End-of-world anti-Hadron Collider case thrown out on appeal

Published 27 August 2010

Walter L Wagner, a cantankerous botanist from Hawaii, has been waging a battle against the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for more than two years now, claiming that the continuing operation of the powerful particle accelerator risks bringing about doomsday by creating a large black hole which would swallow Earth; he sued to have the LHC operation stopped, but a court says that Wagner is basing his motion on “speculative fear of future harm,” and that such fear “does not constitute an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing”; moreover, “— the alleged injury, destruction of the earth, is in no way attributable to the U.S. government’s failure to draft an environmental impact statement”

Eccentric botanist Walter L Wagner of Hawaii, continuing his futile battle in the U.S. courts against the Large Hadron Collider, has been handed another stinging legal defeat.

Wagner’s original case was thrown out in 2008, but he appealed this decision and found himself back in Hawaii’s federal court again this week to hear the result. The botanist did not get any sympathy from the bench, however. The justices wrote (pdf):

To establish standing, Wagner must demonstrate (1) an “injury in fact,” (2) “a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of” that is not attributable to “the independent action of some third party not before the court,” and (3) a likelihood that a favorable decision will redress the injury.

Wagner cannot demonstrate that he has standing … Speculative fear of future harm does not constitute an injury in fact sufficient to confer standing.

Furthermore they pointed out again that even if Wagner’s case were not as weak as it is, the U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over the Collider on the France/Switzerland border.

Accordingly, the alleged injury, destruction of the earth, is in no way attributable to the U.S. government’s failure to draft an environmental impact statement.

Lewis Page writes that Wagner had some better legal news last month, however, when charges of theft and identity theft on which he and his wife Linda M Wagner had been indicted were dismissed. Hawaii prosecutor Jason Skier told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the case was dismissed without prejudice last month due to a technicality, and said the Wagners can be recharged. Skier added that he could not say whether they will be recharged.


Wagner’s battle with the board at the botanical gardens where he used to work has not gone all his way, however: large sums in damages have been awarded against him in civil judgments.

Page notes that it is not the first time that Wagner has had trouble with the law, either. He was jailed back in the 1970s for violating restraining orders granted to a woman he was stalking.

Wagner’s case is similar to that of a German woman who, too, tried to use the legal system to stop the LHC for fear that Earth would be sucked into oblivion in a black hole. In March, the Constitutional Court in the western Germany city of Karlsruhe threw out the woman’s appeal because she was “unable to give a coherent account of how her fears would come about.”

Der Spiegel quoted the court to say that “The overwhelming scientific opinion is that the experiments carried out at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) present no dangers.”

Meanwhile outside Geneva the LHC is beginning to hit its stride. The massive machine is running using 3.5 tera-electron-volt beams, gradually cranking up the number of “bunches” in each beam and so causing more collisions for researchers to analyze.

On Monday, CERN, the European organization for nuclear research which runs the LHC, reported a “record-breaking” 14-hour collision sequence, with data pouring out of the subterranean experiment caverns for crunching by the organization’s supercomputers and distributed clusters.

The organization says that the 14-hour “fill” of collisions around the great collider’s circuit generated as much data as all previous collisions up to last month.

CERN scientists are looking to the LHC to mimic the conditions that followed the Big Bang and help explain the origins of the universe.

Housed inside a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel straddling the Franco-Swiss border, the collider was started with great fanfare in September 2008, only to break down after nine days for the next fourteen months.