Remember all that beef about the possibility of the LHC producing uncontrollable black holes that could DESTROY TEH WORLD OMG? Well, it’s still highly unlikely, but it turns out that the way these things are calculated aren’t as reassuring as we might perhaps want them to be:
The problem is compounded when the chances of a planet-destroying event are deemed to be tiny. In that case, these chances are dwarfed by the chances of an error in the argument. “If the probability estimate given by an argument is dwarfed by the chance that the argument itself is flawed, then the estimate is suspect,” say Ord and co.
Nobody at CERN has put a figure on the chances of the LHC destroying the planet. One study simply said: “there is no risk of any significance whatsoever from such black holes”.
Which means we are left with the possibility that their argument is wrong which Ord reckons conservatively to be about 10^-4, meaning that out of a sample of 10,000 independent arguments of similar apparent merit, one would have a serious error.
In layman’s terms, the above doesn’t mean that the LHC is dangerous, it just means that the assurances of its safety are predicated on flaky calculations. The difference between the two is left as an exercise for the reader. 😉 [via SlashDot; image by muriel_vd]