On September the 10 2008, the switch was thrown and the great machine whirred into life, on October 21 the first high energy collision is scheduled - protons will dash around a circuit, to collide at a speed a fraction below the speed of light. And the collision will cause the particles to resemble the state of matter a billionth of a second after the birth of the universe.
Some people believe that this will cause the end of the world. Just as some people have always believed many things have heralded the end of the world. Eclipses, arbitrary calendar dates, asteroids and giant space crabs (probably). When faced with the new, or unknown, people have made all sorts of predictions, Dr Dionysius Larder said in the 19th century 'rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia', for instance. Here is a list of other erroneous predictions.
Of course, the untested nature of this experiment means there is a wild card chance that the naysayers will be proved correct.
Professor Otto Rössler is one notable doomsayer among a handful of worried scientists mounting a last minute challenge to the experiment. He believes that particles colliding at such speeds will create miniature black holes that will slowly munch away at the fabric of the universe.
This site: http://www.lhcfacts.org / is entirely devoted to the pessimism of the doomsayers. but this is the official site of the large hadron collider: http://www.lhc.ac.uk/ where an enthusiastic optimism reigns. They hope to understand why particles that make up matter have mass, while the particles that make up light don't appear to have any mass at all. The elusive Higgs boson is a theoretical particle that has been postulated to make sense of this. Perhaps it will show up, at long last, when the collider smashes it into being.
When it comes down to it, we are being bombarded continually by cosmic radiation - particles are shooting through you as you read this - including neutrinos and radioactive cosmic rays. The universe is far stranger that any experiment we can perform. The LHC is a grand monument to human endeavour, raise a toast to human inquisitivity - it might be your last!