COURTS and legal scholars love quoting legal maxims in Latin. One of the most famous is fiat justitia ruat caelum. The phrase is a resolute affirmation of the rule of law. It means "Let justice be done though the heavens fall".
It was intended as hyperbole. But, ironically, courts may now have to confront these words on literal terms. In various countries, plaintiffs have sought court orders to halt the operation of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, with the most extraordinary of allegations: that the experiment may create a black hole that will devour the Earth.
Up until now, the various lawsuits filed against the LHC have faltered. But if the right kind of claim is filed in the proper court, a judge may soon have to face the question of whether an injunction might be needed to save the world.
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