization may be frustrated, thanks to something as pedestrian and technical as…. jurisdiction:
James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.
And that’s the story of how, for want of personal jurisdiction, mankind was lost.
(For the record, CERN denies that what they’re doing is unsafe, citing multiple scientific reports that have evaluated their activities from a safety standpoint.)
Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More [New York Times]