Sunday, May 3, 2009

50% chance of doomsday

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Large Hadron Collider
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I love how Walter Wagner claims that the LHC has a fifty percent chance of destroying the earth. See, there are two possibilities: the LHC will destroy the earth, or it won't. Each outcome has a one in two chance, so it's fifty-fifty.

The fatal flaw is that he's assuming all possibilities are equally likely. That assumption may work for coin flips, or for rolling dice, or for picking colored marbles out of a black bag, but it fails spectacularly when applied to less artificial situations, doesn't it?

Cosmic rays are constantly bombarding the earth, sun, and other observable bodies. In the entire history of the earth, about 3 x 1022 cosmic rays have hit the earth with higher energies than the energy of the LHC collisions (from the LSAG report). So it's sort of like we've already flipped the coin thirty thousand billion billion times, and gotten heads every time. I think it's safe to say at this point that it's a two-headed coin.

1 comment:

Secret Squïrrel said...

50-50? That's really bad news! They've already turned the LHC on once and the Earth wasn't destroyed that time. That means the next time they turn it on we're all going to get flushed down the photon toilet FOR SURE!

I'm gonna go and start covering myself in tin foil...