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End of the world postponed until 2009

The number 7 spot on our list of the worst predictions for 2008 belongs to Dr. Walter Wagner, a leading proponent of the theory that the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland could destroy the entire planet. Several readers have written in to point out that the LHC actually broke down in September before it was fully operational and the most "dangerous" partical collisions could occur. My friend Ben Regenspan of the Huffington Post's humor site 23/6, writes:

In fairness to the guy who warned about the Large Hadron Collider, when it was still turned on they never had a chance to do any of the interesting things that he thought could destroy the world. It broke after doing some boring warm-up tests. My prediction is the world ends when it comes back online in 2009.
I still feel pretty confident about this one. But if the world does end, we promise to issue a correction and a full apology.

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Blaming Google Earth for Mumbai

This was probably inevitable:

An Indian Court has been called to ban Google Earth amid suggestions the online satellite imaging was used to help plan the terror attacks that killed more than 170 people in Mumbai last month.

A petition entered at the Bombay High Court alleges that the Google Earth service, "aids terrorists in plotting attacks." Advocate Amit Karkhanis has urged the court to direct Google to blur images of sensitive areas in the country until the case is decided[...]

Police in Mumbai have said the terrorists familiarised themselves with the streets of Mumbai's financial capital using satellite images, according to the sole gunman to be captured alive.

This isn't a new issue. The al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade also apparently used Google Earth to plan rocket attacks on Israel. But holding Google responsible for terrorists using its product makes about as much sense as blaming the Wright brothers for 9/11.

Just as the fact that terrorists take advantage of the laxer security regimes in democratic societies isn't a reason to unduly curb civil liberties, it would be a mistake to curtail the development of useful technologies because the bad guys have figured out how to use them too.

I don't mean to come across as some kind of libertarian tech-evangelist, and I think that some reasonable precautions--like not allowing Google to street-level map a military base--should be taken. But this is the price we pay for technological progress. As Tom Friedman might say, the world is flat for terrorists too.

It would also be a bit sketchy if India took any steps to restrict Google Earth at the same time they're developing a domestic competitor.