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Massive Particle Collider Raises Hopes, Concerns

Physics researchers are looking to some very small particles to try to answer some big questions about the universe. Later this year, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is scheduled to come on line. Scientists hope that this new collider, the most powerful in the world, will provide glimpses of particles and interactions that have so far been out of reach — including the elusive Higgs boson, a particle thought to be responsible for matter having mass.

Not everyone is excited about the work, however. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Hawaii arguing that high energy collisions produced by the research have the potential to produce unusual physical phenomena including "strangelets" and miniature black holes that could put the planet at risk.

Physicists say that while theory predicts that "miniature black holes" might be created in the collider, the same theories say that those black holes will have about as much energy as a mosquito, and will destroy themselves a fraction of a second later.

Frank Wilczek, 2004 Nobel Laureate in physics, explains why he's looking forward to the startup of LHC. In 1999, Wilczek and colleagues examined similar risk concerns surrounding the startup of the RHIC collider at Brookhaven National Lab.

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