The 5 Scientific Experiments Most Likely to End the World

Let's face it, we really trust science. In fact, studies suggest that the vast majority of people will murder another human being, if a guy in a lab coat tells them it's OK.

But surely in their insatiable curiosity and desire to put knowledge above all things, science would never, say, inadvertently set off a chain of events that lead to some sort of disaster that ended the world. Right?

Well, here's five experiments that may prove us wrong.

Recreating the Big Bang

Scientists are kind of pissed that they weren't around when the Big Bang happened. Here we had an event that holds all of the secrets to reality, and we missed it because we were lazy enough not to evolve for another 13 billion years.

The solution, science says, is to make it happen again. They assure us that they can stage a new Big Bang if they smash some protons together really, really fucking hard. In fact, they can make a million of them per second, which is 999,999 more than God managed.

God, 1. Science, 999,999.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Well, first imagine an apocalyptic nuclear holocaust. Multiply that by about one hundred and twenty thousand billion, and then multiply that by around the neighborhood of infinity. That equals around one eighth of the magnitude of the Big Bang. Nevertheless, scientists are pretty sure they can contain their Big Bang in an erlenmeyer flask, just so long as they remember to cork it.

So, Basically It's Like...

Imagine you have a huge tanker truck parked outside a children's hospital. You don't know what's inside it, but you're fairly confident that it's either a cure for cancer, or 20,000 gallons of explosive nitroglycerin. To find out which, you have to shoot at it with an AK-47.

How Long Have We Got?

Meet the Large Hadron Collider.

This is not only the largest particle accelerator ever built, it's the largest anything ever built. Originally set to come online in 2005, then delayed until September 2008, the LHC will fire very small objects around its 17-mile circumference at close to the speed of light, before smashing the shit out of them and watching what comes out.

The problem, of course, is that even the eggheads don't really know what's going to happen, which is sort of why they're doing it in the first place. That's also why a lawsuit was filed to put a stop to it. Scientists on the LHC project insist there is no danger, and predict that the resulting observations could revolutionize science and send us into a golden age of knowledge, in the event that we actually survive.

Risk Level: 3

Experts assure us that based on everything we know about science, the chances of doom are fairly slim. Experts also say LHC will change everything we know about science. So there is a certain chance that one of the brand new things they learn about the LHC is that the LHC has the ability turn the entire planet into a fine cloud of particles.

The Quantum Zeno Effect

For years, scientists have been scouring the cosmos for some kind of bizarre hypothetical anti-gravity bullshit they're calling "dark energy". And they've had some success with it ... perhaps at the expense of our mortal souls.

To grossly simplify it, on a scale smaller than atoms, the quantum level, everything suddenly turns into a goddamn circus. Quantum physics is to regular everyday physics as a David Lynch film is to a mainstream blockbuster. We're talking particles popping in and out of existence, being in two places at the same time, and generally acting like assholes.

Look at that particle. What an asshole.

No doubt the strangest part is the Quantum Zeno effect, which points out that simply observing and measuring particles changes them (specifically, changing the rate at which they decay). How? No one knows. It appears to be the closest science has ever come to proving black magic exists.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

One prominent scientist theorized that the changes caused by simply observing dark energy could cause it to collapse, taking the universe with it.

Scientists, eager to see if this is true, are furiously observing dark energy whenever they get the chance.

So, Basically It's Like...

It's like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters, apparently.

How Long Have We Got?

That scientist, Professor Lawrence Krauss, thinks it may already be underway. Apparently, in the late 90s, scientists were looking at a bunch of shit exploding in space when they caught their first glimpse of some dark energy. This may have put the universe into a state where it may or may not pop like a soap bubble at any given instant. Just because we looked at it. Holy balls.

This, but with our universe in it. And about to pop.

Risk Level: 3

This ... this can't be right, can it? Surely the guy's just nuts. Then again, he appears to be one of the most prominent physicists in the country and has published a huge list of papers and books on the subject.

Then again, one of them was The Physics of Star Trek and, now that we think about it, we're pretty sure he stole this whole scenario from an episode of The Next Generation.

Strange Matter

As you've probably worked out by now, there's some weird shit out there in the world of science. That's because a whole lot of the fundamental theories about reality are based on mathematical equations rather than actual observation. So there are all sorts of things out there that seem to exist in theory, but we've never seen them. At least one scientist has suggested that if we ever saw them with our own eyes, it's likely that we would start screaming and never stop. Well, it wasn't so much a scientists as HP Lovecraft.

Anyway, Strange matter is one of these things. It's a hypothetical material made up of quarks, which are one of the building blocks of reality, things so small that you can't even possibly imagine. Seriously, don't even try to think about it.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

There are two hypotheses about strange matter. One is that the stuff will simply disappear a fraction of a second after it appears. The other is that it will stabilize and convert every atom it comes in contact with into more strange matter. It could go either way, really.

There's a theory that there are entire stars out there in the universe that are made out of strange matter, just because a microscopic fragment of the stuff made contact once and then everything went to hell.

Now imagine, just theoretically, if some of this strange matter should appear on Earth. And, just theoretically, it should be stable enough to start a reaction with regular matter. Theoretically, we'd all be fucking dead.

Not Pictured: Life.

So, Basically It's Like...

Imagine you're like the fabled King Midas, and you have the power to convert matter with a single touch. Except that instead of gold, everything you touch turns into shit. And everything it touches turns to shit. Before you know it, the whole world is shit, and it's all your fault.

How Long Have We Got?

Luckily for us, strange matter can only be created in high-energy particle collisions, and nothing like that ever happens here, right? Oh, wait.

Meet the Large Hadron Collider. Again.

That's right, our friends at the LHC project expect a lot of weird things to pop up when they start smashing atoms together, and strange matter is one such possibility. That's why scientists have written papers with boring titles such as Will Relativistic Heavy-ion Colliders Destroy Our Planet?, the rebuttals to which were basically, "Let's turn them on and find out!"

At this point we're kind of wondering whether there's anything this machine can do that doesn't involve killing you and everyone you care about.

Risk Level: 5

Scientists respond to the strange matter problem by saying if it was ever going to happen, it would have happened already (since these kind of reactions happen a zillion times a second in our atmosphere anyway). We like to call this piece of rhetoric the cop-out hypothesis, because they know damned well that if it turns out they're wrong, there won't be anyone left to sue them.

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