a new custard universe

All eyes in Texas are on Ike. Wonderment being expressed about the sheer size of this sucker. Questions about the potential storm surge, force of winds, and damages in refinery row as the storm clicks toward midnight.

Some are also watching the nuclear plant on the coast in Matagorda County. Others – like me – can’t help but wonder about the potential imminent collapse of our universe.

Asher in Austin requisitioned the reassuring words of a South Texas Nuclear Project (which just dropped “nuclear” from their name for some Orwellian reason, I’m sure) press release, stating:

“The reactors can be safely taken offline and cooled even if the storm damages the incoming transmission lines that power the plant. STP has six, locomotive-size diesel generators, each of which can produce enough electricity for a shutdown. Massive banks of batteries provide an additional back-up, emergency power source.

“The buildings that house the reactors, vital equipment and spent fuel have steel-reinforced concrete walls, four to seven feet thick, that are built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes and the tornadoes they can spawn. The plant site is 10 miles inland and at an elevation of 29 feet, well beyond the reach of even a Category 5 storm’s surge.”

And I’ve been getting a lot of traffic at an older blog post of mine speculating on rising sea levels and STNP. Using a computer model developed at the University of Arizona, we can see our future coastline taking shape under a variety of sea-bulging scenarios. Ike’s face isn’t headed that direction. But what would the highest storm surge in 100 years look like at the Bay City complex?

Meanwhile, while ya’ll are sweatin’ Ike and Ike-related fallout, the world’s largest particle accelerator is about to rip open the gol’ dang universe. (That’s a parallel dimension. Right turn down aisle ‘aw shucks,’ just past the slushie machine.)

Sucka, please.

!!!Don’t skim this blog without viewing this hip Hip-Hop explainer on what exactly the CERN hopes to accomplish, if it doesn’t turn the universe into custard first!!!

Beyond the rap, there are real (theoretical) concerns at work here.

Here’s the august August lawsuit seeking to stop the “doomsday machine” that switched on a couple days ago beneath Swiss and French ground:

On August 26th, a group of LHC critics filed a suit against CERN in the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg . The authors of the suit are physicists, professors and students largely from Germany and Austria, who feel that the operation of the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, poses grave risks for the safety and well-being of the 27 member states of the European Union and their citizens.

Here’s an earlier lawsuit written up with some verve:

Walter L Wagner and his fellow Hawaiian Luis Sancho, according to a report on MSNBC, filed suit in the Hawaii federal court last Friday. The men are worried about one of several planet-busting physicists’ nightmares being unleashed in the LHC’s bowels deep beneath the Franco-Swiss countryside. (According to Wagner’s website, as of publication, the LHC is located “near Generva, Switzerland”.)

Firstly Wagner is concerned that careless atom boffins might slip up and create a miniature black hole. This would then suck in surrounding mass, gaining unstoppably in size and power in a runaway process until it had engulfed the entire Earth and packed it down inside its swelling, unescapable event horizon.

Some physicists have theorised that black holes might act as spacewarp wormhole portals into alternate universes, or something. Summarising, it appears that the boffins at the LHC – should one of them clumsily spill his tea on the controls, for instance – could easily catapult the entire world through a rift in the very fabric of space-time, into another universe which could be entirely hostile to life as we know it. (Eg, essential processes such as fermentation of alcohol, TV, pizza delivery, gravity etc might simply not work; or there could be a parallel Earth ruled by an evil victorious Nazi empire with space battlecruisers and so forth.)

That would be bad: but even if the LHC guys manage to avoid it, there are other ways in which their meddling might destroy the world.

A particularly violent game of proton billiards, for instance, of the very sort the LHC’s superpowered seven trillion electron-volt atomic cues are designed to play, might lead to all sorts of trouble. Quarks might get mixed up into “negatively-charged strangelets” which would turn everything else they touched into strangelets as well. The Earth, and then perhaps the entire universe, could be turned into a fearful strangelet soup; or perhaps custard.

[LATE ADDITION: CERN compuers hacked by Geek Security Team. Vandals were “one step away from control computer”? Hire those hackers!]

[LATER ADDITION: (9/21/08): dOOMSDAy delayed a couple months…]

Oh, yeah. It’s gonna be windy wherever it isn’t wet this weekend.

When winds have died down, you’ll want to know about this again. I promise.

In other non-CERN/Ike news: Energy faceoff on Capital Hill; Chevron about to get taken down a few notches for Nigerian traumas. Blah, blah.

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