Sunday, 19 July 2009

Why Doomsday Hype Is Dangerous - Fear Mongers Take Note!

Girl suicide 'over Big Bang fear'

A girl in India has committed suicide after watching TV reports that a physics experiment could bring about the end of the world, her family says.

Sixteen-year-old Chaya poisoned herself at her home in the central city of Indore, her father, Bihari Lal, said. He said Chaya had been worried the "world would end" when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was switched on. Some Indian channels held discussions about the European experiment featuring doomsday predictions.

'Village would die'

The £5bn ($8.75bn) machine - which aims to recreate the conditions that existed at the beginning of the universe, the so-called Big Bang - was switched on early on Wednesday. Set on the Swiss-French border, it is designed to smash protons together along a 27km-long tunnel with cataclysmic force and scientists hope it will shed light on fundamental questions in physics.

Bihari Lal said Chaya - the eldest of his six children - had been frightened after watching local TV reports that the experiment would cause the "Earth to crack up and everybody in the village would die".

"We tried to divert her attention and told her she should not worry about such things, but to no avail," he told reporters. Her uncle, Biram Singh, said Chaya, whose parents are labourers, had seen the reports at a neighbour's house.The BBC's Faisal Mohammed in Bhopal says Chaya consumed insecticide some time on Tuesday, when her parents had gone to work.

She was taken to Shajapur government hospital where she told police before she died that she had been worried by the doomsday predictions. Virendra Singh Yadav, the policeman who took her statement, told the BBC she said she had watched programmes suggesting the Big Bang experiment might cause a great earthquake and great holes.

"She said she could not bear to see the destruction of all that was dear to her and therefore thought it was better to end her life," he said. Police have registered a case of death by poisoning and are investigating.


Our correspondent says in recent days Indian channels have held discussions airing doomsday predictions which have made some people jittery. Many people rushed to temples in various parts of the country on Tuesday fearing the "world's end" after watching the media coverage, reports say. In a report published earlier this year, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research said the collider presented "no conceivable danger". Clinical psychologist Nadia Masand said some of the television coverage had been "irresponsible".

"These people are constantly airing series on black magic, blood-sucking vampires; even sensationalising a natural phenomenon such as an eclipse by saying that it means bad omen," she told the BBC.

"Now prophesising that the Big Bang would bring doomsday! Such programmes can have a disastrous effect on an emotionally weak person."

Source: BBC News

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