Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Let's Stay in Dark and Keep Prof Alive

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Let's Stay in Dark and Keep Prof Alive

Article excerpt


LAST week's switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva has so far generated only the latest in a long series of end-of-the-world scare stories which have come to nothing. Remember the millennium bug? I have a sneaking suspicion that we will somehow muddle through the credit crunch and global warming, too.

Mind you, so far the scientists have done nothing more with their gigantic machine than powering it up. As the recent purchaser of a new computer, I can testify that this is the easy bit. Actually getting it to do anything will be much more of a challenge.

When the protons do finally start crashing into each other, the main fear of the scaremongers is apparently not a restart of the Big Bang, which would at least be mercifully quick. They are talking instead of the possible creation of a black hole which could swallow the Earth over a period of years.

Nothing much to chuckle about there. Well, apart from the fact that it would start with Geneva and reach Sunderland before it got to Newcastle, perhaps expiring with a cosmic belch after it had eaten Monkwearmouth bridge. On the other hand, we would almost certainly get Robert Peston on the news every night throughout the process, gurning and waving his hands as he talked us through the dire economic consequences.

It's enough to make you lose the will to live, isn't it? Particularly if yours is as fragile as mine, which nearly collapsed in the face of a mere Edith Piaf impersonator on Saturday evening.

Compare and contrast this with Professor Stephen Hawking, whose synthesised voice was all over the airwaves last week, as the giant atom smasher was turned on. I used to run into him nearly every day in Cambridge 35 years ago, and even then he was in a dreadful state. I did not know who he was, but any fool could see that he was not long for this world. …

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