Sep. 22, 2008 at 9:30 PM ET
The Compact Muon Solenoid, shown here in a head-on view during construction,
is the Large Hadron Collider's most massive detector.
Like most multibillion-dollar projects, Europe's Large Hadron Collider is having some problems getting started. But lack of interest is definitely not one of those problems. By some accounts, a billion TV viewers tuned in for last week's startup of the LHC. For a day at least, the world's biggest atom-smasher made a bigger celebrity splash than Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse combined.
And that's just the start: The Hollywood Reporter says ABC is close to a deal to turn a science-fiction tale about the Large Hadron Collider into a TV pilot.
We've already mentioned the Robert J. Sawyer novel "Flashforward" as one of our doomsday dozen: The plot begins with a run at the LHC that is aimed at detecting the Higgs boson, but instead causes everyone on earth to black out for two minutes.
During the blackout, everyone experiences what their life is like 21 years later (unless, of course, they've died between now and then). But back on the real world, planes fall from the sky because pilots (and passengers) go unconscious. Others are killed in auto accidents, and still others die simply because they were walking down the stairs when they went blank.
The story blends present-day tragedies, future-day detective stories and the classic philosophical question over changing destiny. It's just the thing for the network that airs "Lost."
Next year, the LHC could conceivably be on the big screen as well, playing a bit part in the movie based on Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons." But it sounds as if you'd have to look fast: The filmmakers did spend some time at the giant ATLAS detector, but only to capture the imagery for a computer-generated rendition of the device that might appear as if it's on the other side of a lab window.
Of course, no one in his or her right mind would stand next to a working particle collider separated by a mere pane of glass - the radiation risk would be too great.
Speaking of risk, Studio 360 offers an encore presentation of its podcasts about the Large Hadron Collider - including "Telford," a short story by Lydia Millet that starts with the creation of a black hole in captivity at the LHC.
In the real world, the discussion over subatomic black holes is more subdued than it was before startup. Caltech physicist Sean Carroll discusses why we shouldn't be scared in the Cosmic Variance Weblog (and a Bloggingheads joint appearance with his spousal unit, science writer Jennifer Ouellette). Shahn Majid, a math professor at Queen Mary University of London, stirs the pot with a back-and-forth discussion of the doomsday scenarios.
The legal discussion may heat up again sometime in the next few weeks, when a federal judge in Hawaii rules on the federal government's request to have a doomsday lawsuit thrown out. But in the meantime, take the opportunity to review our special report on the LHC - and check out the top 8 LHC videos as selected by Wired.com.