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Old 04-17-2008, 11:00 PM   #1
William's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Default Real-Life Weirdness

This thread exists to stock people up on random tidbits from the news and interesting real-life happenings that sparked gaming ideas. Anyone with an interesting observation, a link to an unusual photo, etc., is cheerfully invited to add to the pile. If you're a GM looking to rummage reality for things your fiction can try to top, welcome!

Fears about the Brookhaven collider first centered on black holes but soon shifted to the danger posed by weird hypothetical particles, strangelets, that critics said could transform the Earth almost instantly into a dead, dense lump. Ultimately, independent studies by two groups of physicists calculated that the chances of this catastrophe were negligible, based on astronomical evidence and assumptions about the physics of the strangelets. One report put the odds of a strangelet disaster at less than one in 50 million, less than a chance of winning some lottery jackpots. Dr. Kent, in a 2003 paper, used the standard insurance company method to calculate expected losses to explore how stringent this bound on danger was. He multiplied the disaster probability times the cost, in this case the loss of the global population, six billion. A result was that, in actuarial terms, the Rhic collider could kill up to 120 people in a decade of operation.

“Put this way, the bound seems far from adequately reassuring,” Dr. Kent wrote.

Alvaro de Rujula of Cern, who was involved in writing a safety report, said extending the insurance formula that way violated common sense. “Applied to all imaginable catastrophes, it would result in World Paralysis,” he wrote.

Besides, the random nature of quantum physics means that there is always a minuscule, but nonzero, chance of anything occurring, including that the new collider could spit out man-eating dragons.
So I was reading this article and the "man-eating dragons" bit caught my eye, but really what got me thinking was the "120 people per decade" bit. Now, if Infinity ever did send a probe to a world where the strangelet catastrophe had hit, of course the probe would go dead and there would be no return, and the Service would mark the timeline off as inaccessible. But I was also caused to consider a Cabalistic interpretation. Namely, what if the Collider had to cause 120 deaths per decade, one way or another? And so, lest the Earth be rendered into featureless particle goo, every month a condemned prisoner is hauled to the central facility...
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