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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Could Bad Judging Cause the Earth to Be Sucked Into a Black Hole? Maybe.

Black holeHew Dalrymple, Lord Drummore Top: A black hole. Bottom: A judge.
Last month, courts on two continents were asked to grant injunctions to stop the Earth from being sucked into a black hole. Really.

Complainants claimed that the just-completed Large Hadron Collider, a ground-breaking particle smasher built beneath the border of Switzerland and France, could create microscopic black holes that would eventually grow in size to swallow the Earth. Plaintiffs sued to stop the European Center for Nuclear Research (“CERN”) from turning on the multi-billion-dollar machine.

Part 1 of
Black Holes
& the Law
The case is absolutely fascinating on a number of levels. In fact, it has all the makings of a law-school classic. At this point, however, we lack a thorough written judicial opinion on the merits to inspect. One lawsuit, filed pro se in federal court in Hawaii, was dismissed, as you might expect, on jurisdictional grounds. The other lawsuit, filed in the European Court of Human Rights, has not produced any written opinion that I can find. News reports indicate the ECHR rejected a request for interim measures, indicating that the case may take years to reach the most interesting questions. So far as I can tell, there is no legal action being pursued in the Swiss or French courts. It may be that the case has simply not been teed up such that we will be able to see a judicial review on the merits. If so, that would be a shame.

But even without that, I find the controversy to be, from a legal academic perspective, highly intriguing.

To begin with, it is a case that highlights the trust modern civil society has vested in the institution of the law and courts. A court of law, unarmed and employing only a tiny staff, wields enormous power. That power includes, ostensibly, the authority to shut down what is perhaps the most expensive scientific endeavor in history.

At the same time, if we take the case seriously at first face, as I think fairness requires, then literally the fate of the entire world rests, potentially, upon the decision of a judge.

That is food for thought.

The lawsuits have been ridiculed by CERN supporters as absurd. I understand why they would take that stance. But it would be a shame for judges and academics to shrug off these claims as silly before looking at the merits. Lawyers and judges have always been arbiters of life and liberty. And that heady responsibility only increases as humanity’s destructive capacity mounts. If this case does not put a judge in the position of saving the world, another soon might. In a technological age of human-induced climate change, genetic engineering, and nuclear chain-reactions, the prospect of the courts confronting a real doomsday scenario is decidedly non-trivial.

If and when the titans of science and industry find themselves at odds with bystanders about what constitutes acceptable risk to the environment and the human species, lawyers and judges are the citizens’ bulwark. That’s a sobering responsibility – one that might rightfully lead to some deep reflection about the education of lawyers and the nature of the legal profession.

There’s a lot to unpack here. I’ll follow up soon with a post discussing the hypothetical preliminary-injunction issues.

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on October 21, 2008 at 11:24 AM in International Law, Judicial Process | Permalink


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I'm really fascinated with these cases, and the issue of how to make sound decisions regarding small but existential risks. Can't wait to read this series of posts. For now, I'll just note that the Roberts position in Mass. v. EPA is that no one (including individual states) would have standing to sue to stop things like this, because we'd all be eaten equally by the world-destroying black hole. I wasn't very sympathetic to that point of view in the EPA case, but, admittedly, maybe it forces legislative action by increasing the costs of legislative inaction.

Posted by: Christian Turner | Oct 21, 2008 11:39:02 AM

As a scientist by training and a 3L now, I think you're putting shocking little faith in scientists. Do you think physicists would build a research machine capable of sucking the world in to it? (Weapon, maybe, but not something for research.) I understand that there's a lot of FUD going around about this, but there isn't a credible risk.

Posted by: Ben | Oct 22, 2008 8:23:55 AM


I looked into this case recently, and I couldn't find a written ECHR decision either. In the statement of complaint, we find that they pursued a case in the court in Zürich, where they lost because CERN is based on a treaty between France and Switzerland which the courts in either state cannot touch:

"Es bestehen keine wirksamen innerstaatlichen Rechtsmittelmöglichkeiten, da die Anlage CERN aufgrund zwischenstaatlicher Abkommen dem innerstaatlichen Rechtszug entzogen ist. Eine bereits in der Schweiz eingebrachte Klage wurde dementsprechend vom Kantonalgericht Zürich
wegen Unzuständigkeit zurückgewiesen.
Aus dem Schweizer Urteilen (Bundesgerichtsentscheid BGE 118 I b S. 562 und Bezirksgericht Zürich EU080469/U) ergibt sich klar und deutlich, dass nationale Rechtsmittel unmöglich oder jedenfalls von vornherein gänzlich aussichtslos sind, weil die Betreibergesellschaft von CERN
ebenso wie die verantwortlichen Staaten zivilrechtliche Immunität genießt. Daraus erweist sich die Erfüllung des Zulässigkeitserfordernisses der gegenständlichen Beschwerde hinsichtlich der Ausschöpfung des innerstaatlichen Rechtszuges, da den Beschwerdeführern weder in der Schweiz noch in einem anderen der belangten Staaten ein wirksames Rechtsmittel zur Verfügung
steht, um den bestehenden Menschenrechtsverletzungen Abhilfe zu schaffen.
Die gegen die verantwortlichen Staaten hiermit beim Europäischen Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte eingereichte Beschwerde trägt somit dem Erfordernis der Ausschöpfung zur Verfügung stehender innerstaatlicher Rechtsmittel Rechnung (da unwirksame und aussichtslose innerstaatliche Rechtsmittel nicht ergriffen werden müssen)." (p. 47)

(Remember, you have to exhaust national remedies before the ECHR has jurisdiction.)

Posted by: martinned | Oct 22, 2008 10:38:20 AM

P.S. Sorry for the ugly formatting before, that's what you get when you copy/paste from a pdf. I forgot to mention: theoretically, the Zürich rulings should be here, but for some reason I can't find them. (Probably because the database is highly incomplete.)

Posted by: martinned | Oct 22, 2008 10:51:31 AM

I agree with your apprehension here. I'm pretty sure Posner discussed a situation like this (re a "strangelet catastrophe") in Catastrophe. And if he's a little worried, I'm definitely worried!

Posted by: Frank | Oct 23, 2008 7:38:23 PM

Hello! I did find one of the Swiss cases. It was never filed by the Europeans in question.

Swiss Federal Court decision BGE 118 Ib 562 was never filed by applicants. It concerns contractual disputes with CERN over a 1983 contract to build LEP (what the CERN tunnel was orginally built for) not Human Rights or Environmental concerns. It was decided in 1992. How is misrepresenting yourself to the ECHR going to help you at the ECHR?

You can follow link to the case record.

As for "Bezirksgericht Zürich EU080469/U" it was not available on the Zürich District Court's search service.

Posted by: rpenner | Nov 21, 2008 12:57:37 AM

As the lead plaintiff of the case Sancho vs. Doe, I might be considered biased towards the defence of the Natural Law that applies to this cause: any remote chance of mass-murdering - let us use the proper terms - 6 billion people must be considered an act of terrorism, which falls under the jurisdiction of the patriot act. When one considers the authority of truth, the laws of the scientific method and experimental evidence, it turns out that regardless of CERN's marketing campaign and 13 billion $ budget, with its industrial, scholar and political interests, the risk is huge and it grows as scientific evidence grows. If one considers the lies, these days called marketing of CERN, the situation of criminal negligence is obvious. 2 examples. CERN says lhc is safe cause cosmic rays do the same. False. Essentially the Large Hadron collider is a quark canon that deconfines millions of quarks with starking precission in collisions head-on, in small spaces achieved through a mergin process call stockasting cooling. This only happens inside stars where deconfined quarks with a force called the strong force, 100 times stronger than our weak electromatter start a chain reaction converting the star in a quark star, pulsar or black hole. In 100 years observing cosmic rays we have NEVER found a deconfined quark, as they are lonely atoms with weak forces. CERN says this never will happen because moons like our never become black holes. Wrong. The only object that produces today background radiation at 2.7k is a moon who has become a black hole, and acts as a gravitational mirror. Thus the most cmmon planetoid, a moon, converted into a black hole will produce the most common radiation of the Universe. Ergo many moons constantly become black holes. The nuclear company is a rogue company, from an industry with a long tradition of mass-murder from hiroshima to chernobyl. Only the present state of ignorance, arrogance, and fiction thought that pervades in the media and political establishment will allow a potential genocide with a probability higher than 50%, to happen on earth. Finally we asked the judge to wait for fermi satellite results on the fermi paradox, which seeks for evaporating black holes. The results came: not a single trace of black holes evaporating. This seems to prove why there is no sign of intelligent life among the billion planets: do all become black holes or quark stars shot by quark canons produced by nuclear companies with the benevolent acceptance of corrupted scientists, ignorant press and do-nothing politicians? i am afraid so.

PD1. 2 precisions to prove those enormous risks, given the fact that this is about to happen because the media today accepts the 'sent lies/news' of CERN's without making any research.
1) On the prove that moons become all the time black holes. You can calculate the temperature of the light reflected by a black hole of the mass of the moon here (second formula, 1st is the increasingly proved false hawking theoretical radiation):
Substituting the mass of the moon you obtain as the graph shows the exact form of the background radiation at 2.7k. Thus all local theories about the big-bang, imply moons are constantly becomng black hole. They are increasingly proved by experimental facts, like the lack of shadows from outer galaxies (hence if there is no shadows the radiation is local), as in here:
Thus, as today experimental evidence proves, the background radiation is local produced by moon MACHOS (moons that become black holes)
2) On the fact that the LHC is a quark canon that will produce quark stars. The question is how many deconfined quarks are needed to start an ice-9 reaction or mass bomb explained by Einstein's dual equation, M=E/c2 (mass-bomb) + E=Mc2 (big bang), which happen simultaneously? CERN will deconfine 1 million quarks. Well, recent papers prove 10.000 quarks are enough to start a mass-bomb that will create a nova or quark star as this paper proves:
You can find also a film we have produced explaining all this for visual people here:
Further more, the disqualification of cern on our credentials as scientists is bogus. And though i dont like to talk in personal terms, it seems needed to rebate them. I am the world chair of the science of (time) duality, increasingly regarded as the most advanced theory of time, which studies the universe not as they do, with the single arrow of entropy, energy and death, but also with the arrow of information and life, that nuclear physicists still deny, but all other scientists today accept. Our work with a long tradition that can be traced to Eastern philosophies (yin=information, yang=energy, shiva=energy, vishnu=information), dialectics, darwin's theory of evolution and Einstein's theory of mass (arrow of information in physics), is solving many questions that physicists are unable to solve with its single 'shiva' arrow, to which they dedicate a statue at CERN. The fact that our work is XXI century science, confronting XIX century ideas on time (the arrow of entropy was discovered studying steam machines 180 years ago), explains the higher scholar knowledge of the old, outdated theory of time, since as Thomas Khun explains, scientific r=evolutions do take indeed its time to come by.
Regards luis sancho.

Posted by: luis sancho | Jan 24, 2009 1:48:35 PM

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