'Sorry we ended the world in 2012': CERN scientists' apology debunked

Alexandra Ciufudean July 4, 2022
'Sorry we ended the world in 2012': CERN scientists' apology debunked

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Did CERN actually end the world in 2012 by opening up a black hole that inadvertently swallowed the Earth? According to an online conspiracy theory, yes – and a few of the scientists involved later apologised in a press conference.

And here’s the kicker: we don’t even know we’ve been annihilated because the planet has been shifted to an alternate universe where everything is almost identical.

According to the same theory, this explains things like the Mandela Effect – people collectively misremembering pop culture details from decades past only to discover that memory never occurred – and could tie in with the 2012 Mayan Calendar scare.

In late June, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (otherwise known as CERN) announced they will be restarting their Large Hadron Collider on Tuesday, 5 July, further fuelling rumours connecting CERN to the end of the world.

Gravity wave – 3d rendered image. Hologram view, physical process.

Bizarre theory claims CERN ended the world in 2012

The theory that scientists at CERN ended the world in 2012 has been floating around online conspiracy forums since at least 2014, when Stephen Hawking expressed concern regarding the Higgs Boson’s power to potentially “wipe out the universe”.

Scientists discovered the previously-theoretical Boson, also dubbed the God Particle by the press, in their first Large Hadron Collider experiment exactly 10 years ago. According to the online theory, this created a black hole that swallowed up the Earth and propelled us all into an alternate dimension where things are almost identical, but nothing feels right. Chalk it up to growing older, becoming exposed to more media, and the ubiquitousness of social media, but there are some who blame the so-called Mandela Effect.

The theory that CERN ended our world in 2012 gained some popularity with a 2019 Twitter thread that explained one proponent’s reasoning. The user behind the thread seems to be a dedicated conspiracy theory researcher and proponent, with a few podcast appearances under their belt. However, they don’t appear to have any kind of science training.

The reason this theory has shown such staying power might be down to inefficient science communication. News stories of all kinds are routinely picked up and simplified by the press to make them easier to digest by a large audience. However, when a story as complex as that of the Higgs Boson gets the same treatment, details can easily get misinterpreted by anyone skimming the headlines.

CERN scientists have made efforts ever since to reassure the public that the LHC did not open a portal to hell (or to another dimension) and did not wipe out the world as we know it. They explained the LHC, while extremely powerful, still does not have the power it would take to create the phenomenon that worried Hawking (vacuum decay), but these kinds of communications can get lost in translation from theoretical physicists to us lay people.

“Most likely it will take 10 to the 100 years [a 1 followed by 100 zeroes] for this to happen, so probably you shouldn’t sell your house and you should continue to pay your taxes,” Fermilab theoretical physicist Joseph Lykken said during a lecture at the SETI Institute.

CERN scientists apologize for ending the world in 2012

A 2018 article titled “Sorry, But We Accidentally Ended The World In 2012” Admits CERN Scientists (sic!), first published on a Dublin satire news site called Waterford Whispers News has resurfaced ahead of CERN’s upcoming 5 July LHC experiment.

The article, which is obviously satire, claims CERN scientists apologised at an unnamed conference for having ended the world in 2012: “‘Um, we’re really, really sorry about this whole mess, but we accidentally ended the world seven years ago,” CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer began, “yeah, we f***ed up and we know it’s probably a lot to take in, but right now, none of us technically exist.”

Photo by Frederic Pitchal/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

While Rolf-Dieter Heuer was indeed the director general at CERN between 2009 and 2015, that quote did not come from any statement made by him.

The site that published this article also had titles such as Man Discovered After Being Lost For Months In Dublin Airport and How To Pass Time While You Wait 11 Hours In A&E, while their Weather widget simply says it’s “p***ing out”.

Still, despite the evidence, a small number of Twitter users seemed to take the article at face value, feeding into the conspiracies around CERN’s 5 July LHC experiment tomorrow and its connection to the Mandela effect.

How this theory ties in with the Mandela effect

The Mandela effect is a popular theory in online conspiracy circles and is based on the observation that certain details in pop culture are not exactly how we remember them. For example, its proponents argue the correct spelling is Looney Tunes, not Looney Toons as many online users seem to remember. In fact, it never was Looney Toons.

The theory is named after South African activist Nelson Mandela, who many people seem to remember dying in prison in the 1980s (Mandela actually served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and died in 2013).

The paranormal researcher who coined the name Mandela effect claimed that “since 2010 probably thousands” of people shared a similar false memory online, which she believes is caused by parallel realities.

The theory that CERN ended the world in 2012, propelling us all into a parallel dimension, blames the Mandela effect on this shift instead, maybe piggybacking on the doomsday panic that rolls around every few years.

Photo by Emre Turkan on Unsplash

However, the phenomenon behind the Mandela effect is a lot simpler: psychologists call it a false memory and sometimes it can happen to groups of people all at once. Especially if the false memory is from an adult’s childhood, they can easily be influenced by a group who is headstrong and sure they are right.

Other psychological explanations include priming (our brains are more likely to respond to detailed, evocative descriptions even if they’re not actually real memories), confabulations (an unintentional false or embellished retelling of a story), or personal or emotional bias, which can have a real influence on our memories.

What CERN is really up to on July 5

On Tuesday 5 July 2022, CERN announced they are powering on the Large Hadron Collider after it was shut down three years ago for maintenance. The past weekend leading up to the event has been an exciting one for the Center, as 4 July marks the 10-year anniversary of the Higgs Boson’s discovery.

The weekend of events included a documentary film screening Saturday night, followed by an open discussion led by several scientists at CERN and producers of the documentary.

Today, 4 July, the CERN auditorium will host a full-day scientific symposium, which will be webcast with English subtitles.

Finally, the celebrations culminate on 5 July with the start of the LHC’s third run and a series of lecture events on particle physics.

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Alexandra is Head of Entertainment at The Focus, managing a growing team of outstanding graduate and experienced writers. She has worked previously as an editor, writer and content specialist across web, video and social platforms and has a bachelor's in English Linguistics and a master's in Comparative Literature.