In 2009, Walter Wagner publicly declared that the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator located in Geneva, Switzerland, posed the threat of creating a “micro black hole” that would swallow the Earth. The accusation created a stir of media attention around Wager, and fears among the general public.
Wagner now admits that his declaration was meant as a joke.
“I thought everyone would get a good laugh out of how absurd it was,” Wagner said in a befuddled tone, at a press conference today. “Coming from me – someone totally unqualified to make such an accusation -I don’t understand how anyone could take it seriously.”
But Wagner’s prank soon caught the attention of many major news outlets. Some stations and newspapers dedicated even more attention to Wagner’s claim than they did to the opinions of every other qualified physicist in the entire world.
“Every time someone interviewed me I thought they were going to talk about this great joke I had made,” says Wagner. “When The Daily Show clearly showed how ridiculous it was, I thought that was the end of the story. I thought everyone knew.”
When Wagner realized that his “joke” was being taken seriously, he filed a lawsuit in the Honolulu court system to have the LHC shut down.** He says the lawsuit was a last ditch effort to show the world that he was kidding.
“Looking back, I can’t believe people didn’t realize it was a joke as soon as they found out about the lawsuit!” Wagner exclaimed. “The LHC is an international collaboration based in Europe – and I filed the lawsuit Hawaii! Who the hell did they think I thought I was?!”
When asked what prompted the joke, Wagner breaks down and admits it was meant to “put some ice on” the serious accusations he made against the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in 1999.**
RHIC, a circular collider nearly 4 km in diameter and located on Long Island, began operations in 2001. A year before, Wagner made an attempt to stop the collider’s start up, fearing the machine would turn the world into anitmatter. The statements lead to embarrassment for Wagner when no other physicists agreed with him and the machine proved completely harmless.
“I guess I thought, since I made such a fool of myself with the claim about RHIC, that people would find it funny if I made the same claim about the LHC,” Wagner says, blushing. “Like if you got drunk at the last company party and put a lampshade on your head, people are probably wondering if you will do something like that again. So to break the ice you show up at the party with a lampshade on your head, everyone gets a good laugh, and you get on with your lives.”
Wagner laments the anxiety he may have caused the general public, and the stress he put on the scientific community.
“If I had known that the general media was so desperate for ‘end of the world’ scenarios, and so incapable of doing an educated investigation into a subject like this, I would never have made the joke,” Wagner said. “I was planning a great perpetual motion machine prank for the summer, but now I’m reconsidering.”
Yet in some way, Wagner’s prank may have benefited the LHC more than even Wagner expected. Under the heading “No publicity is bad publicity,” the LHC gained more media attention thanks to the lawsuit than it would have without.
Still, Wagner reiterates that the LHC reached another record breaking energy of 7 TeV’s this week, and has not yet destroyed the world.
*This article is satire and is almost completely made up, but it does make use of facts.