Dispatches | September 13, 2008

Good news this week for planet Earth, which was not destroyed when CERN turned on its new Large Hadron Collider.

The enormous, expensive, subterranean experiment gave citizens around the globe cause for conCERN (see what I did there?), especially after some experts warned that the device could create a microscopic black hole that would absorb the Earth’s mass, or spark a runaway particle reaction that would convert the planet into strange matter. Widespread anxiety generally subsided when neither thing happened, though quotes like, “Oh wow, it actually worked!” from CERN technicians and an incident where hackers from Greece briefly assumed control of CERN’s computers left many feeling unsettled.

Speaking of Greece, it was the Greek philosopher Plato who wrote that Atlantis sank in “a single day and night of misfortune.” Some people nowadays think that resulted from the sudden release of an advanced but unstable technology. Makes for a good allegory, anyway. Mark my word, though, if some adventuring scientist ever discovers the lost continent and hauls up whatever’s left of that civilization, I’ll be the first to say, “These tractor beam generators are nice and all, but what about their lit. mags? Where are the old stacks of The Atlantis Monthly?

Then that adventuring scientist will remove his weather-beaten fedora, scratch his head thoughtfully, and say, “Hmmm. Got me.” And back into the submarine he’ll go.

But those water damaged copies of Atlantis’s literary magazines will be tough to find; either there weren’t any, or there weren’t enough. That’s the lesson here, and a reminder of art’s most important purpose: to redirect the resources and energies of the brightest and most talented people so that they won’t destroy the planet.

With that in mind, I would like to take a moment now to try to save the world.

Headlines recently reported that Stephen Hawking bet $100 that CERN would not discover the Higg’s boson — or God’s particle — it hopes will be produced in its Large Hadron Collider experiments. I’d like a piece of that action, but I don’t want to make a bet, exactly.

I want to make a trade.

So listen, CERN, if your staff will submit to The Missouri Review its original work, I will send you the Higgs boson (the other interns and I are almost certain it’s what the senior editors use to perk up their coffee). Make sure you write my name on the envelope, though, and don’t forget to include SASE. Regular postage should be OK. 

Also, I don’t want you people fishing crumpled faxes on neutrino oscillation out of the waste bin and calling them “found poetry.” No genuine creative effort, no God’s particle.

As for everyone else, keep on sending TMR your best work. That way if somebody brings about the end of the world, we’ll be too captivated here to notice.