A special report from the BBC News Magazine takes worries about the Large Hadron Collider as an opportunity to reflect on the history of the end of the world:
Whether you refer to it as eschatology (religious theory of the end of the world), millenarianism, end time belief, apocalypticism, or disaster scenario, it is one of humanity’s most powerful ideas, and it goes way back.
“It is a very ancient pattern in human thought. It is rooted in ancient, even pre-biblical Middle Eastern myths of ultimate chaos and ultimate struggle between the forces of order and chaos,” says cultural historian Paul S Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture.
“It is deeply appealing at a psychological level because the idea of meaninglessness is deeply threatening. Human societies have always tried to create some kind of framework of meaning to give history and our own personal lives some kind of significance.”