Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
The Large Hadron Collider
A physicist working on the Large Hadron Collider that last year generated fear scientists would destroy the earth with their “black hole machine” has been arrested, accused of plotting destruction in a different way – through working with al-Qaida.
The Times of London reports the 32-year-old suspect, who performed analysis on the supercollider built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, stands accused of providing a list of strategic terrorist targets to North African Islamic radicals.
French agents on the case told the paper they had intercepted messages from the French-Algerian scientist to members of the al-Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian-based terror group that joined Osama bin Laden’s network in 2007.
The unnamed physicist and his younger brother, who was also detained, had been under surveillance for 18 months, the Times reports, ever since intelligence officers identified them during an investigation into a French network that had been using the Internet to recruit Islamic extremists for the fight in Afghanistan.
CERN told the paper that none of the man’s research was military in application, and authorities have assured the European public that the physicist did not have access to nuclear materials.
“He had expressed a wish or a desire to commit terrorist actions,” an intelligence source told The Times, “but had not materially prepared them.”
As WND reported last year, CERN was sued over the supercollider, as some believed firing up the machine, which is built to slam protons together at an unprecedented peak energy of 14 trillion electron volts, could spark, literally, the end of the world.
Several scientists, led by spokesman Otto Rossler, a German chemist, filed a case in the European Court of Human Rights seeking a delay in the project’s opening so the potential problems could be studied further.
Rossler said in a report in the Telegraph that CERN admitted the supercollider would create black holes; but according to Rossler’s calculations, the black holes could plausibly survive and grow exponentially to consume the planet.
“I have been calling for CERN to hold a safety conference to prove my conclusions wrong, but they have not been willing,” Rossler told the paper.
Eventually, however, the courts rejected Rossler’s call for an injunction to stop the nearly $9 billion project – which has been funded by more than a dozen nations – and the machine was fired up on schedule.
At the time, other colliders had already been operating for years, but the CERN project raised questions anew because of its size. The Large Hadron Collider is a circular tunnel about 300 feet underground that runs for about 18 miles. The more than 5,000 magnets inside accelerate tiny particles almost to the speed of light, dispatching them around the tunnel in one-11,000th of a second, according to the Daily Mail.
The particles then smash head-on in collisions expected to generate enough heat to melt a small car. Scientists hope the collisions will produce new scientific information.
The arrested physicist and his brother, the Times reports, were detained by the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence at their home in Vienne, France. Authorities reportedly seized computers, hard discs and USB drives in their investigation.
“Perhaps we have avoided the worst possible scenario,” Brice Hortefeux, the French Interior Minister, said. “We are in a situation of permanent vigilance, and we follow the declarations of the leaders of certain organizations day by day. Our vigilance is never lowered. The risk is permanent.”
The al-Qaida group the brothers are accused of giving information to has been involved for decades in an insurgent campaign to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state. The Times reports that since joining al-Qaida, it has spread its activities throughout northern Africa and, in June, claimed responsibility for the killing of Christopher Leggett, an American humanitarian worker, in Mauritania.