Though the Large Hadron Collider didn't kill us when those crazy CERN scientists closed their eyes, said a prayer, recited a few theorems and switched it on for the first time, the secret is that it could have killed us. When they built the collider, the scientists installed a black-hole creation button. (The button is real, but it doesn't actually do anything.) No black holes, no tearing of space-time fabric, no instant worm hole to the Gamma Quadrant. "There is a wry sense of humor that pervades the [LHC] scientists," said Steve Nahn, one of the MIT researchers on duty at the LHC. In addition to the sign that warns users of a black hole creation, there's another equally predictable sign on the side of the balcony overlooking the detector that reads "Please do not feed the Physicists."
Can you imagine using a 14-mile ring to monitor particles that look like pucks to a hockey rink of an atom? And doing it while death threats from ignorant loonies the world over come pouring in? "There's a fair amount of stress at times trying to make the detector go, so defusing it with humor is one way to maintain sanity," Nahn said.
Note: We tried to get an actual image of the black hole button and the sign, but the LHC's no photography policy got in our way, hence the artist's rendering above. Picture found! Thanks, Steve Nahn! [Flickr]