5 Experiments That Could Have Destroyed the World But Didn’t

March 3, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Trinity Site explosion, 0.016 second after explosion, July 16, 1945. The viewed hemisphere's highest point in this image is about 200 meters high.
Photo credit: Berlyn Brixner/ Los Alamos National Laboratory

I guess the risks paid off.

Have you ever wondered just how much risk is worthwhile when it comes to science? Norwegian scientist Andreas Wahl shot himself underwater and didn’t die a few weeks ago. He risked his own life for the sake of science, so it was up to him. But what about when the stakes are greater — say, the future of the world? Who gets to decide then?

In the video below, Dark5 presents 5 Experiments that Could Have Destroyed the World But Didn’t. How much do you know about each of them?

The Kola Superdeep Borehole

In 1970, the Soviet Union decided to drill a hole as deep as possible into the earth’s crust in the Arctic Circle, into the upper mantle. Multiple holes branching into a central hole were drilled, and in 1989, they reached 40,230 feet (12,262 metres), the deepest artificial point on earth. They didn’t go any further because of the extreme heat: 356 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

When they began, there was fear that this hole would release demons from the center of the earth or create seismic disaster, but this panic was all unfounded. Instead, the hole revealed just how little we know about our planet’s geology.

The Trinity Test

In July 1945, the Americans detonated the first ever nuclear device, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the Manhattan Project. According to, the bomb exploded with power equivalent to around 21,000 tons of TNT, so it isn’t hard to see where the test could have gone wrong. In fact, that moment in history might have been the beginning of the end, and nuclear arms could eventually be the end of us.

SEE ALSO: Explainer: What is a Hydrogen Bomb? (And whiy it may not be what North Korea exploded)

The Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a particle accelerator located near Geneva, Switzerland, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).  When it was first built, some people worried that it could create a black hole that could grow larger than the earth and consume it. This led to alarming discussions and headlines, but there was no actual reason to fear.

Starfish Prime

In 1962, during the Cold War, the United States detonated a nuclear bomb above the Pacific Ocean as part of a series of high altitude tests. It exploded with the force of 1.45 megatons, “approximately a hundred times that of the Hiroshima bomb,” according to the Preparatory commission for comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty organization.

Nobody quite knew what effects the bomb might have on the earth’s magnetosphere — the layer of charged particles that protects us from solarwinds. The detonation had major impacts, such as creating a radiation belt around our planet that lasted for five years and damaged many satellites in low-earth orbit.


The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) groups together multiple activities and organizations searching for life outside our planet. When it first began, nobody knew what would come of trying to make contact with aliens from Mars or beyond. Some people believe that if there is life out there, it would be best not to alert it to our presence.


You might also like: Nikola Tesla’s Controversial Wireless Electricity Experiments

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