What Will Happen When the LHC Turns On? 10 Scifi Stories Have the AnswerAnnalee Newitz9/10/08 12:00pmFiled to: large hadron colliderNo it's not the large hardon colliderPhysicsScienceCERNTopFeature862EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkClick to view Today the mad physicists over at Swiss lab CERN will turn on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and begin the physics experiments that might end the world. While some fringe scientists worry that the LHC will destroy the fabric of spacetime, the rest of us armchair physicists are on the edge of our seats waiting to see what the giant underground magnet will tell us about, well, the universe. Lucky for us, science fiction has already come up with an answer. We've come up with ten crazy scifi tales where physics experiments destroy the world. The Mist In a remote Maine town, a thick fog envelops an area near a military base where a mysterious "Project Arrowhead" appears to have ripped down a wall between two dimensions. Unfortunately, it turns out that the universe in the cosmic string next door has really crappy atmosphere and is full of giant monsters with long teeth. And humans, known across the multiverse as a tasty snack, have lured a ton of those monsters over to chomp us up. Anathem I've already mentioned that Neal Stephenson's new novel Anathem contains references to an LHC-esque device that was doing experiments with recreating the Big Bang. Little is known of this device because switching it on led to something the characters in the novel refer to only as The Terrible Events. Records are spotty, especially 3700 years after the fact, which is when the novel takes place. However, we do know that the Terrible Events probably began with LHC-style experiments, and ended with the science centers on planet Arbre being sacked by outraged citizens. The planet spirals into a dark period of war and chaos before completely reorganizing itself and outlawing massive physics experiments. Earth In David Brin's 1990 novel Earth, humans create a microscopic black hole that accidentally drops into the core of the planet. If you'll recall, one of the things that the LHC might do is create tiny black holes that exist for a few nanoseconds. Brin imagines a scenario embarrassingly similar to the one in cheesy flick The Core, where the Earth's core stops spinning and gravity gets fucked. Quiet Earth In this classic New Zealand apocalypse flick, a man awakens to find himself on an alternate Earth where only a few humans still exist. He suspects the government project he was working on might have had something to do with the change, and his suspicions grow as reality becomes less and less stable. In some ways, the physics mayhem is really a backdrop to the human mayhem that our main characters find themselves in. Even though the tissue of reality is ripping, there are still enough humans left to have a love triangle. His Dark Materials Philip Pullman's trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass is about how a few people have learned to use a special knife to cut windows between dimensions. Unfortunately, the windows are causing a shortage of a basic substance in the universe called (depending on your dimension) Dust or dark matter. The overarching quest of the series is to discover what Dust is and why it's running out, which eventually leads the characters to a physics lab in contemporary Oxford. Donnie Darko Sure, Donnie Darko is a weird movie that might just be about schizophrenia induced by the Scariest Bunny Suit Ever. But if you take it at face value, Donnie Darko is about the apocalypse that might be unleashed when Donnie manages to travel through time and prevent a death that was supposed to happen. The question is, whose death was supposed to happen? And can you travel through time when you are dead? Whoa, man. Luckily Jake Gyllenhaal is so smoking hot in this movie that you won't pay attention to the plot when he's on screen. And he's on screen a lot. Doctor Who Remember in the first season of the new Doctor Who when we had A Very Special Episode called "Father's Day" with Rose going back in time to save her dad's life and accidentally unleashing a bunch of timespace-rending bat things? Obviously the Doctor travels though time, so he and his companions are constantly screwing up the timeline. But apparently that only results in a possible destruction of Earth when Rose goes back to rescue her father from the fatal car accident he suffered when she was a baby. The two contradictory timelines cause monsters to appear and the world to begin ending in a very Buffy-esque way. How will Rose and the Doctor stuff those bats back into the time crack? SciFi Channel's Flash Gordon I know all of you loved SciFi's Flash Gordon series — especially in the good old days when I recapped it every week — but you have to admit it's a perfect example of physics experiments that destroy the world. Flash's dad and the dorktastic Dr. Zarkov have invented these devices that allow them to open a doorway between Earth and Mongo. But it turns out their dimension-tripping is destroying the fabric of reality, not to mention getting Ming all excited about stealing Earth's water. One of the big plot arcs from the only season of this tragically-canceled show was trying to stop everybody from opening up dimension doorways because Something Bad would happen. A Sound of Thunder Any number of lameass time travel movies show this most basic of physics experiments — moving around in time — destroying the world. But Sound of Thunder is a standout for two reasons. One, it's based on a famous Ray Bradbury short story, which gives it literary cred. And two, it shows that time travel can completely destroy the human world rather than just causing the Nazis to win or Rome to never fall. When our time travelers return to the present after stealing a butterfly from the primeval era, they discover that dinosaurs have won the evolutionary war and are wiping out the last of humanity. Lexx Possibly the most awesome Canadian scifi series ever made, Lexx is about a crew of troublemakers on board the Lexx, a planet-eating sentient spaceship. One of the major subplots in Season 4 involved determining the mass of the Higgs-Boson, which all the characters casually refer to as something that "everybody knows" will cause entire planets to be destroyed. Starting tomorrow, the LHC will be conducting tests to determine the mass of the Higgs-Boson. This might be why robot head 790 pointed out that Earth is of the class of planets that usually destroys itself by war, or by unintentionally smooshing itself into a pea-sized object by attempting to measure the mass of the Higgs-Boson.