On June 24, while scientists in Geneva were concentrating on a complex underground experiment in the world’s largest physics lab, spectators outside the facility were shocked to see unusual cloud formations hovering above. The spectacular clouds were accompanied by lightning, adding to the dramatic effect.
Conspiracy theorists quickly claimed the experiment opened portals into an alternate universe. Surprisingly, this theory is actually a serious concern to scientists and one prominent physicist claims such experiments could destroy the entire universe in the blink of an eye.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its acronym CERN, is the largest particle physics lab in the world. The CERN complex in Geneva, Switzerland is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is an enormous and complex device used to smash particle beams into each other.
This allows scientists to observe subatomic events and has led to discoveries that teach physicists about the universe and its origins. One such subatomic particle discovered at CERN in 2013 is the Higgs Boson, commonly known as the God Particle.
Two weeks ago, the first of a revolutionary series of experiments sent a proton beam hurtling through the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and into an empty plasma cell. This experiment was a test to check the alignment of the magnets on the machine. Named AWAKE (Advanced Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment), it will be the first accelerator of its kind in the world when it is completed at the end of the year.
Some immediately claimed that the experiment delved into unknown territory, opening portals into other dimensions and causing the ominous clouds to appear. A video that has gone viral on YouTube shows an unusual tower of clouds directly over the CERN facility, thread lightning glowing in the clouds.
Theories blame the unusual formation on the massive energies involved in running the LHC, listed as the world’s largest machine. The 9,600 super-magnets that run the collider generate a field 100,000 times more powerful than the gravitational pull of the earth, leading to fears that such energies could indeed affect the world.
This idea may not be so far-fetched, and actually has support in the scientific community. Even before the experiment began, there was speculation from the scientific sector about extreme and unanticipated side effects. Sergio Bertolucci, Director for Research and Scientific Computing at CERN, briefed reporters in 2009 about some of the possible implications of AWAKE. He speculated that the experiment could possibly open portals into the “unknown”.
“Out of this door might come something, or we might send something through it,” Bertolucci was quoted as saying.
Others fear the enormous machine, designed to reveal unknown sub-atomic phenomenon, may bring into existence a microscopic black hole whose enormous gravitational pull would cause the earth to implode. Physicists at CERN admitted that the appearance of such black holes was indeed possible, but “they present no conceivable danger”.
The Safety Assessment Group of CERN concluded the new experiments and equipment posed no threat. One person unconvinced by these reassurances was world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. In his book “Starmus”, Hawking said the Higgs Boson God Particle could become unstable at very high energy levels and have the potential to destroy the universe.
However, Hawking was skeptical that the experiments at CERN could lead to the apocalypse. He estimated that a particle accelerator necessary to achieve the 100bn GeV would be larger than Earth and would not “be funded in the present economic climate”.