CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, runs the largest machine ever constructed by man: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Never before have scientists had at their fingertips the ability to generate so much controlled energy — and even before the latest renovation that doubled the LHC’s power the staggering results included the confirmation of the elusive Higgs boson. Now that discovery coupled with the multimillion dollar upgrade has brought CERN attention it both enjoys and must battle against. Some days CERN scientists must prefer the days when no one was paying much attention to their atom-smashing fun.
CERN has done a good job, especially recently, in answering some of the suspicions and fears its work generates in the minds of many — not least religious people who are concerned that CERN scientists are “playing God.” In a recent Q&A, CERN answered many questions, going so far as to deny it is trying to “open a door to another dimension.” CERN recognizes it must succeed equally in its scientific quests and in persuading the public of the value of its mission. It must also allay fears. A recent editorial in the East Carolinian (“CERN’s research of dark matter is alarming”) exemplifies the doomsday scenarios CERN must combat, positing that in chasing “dark matter” CERN could create “a vacuum bubble here on earth that expands through space, causing the earth to implode in on itself.” CERN explains the safety of the LHC well, but such doomsday scenarios retain their allure.