As regular readers of this website know, and as anyone who has read my book The Third Way knows, I'm one of those people who has some "conCERNs" about CERN. There are a lot of us out there, and the theories being advanced regarding possible covert uses and programs for its large hadron collider are, well, "many and varied", to speak euphemistically about them. They range the whole spectrum from peculiar blends of quantum mechanics and "bible prophecy" (I kid you not!), to revivals of Saturnalian occult rituals, portals opening for demons, and so on. Hence, anyone like me indulging high octane speculations about "covert possibilities" with CERN immediately gets tarred with the "weirdness brush", even though I've not advanced anything like these other rococo embellishments. Compared to quantum mechanical bible prophecies and Saturnalia, my speculations about potential covert possibilities for CERN's expensive toy pale by comparison. For example, I advanced various possibilities in The Third Way, ranging from planetary (and possibly solar) magnetic resonance effects to possible effects on human behavior and hidden "data correlation experiments." Quantum mechanical bible prophecy and Saturnalian portals for demons was not, and is not, on my radar.
My reasons for advancing even those relatively "bland" speculations stemmed from a consideration of the organization of CERN itself; here is an organization with quasi-sovereign status, with the ability to issue what amounts to de facto sovereign securities in international markets to fund its experiments and its "toy." And the funding is massive. These things, I argued, betokened parallels with military expenditures, and the sovereign status and hence secrecy surrounding the organization only raised my suspicion meter into the red zone. Then there were the shenanigans that occurred in German and American courts prior to the big moment when the switch was turned on, for some sought injunctions to prevent that from happening, arguing that the device would create "mini-black holes" (quark gluon states, to be more accurate), and the Earth itself would be swallowed up and obliterated. The courts side-stepped the issue by pointing out they had no jurisdiction over sovereign entities, and CERN has yet to set up any (kangaroo) court systems to deal with suits against itself. It's a nifty arrangement, especially when, potentially, you're up to all sorts of covert no-good.
For the past couple of years there's been no "suggestive" stories coming out of the entity; no reports of Saturnalian demons sliding through portals to planet Earth to suck it up in a quark-gluon plasma of apocalyptic proportions. I was almost beginning to feel good about the whole thing, when earlier this week, Ms. K.M. sent along the following article which robbed me of my monotonous peace, and set the wheels of high octane speculation spinning once again:
Now, in case you missed it, after the usual reminder that matter and anti-matter reactions are total annihilation reactions (i.e., the reaction has a 100% efficiency, far beyond that of "ordinary" reactions that take place in, oh, say, hydrogen bombs) here are the things that sent my suspicion meter back into the red zone:
Antihydrogen atoms were first created at CERN in 1995, but it wasn't until 2010 that scientists managed to trap and study them properly – even if only for fractions of a second. In 2011, researchers managed to hold onto the antimatter atoms for a solid 16 minutes, allowing them to eventually study their spectra to see how they compare to regular old hydrogen.
Well gee, that's just wonderful, it really is. Congratulations guys (and gals). But wait, there's more:
Nowadays, CERN can readily produce antiprotons in a particle decelerator, slowing them down to be captured in a specially-designed trap. But to really make the most of them, it's time for the volatile substance to leave the nest, and be put to work in other areas of research.
The goal of CERN's antiProton Unstable Matter Annihilation (PUMA) project is to get antimatter ready for its maiden voyage to another facility. The first destination isn't very far away – just a few hundred meters – but even a journey that short will require years of research and development.
The team is designing a new trap that locks antiprotons in a "bottle", keeping the atoms suspended in the center with powerful magnetic and electric fields. The atoms will be stored in a vacuum like that of intergalactic space, and at a temperature slightly above absolute zero. Ideally the trap will be able to store a billion antiprotons at once, over 100 times more than any existing technology, and keep them there for several weeks at a time.
The trap will then be loaded onto a van and driven to the site of a nearby project known as ISOLDE, which plans to use the antimatter to experiment with rare radioactive isotopes and eventually understand neutron stars.
"It's almost science fiction to be driving around antimatter in a truck," says Charles Horowitz, a theoretical nuclear physicist working on the project. "It's a wonderful idea." (Emphasis added)
For a moment, stop and imagine this technology becoming "ordinary" to the extent that the semi-truck one passes on the freeway might be carrying some anti-matter to your local physics lab so that scientists can study neutron stars. It's "a wonderful idea."
I'm not sold that it's so wonderful, and here's my high octane speculative reasons why. Suppose you wanted to make a matter-antimatter bomb, a real "asteroid killer" (hmmm...). What would be the necessary steps in the technology tree? Well, (1) you'd first have to construct a technology that could produce enough antimatter, then (2) you'd have to find a way to capture and contain enough of it over a prolonged time. Once one had that technology, then (3) it could be transported (or targeted), and (4) the containing mechanism could then be turned off, and voila. Now, all that is a dramatic over-simplification, with monstrously large hurdles at every turn.
But note that even with my dramatic over-simplification, that this article seems to indicate that step has been achieved, and steps two and three are already on the drawing board.
Am I concerned about CERN?
See you on the flip side...