'Tard of the Week - Walter Wagner, Alarmist

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
This is an historic week. This week, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located on the French/Swiss border is coming on-line. The LHC is run under the purview of CERN, the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, inventor of the World Wide Web and one of the preeminent science think tanks in the world. I've been following its progress through Bad Astronomy and some other websites. This thing is off the hook cool.

The purpose of the LHC is to conduct experiments to help us determine how the Universe works. From the big bang to the God Particle, they're interested in all of it.

So this week's 'tard is the dipshit alarmist who feels that the Large Hadron Collider is dangerous and shouldn't be used. He's brought lawsuits, he's demonstrated, he's made his opinion known. At his request, the LHC folks issued a safety study on the LHC and the probability that using the LHC will generate a black hole and suck us all into nothingness.

Folks, meet Dr. Walter Wagner, who runs "Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider." Dr. Wagner's bio indicates that he "graduated UC Berkeley with a Minor in Physics, and a Major in Biology," but it very carefully doesn't say what his graduate level work is in, other that a mention of law school. My (admittedly haphazard) research indicates his only physics degree is that minor undergraduate work mentioned above.

Well. I'm not typically an education snob - I believe you can be an incredibly intelligent individual without having a string of degrees after your name. I believe the intellectually curious can be better educated than many degreed professionals.

But this is particle physics. A seriously specialized field of endeavor. That requires years and years of single-minded study and effort to understand. Years and effort that Dr. Wagner has (apparently) not put in, although he does have experience in nuclear medicine.

But others have put in the years and effort. According to the vast majority of physicists who are qualified to address these concerns, the LHC will not generate a black hole that will have sufficient gravity to cause harm.

I'm not saying that people with opposing opinions should not be heard. If a member of the project team, or some other particle physicist who understood the complexities of the Collider raised an alarm, then it might be different.

I'm not qualified to judge the work of the LHC physicists in terms of their safety report. I know this about myself. I understand my limitations. I don't have the education or the background, so I have to go by the consensus of informed opinion. And the consensus of informed opinion is that the danger posed by the LHC is minuscule.

And Dr. Wagner? Your opinion is not informed. You are not qualified. Credibility matters. You don't have any, and you're a 'tard.

29 comments:

Random Michelle K said...

I don't think the the Large Hadron Collider should be allowed because every time I read Hadron my brain rearranges the letters to something less polite.

Is that a good enough reason?

Janiece Murphy said...

Hee! Yes, Michelle, I'm 12, too.

Actually, a friend of ours thinks a black hole on the Swiss/France border is a good thing.

Jim Wright said...

I've been following the LHC hoopla for a while now - yeah, I get a lot of science journals, a lot. And if you use Stumble for Firefox with the preferences I use (science, politics, etc), every stumble click takes to you either an "Oh Noes, we're going be eaten by teh black holes!" or "Sarah Palin is the Anti-Christ!"

The anti-LHC folks come in two varieties, those that believe as Wagner does - i.e. we'll open a rift in the space time continuum and unravel the fabric of the universe resulting in catastrophic crossing of the streams, dogs and cats sleeping together, it'll be anarchy! (i.e. Mad Scientists Will Kill Us All!). - Or - Those who believe that because somebody snarkily referred to the theoretical Higgs Boson as a the "God" particle that God HIMSELF opposes the Satanic LHC and will visit wrath, WRATH damnit, on us all for tampering with with God Himself. (i.e. THERE ARE THINGS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW).

Feh. Wagner is certainly a 'tard. Good choice, Janiece.

Janiece Murphy said...

If "God" didn't want us to "know," we would not have been "created" with the capacity for critical thought and curiosity 6,000 years ago.

John the Scientist said...

Oh, fuck me. And thanks, Janiece, I was in the middle of a rare blog post, took a break to visit your site, and you wave the red flag in front of the bull. :p

Stay tuned on my blog for a broadside from the U.S.S. Missouri.

Jim Wright said...

Ha! That made me laugh.

Jim Wright said...

Excellent John is on the war path - and I love those posts. Well done, Janiece, well done.

Janiece Murphy said...

In one post, I have:

- Antagonized Dr. Walker, who is a 'tard
- Waved a red flag at John, a real scientist
- Gained the approval of a Navy Warrant

My work here is done. There will be no further entries on Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men.

Yeah, right. Like I'm going to stop running my (virtual) mouth.

Jim Wright said...

Hey! My lights just flickered and the weather has been strange today.

LHC?

Could be, just could be.

Help us Walter Wagner, help us!

Kisintin said...

A side note, Steven Hawkins bet $100 that the launch of LHC will not discover the Higgs Boson.

Any takers?

Cindi in CO said...

I just read Michelle's comment, and it made me squirt Mt. Dew out my nose.

You owe me a new keyboard, Michelle. :D

Janiece Murphy said...

kisintin, I believe taking that bet falls under the heading of "talking out of my ass."

When it comes to physics, I am so not betting against Dr. Hawkins.

And Jim? That's just Global Weirding.

Eric said...

Boy, are we all going to feel dumb tomorrow afternoon in the singularity. You do know that whoever has their residual information most closely intertwined with Wagner will be the component waveform that has to apologize to him/it, right?

Still, the good news is we won't have to travel to Detroit to meet. Not only will we all be getting together, but Detroit will be coming to us.

:-)

Janiece Murphy said...

Eric, if I find myself sucked into a black hole/singularity, I'll apologize to Dr. Wagner with all grace.

Anne C. said...

Janiece, did you see today's Google image? Very cool reference to the LHC. :)

(And does anyone recall the prehistoric times when Janiece just commented on other people's blogs?)

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, I had not. Thanks for pointing that out.

I have google love.

Anne, I said I wasn't going to stop running my mouth.

"I'm blogging and I can't shut up!"

vince said...

Yeah, I posted on this myself, although mine was a snarky reference to the black hole thingy and more about the cool and what they're looking for.

onscrn said...

Good job pointing out "Dr." Wagner's distortions about his qualifications. You forgot to mention he won a math award. In high school. It's one of the achievements regularly listed by his anti-LHC campaign.

Another guy getting a free ride by the press is Otto Rössler, the retired German scientist (nothing ever to do with particle physics) who has been trying to get the LHC shut down through legal action in Europe, based on some shoddy calculations that have already been exposed as such. The man is obviously not all there. For example, he suggested moving the LHC to the Moon as a safety precaution!

I've written about him and others in my blog post Large Hadron Collider: What’s the Risk?

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, onscrn.

A HS math award. Well. That certainly makes him qualified to discuss particle physics.

OBloodyHell said...

> Actually, a friend of ours thinks a black hole on the Swiss/France border is a good thing.

France already sucks big time. How could you tell?

> But this is particle physics. A seriously specialized field of endeavor. That requires years and years of single-minded study and effort to understand.

Not to be defending the almost certain 'tard, one can develop a valid opinion based on people you know and whose credentials you trust who *DO* have the needed time you argue in favor of. And that minor in physics does suggest at least a basic level of understanding sufficient to have an idea when you're being BSed.

I'm not saying you're wrong here, but that sort of reasoning tends to devalue a LOT of potentially valid opinions based on the specificity of a topic. You're basically arguing against the above-average person being able to get a feel for not just particle physics, but also a host of current issues, such as Global Warming, Ecosystems, Evolution, and Economics, all of which are at least as complicated as particle physics, and subject to less absolute a set of known rules.

I'm not saying you're wrong about Wagner, I'm just arguing that your surmission needs to be carefully applied on a case-by-case basis.

OBloodyHell said...

> (i.e. THERE ARE THINGS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW).

I think if there are things Man is not meant to know, God will act so as to keep us from knowing them...

And that's probably using a less serious technique than opening up a black hole on the earth's surface. My bet is a near miss with a big sign painted on it saying "Don't F*** with this".

OBloodyHell said...

You know, the really fun part about singularities is, maybe we DID get sucked through one and didn't even notice....

Just thought I should point that out....

OBloodyHell said...

Well, I was going to shut up, but, in case anyone reading hasn't seen it yet:
The Large Hadron Rap

Pretty good, and if you want to explain physics to someone, it's a good thing to start with, since it touches on a dozen or so topics of relevance to the

OBloodyHell said...

... subject.

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, obloodyhell.

While I understand what you're saying about having an informed opinion about a topic for which you may not be qualified to perform research, I think in this case, the argument would not apply.

Mr. Wagner has a history of erratic behavior, and the so-called "experts" who share his opinion are fringe at best.

Jason Harx said...

"My research indicates his only physics degree is that minor undergraduate work..."

I ended up here looking for the exact same thing, I think may have you hit that nail square on.

Our hero did win himself some honors recently (see item 7).

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, Jason,

Yeah, ole Walter is one of our favorite crackpots around here.

ssabusivefw said...

If you think that the "we will be sucked into a black hole and all die because of the LHC" is bad, there are some who are concerned that the LHC will produce strange matter (matter made up of strange quarks) that will turn all other matter into strange matter! And I'm not a particle physicist but even I know that black holes evaporate by way of Hawkin's radiation and the smaller the black hole the faster it evaporates. So...even if a microscopic black hole is created it will evaporate before it destroys anything. Obviously Dr. Wagner has done no research.

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, ssabusivefw.

You have no idea. If you're interested in learning more about Mr. Wagner, see some of the posts linked to this one from other skeptics who "dug a little deeper" on this guy.