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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 178       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Another U.S. tourist dies in apartment invasion
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robert Salberg was an average American retiree, said a friend. Neighbors said he liked women, that he liked liquor, that he was a quiet guy but friendly. On Sundays the 62-year-old liked to stay in and watch CNN or sports, they said.

Late Friday night four masked and armed men jumped the fence to Salberg's Sabana Sur apartment and killed him. “He always had a knife with him,” said a neighbor, “It was just a tiny little thing. He told me that he always carried it with him to peal fruit and things like that.”

A friend found the small knife thrown to the floor soaked in Salberg's blood. Also on the floor were shells from 9-mm weapons.

The friend, Mark Meyers or “Marco,” said Salberg was like a brother to him. The two met 25 years ago in Rockford, Illinois, where they both worked as construction contractors, said Meyers. Their grandfathers had also worked together years ago, added Meyers.

According to a neighbor in the building, four masked men broke into the first floor apartment shared by Meyers and Salberg around midnight. The neighbor who wished to go unnamed said she called 911 when she heard noise and looked out her window to see the armed men. “I called three times,” she said, “They asked me a whole bunch of questions while the men were robbing the apartment. The second time I called them is when the shots were fired.”

Meyers, who was elsewhere when the men broke in, said the robbers had automatic weapons and shot Salberg once in the shoulder and twice in the stomach. The friend pointed out the wooden door separating the office where the initial entry was made from the rest of the house. “I think he tried to block them from coming in,” said Meyers, as he pointed out the ripped out door handle and splintered wood. The men shot Salberg at that door. Blood covered both walls, said Meyers.

The police did not even come until 30 minutes after the initial shots were fired, said the neighbor who made the three 911 calls. “This man died because of negligence,” she said. The neighbor said she called both 911 and the Judicial Investigating Organization and believes that the Fuerza Pública only came after judicial investigators ordered them to. The ambulance didn't arrive until 20 minutes after the police did, said the neighbor.

“He had been bleeding a very long time before the ambulance came,” said another neighbor. Salberg either died in the ambulance or shortly after arriving at Hospital San Juan de Dios.

The two retirees went out together almost every night, said neighbors. “Just this one time Bob stayed in,” said a neighbor shaking her head. Meyers left the house with two other men so the robbers could have assumed there were no men in the house, he said.

Just 20 minutes before the robbery Salberg's girlfriend who has the first name of Jenny pulled up in a taxi and went into the apartment, said the neighbor. The cleaning woman and her two children about 10 and 16 years old, also were in the apartment during the murder. They were unhurt.

It appears Salberg tried to defend the others and block the door from the office to the living quarters as the masked men shot their way into the home.

Salberg also known as Roberto and Meyers or Marco were well known in the downtown casinos and the bars in Barrio Amón and the downtown, said friends. The two were frequently surrounded by women, said those who know them. Meyers has a hard-to-miss sports utility vehicle with a bold painting of a woman on the back.

Salberg had been coming down to Costa Rica off and on for 12 years, said Meyers. The two previously lived together in a condominium in Barrio Amón, said Meyers who has been visiting Costa Rica for about four years. Meyers said he had just sold his condo in Barrio Amón and started renting the place in Sabana Sur a little less than a month ago.

Salberg joined him only two weeks ago, said neighbors.

Salberg loved children said Meyers. He had one son and two young grandchildren back in Illinois. He is also survived by a sister and brother. 
apartment break-in
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Elise Sonray
Mark Meyers shows where bandits broke into the apartment he shared with the murder victim.

muder scene
Building in Sabana Sur where U.S. tourist died.

Meyers will have the body cremated and sent back to the United States, he said.

Neighbors said they are scared, and Meyers said the woman who stays with him are scared too. But he is not planning on leaving, he said. “I think this was an isolated incident,” said Meyers. He said he suspects the masked men cased out the place when they noticed a North American had moved in.

Neighbors don't agree. “It had to have been someone who knew the house well,” said one neighbor. “They knew the side door connected to an office and a bedroom.”  The robbers were able to lift two computers and Salberg's wallet, said Meyers.

Neighbors suspect that someone with inside knowledge let the gang of men in on the house layout. “How did they know the side door didn't just connect to a bathroom?” asked a neighbor.

This isn't the first time this has happened to the same apartment, said the neighbors. In 2006 a similar incident occurred, they said. No one was killed but the neighbors blamed the two robberies on one thing: the occupants' lifestyles. After the first robbery no security was added to the building, one said.

Meyers said he heard another robbery happened nearby that same night. He is not planning on going anywhere, he said. In the wake of the murder, the apartment owners just hired two armed watchmen to stay outside the building, he said. He would appreciate more police outside though since a park across the street attracts a lot of troublemakers, he said.

Salberg is the second tourist to die within a week. Wednesday a visitor found the body of another man who appears to have been strangled. The victim, Thomas Edwin Hendrix Jr. had been living in Escocia apartments in Barrio Escalante on the other side of San José for three weeks, about the same amount of time Meyers and Salberg had lived in their Sabana apartment.

In the Barrio Escalante case three men were seen driving away in the victims wine-colored Mercedes Benz with a license plate number of 426644, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The apartment administrator also reported that the victim frequently had visitors, especially at night. 

A neighbor of Salsberg reported seeing the robbers flee in a champagne-gray colored Nissan Sentra.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 178

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Ike's path over Cuba
raisies few concerns here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Costa Rican officials do not seem to be concerned by Hurricane Ike that arrived over the Cuban mainland Sunday.

Extended forecasts by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional do not suggest the same kind of Pacific disturbances that Tropical Storm Hanna brought. However, Ike's path is uncertain, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, and it seems to be closely following the route taken by Gustav and Hanna. However, it could end up making landfall in Honduras, according to the center's estimates.

Officials here still are recording the toll from Hanna, which dumped heavy rains despite being well north in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday the Comisión Nacional de Emergencia said that 1,339 persons still were housed in shelters, down from the more than 2,200 who had been there during the weekend. Most of Guanacaste felt the storms wrath.

The Cantón of Nicoya was hit the hardest by Hanna, according to emergency commission reports. At least 11 stretches of roadway were damaged as were five bridges. In Cóbano six roadways were damaged, one in Hojancha and another in Montes de Oro, said the commission.

In all five water lines, 21 bridges, 34 stretches of roadway and 127 communities were affected. In addition, a landslide closed the Interamericana Sur Friday, but officials had it open for limited passage by late Saturday.

The bulk of the flooding from Hanna took place in La Cruz, Liberia, Bagaces, Cañas, Carrillo, Nandayure, Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Puntarenas, said the commission.

Ike made landfall on Cuba's northeastern coast with sustained winds of 195 kph or about 121 mph.

Ike is forecast to move across central Cuba Monday, dumping up to 50 cms (about 20 inches) of rain over the Caribbean island.  The hurricane center says the storm is expected to weaken over the country.

But after crossing Cuba, Ike is expected to regain strength as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps toward the United States.

Costa Rica frequently gets lashed by the rotating arms of distant hurricanes and tropical storms.

Reports from Cuba say the storm came ashore late Sunday in the province of Holguin.  Officials say more than 500,000 people had been evacuated before the storm's arrival.

Officials in Florida have ordered tourists and residents to evacuate the state's Keys island chain.  U.S. President George Bush has declared a state of emergency for Florida and ordered federal aid to supplement relief efforts.

Delayed U.S. presentation
now scheduled for Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What is a little thing like an international treaty between friends?

The posturing appears to be over, and the U.S. ambassador,  Peter Cianchette, will be out at Juan Santamaría airport Tuesday to present some new aircraft to the security minister.

Accepting the gift will be Janina Del Vecchio, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The nature of the gift has not been described formally but informal reports suggest that aircraft will be presented to the director of the ministry's Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea.

This is the same presentation that was called off after Ms. Del Vecchio awarded refugee status July 23 to Cher Lyn Tomayko, a fugitive from Texas who claimed that her former boyfriend was aggressive. Both the boyfriend and the Texas judge in the case rejected that claim.

Ms. Tomayko was in Buen Pastor prison awaiting extradition when the minister stepped in at the behest of other women in the Óscar Arias administration. By receiving refugee status, Ms. Tomayko can live in Costa Rica unmolested by the U.S. child abduction indictment. She faced the charge because she spirited her daughter from Texas to Costa Rica contrary to a judge's joint custody order.

July 24 the embassy issued a statement that said, in part, “We are very concerned about the implications that this decision will have on the obligations of international treaties to Costa Rica and under the bilateral judicial cooperation with the United States.”

And then officials postponed the presentation of the aircraft.

The U.S. Embassy's attitude notwithstanding, Ms. Tomayko lived openly in Costa Rica. Embassy employees were told of her whereabouts  at least as long ago as 2002, but did not take any action until after the child who was abducted celebrated her 18th birthday. Embassy officials have never said why they failed to act, although it is clear that Ms. Tomayko's claim of domestic violence influenced a lot of people in Costa Rica.

Shortly after the huffy embassy statement, Cianchette took Ms. Del Vecchio on a trip to visit the U.S. military's Southern Command in Florida.

The United States counts on Costa Rica as an ally in the war against drugs and has lavished boats and equipment to help the security ministry catch smugglers.

Lately Ms. Del Vecchio seems to have changed the emphasis from seeking out international drug shipments to reducing the use of crack cocaine by Costa Ricans.

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 178

banana boat
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Platanos go to market on the Río Telire in the same kind of boat that will transport tourists to the plantations.
Bribri in Suretka seek to present their culture to visitors
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the luxury condominiums on the Pacific coast continue to rise skyward and new zip lines and hotels stretch through the cloud forests, there is one place in Costa Rica that is not going vertical. It is one that is not often frequented by tourists. 

Less than an hour's drive up the mountain from the Caribbean's Puerto Viejo lie the lush hills of the Reserva Indígina Talamanca. The Bribri and Cabécar people there live in cultures strengthened over thousands of years with their own forms of government and an agricultural lifestyle.

The native peoples of Costa Rica are struggling to make a way for themselves in the ever-expanding face of globalization and development, said a Bribri community organizer from Suretka.

A lack of modern health care, clean water, and jobs are just a few of the issues that locals in the region must deal with.

The constant struggle has led leaders to look for new options: To look for a way to strengthen their culture rather than allow it to be buried in the rapidly developing world. They seek a way to share their lives but not to be exploited.

The day-to-day struggle led Rommel Vargas, a Bribri organizer, and others in Suretka to come up with a new tourism project that will not only help locals but share the Bribri culture with others.

“We don't have tall five-star hotels, buildings of concrete or fast food and hamburgers. What we do have is our culture, our food and our way of life. That's something we can give,” said Vargas.

After discussing the tourism plan with others in the village, Vargas looked for outside help. He went to Craig Lapsley of Samantha Tours. After a visit to Suretka and some planning, the men put together an itinerary for tourists including homestays with locals, boat tours, a visit to the sacred Usure ceremonial house, and tours of the organic banana and cacao plantations.
Right now the main source of income for the local Bribri and Cabécar people is the harvest of bananas and plátanos,
said Vargas. A typical worker makes from 3,000 to 5,000 colons a day or $6 to $10, he said. “We work today to eat today. We work tomorrow to eat tomorrow," said Vargas.

Vargas said a huge problem in the region is lack of jobs. “The government gave us free houses, but they don't give us jobs to support ourselves,” said Vargas.

Hermógenes Morales, a local Cabécar leader, said there are 25 people in his village who do not have houses. “Please let people know, so something can be done,” said Morales, who added the people were living in makeshift dwellings.

Lapsley,who was visiting Suretka last week, said he always has to do something different than the norm, so he was interested when he heard Vargas talk about starting tours in the Bribri Talamanca region.

“Rommel came to me and said, for lack of a better phrase, they were tired of tourists coming through on a bus and looking at them like they were animals, snapping a few pictures and then leaving,” said Lapsley.

Lapsley said there are a few other tours of reserves and native villages in Costa Rica, but as far as he knows this is the first tour that would offer overnight stays in the homes of locals and allow visitors to interact with the culture.

One day in the future, said Vargas, the Bribri would like to run the entire tour themselves, but this is just the first step, he said.

There are 10 Bribri families currently involved in the project. Some families will offer tours of their plantations. Another will guide horseback rides. Another will guide the boat tour, said Vargas. The money will be distributed between the families, and they have already discussed the division process, said Vargas.

Samantha Tours offers a four-day, three-night stay or a three-day, two-night stay. Private transportation can be arranged or visitors can use public transportation and save on the transportation. Prices range from $153 to $280 per person and are based on a double occupancy. More information can be found at 

For those who only speak English a translator will be provided, said Lapsley.

Closing gap between rich and poor is Speaker Forum topic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxes take center stage at the Sept. 16 Speaker's Forum. One speaker wants to change the way they are assessed, and a short film will advance the theory that taxes on income in the United States are not supported by law.

The speaker is 83-year-old engineer Carl Johnson of Santa Ana, who has written a booklet, “Justice for All,”  based on his tax proposals.

Johnson was influenced by the works of Henry George as a young man, said the announcement for the talk.

George published in 1880 the book "Progress and Poverty," which says that progress widens the gap between the rich and the poor.  George urges the end of private ownership of land.

Said an announcement: "In his presentation, “Justice for All,” Carl will explain one of the greatest mistakes humanity has ever made and how to resolve it with a tax system that benefits everyone.  The consequences of
continuing to make  this mistake will be explored, as well as all the benefits of  implementing the solution.  Carl will provide the history of other efforts to apply Henry George’s idea and propose how to put it into practice in Costa Rica."

Forum sponsor Sam Butler said he also will show a section of a film by producer Aaron Russo, who claims there is no law to tax ordinary wage and salaried workers. Butler concluded "There is no law. The truth has been evaded, kept quiet, and covered-up."

Russo's argument seems to revolve around the claim that the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has never been ratified by the required number of states. This is a theory that has been universally rejected by U.S. courts and legal scholars.

The forum will meet in Los Anonos, Escazú. Information is available at 2289-6333 and 8821-4708. A 1,000 colon admission is charged.  Those who wish to attend are urged to arrive by 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. presentation and question and answer session to follow, said Butler.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 178

Readers comment on visas and reasons for not locating here
Another unhappy seeker
of a foreign tourist visa

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Why are visas so hard to get for Ticos?

I have been living in Costa Rica with my Tica girlfriend for six years. Four years ago my girlfriend and I traveled to Canada where we had a one-week holiday. At the time, Canada did not require visas.  When she arrived in Canada, the border agents gave her such a hard time looking through all her luggage and grilling her over her reasons to be coming to Canada. They eventually let her in, and we had a great holiday after which we returned to Costa Rica.

Recently, we decided to go back to Canada for a week holiday to visit my parents. We filled out the applications, gathered all the necessary documents, wrote letters of invitation and paid the fee Canada charges just to ask for permission to visit Canada. She has plenty of money in the bank and a great job here in Costa Rica.

When we got to the embassy, she is interviewed by a Costa Rican. Canada cannot even do her the honor of having a Canadian representative speak with her. Anyway, her visa was rejected because they said she is a risk of not leaving Canada because she has no family ties to Costa Rica and that she has insufficient "travel history."

Here is the problem: She was never asked about her family ties here in the application or the interview. In fact, she has plenty of family here. Second, in the past five years she and I have traveled outside of Costa Rica over 15 times including trips to Canada, the States, Panamá, Ecuador, Perú, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, etc.

Had the embassy even opened her passport which she left with them, they would have seen it filled with stamps from around the Americas. This says to me she was rejected without even reviewing her application.

I am a Canadian and I ALWAYS get treated with respect and a cooperative attitude by the border agents here, and I'm never charged money to come visit. I am ashamed of Canada and its elitist attitude when it comes to people visiting the country I once loved. Costa Ricans should start boycotting travel to countries like Canada who can not even provide a representative from Canada to discuss visas issues with Ticos looking to go visit.

I hope that Costa Rica returns the favor and starts telling Canadians they're not good enough to come here.

Michael Westcott
Vancouver, Canada
and San Jose, Costa Rica.

Why he will not relocate
from Denver to Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been reading with interest the back and forth between readers about real estate and crime in Costa Rica; Here is how it affects one middle-class tourist/potential relocater.

There are several things I have considered and am currently considering before I move to Costa Rica/Panamá/Colombia/India/somewhere else. I made four trips to Costa Rica in the last five years and liked the low key, relaxed pace of living and the natural beauty of the country. One big plus was the lower cost of living. Over the years, as I retired and was closer to making the move a lot of negative things were already happening in Costa Rica.

On my last visit, I saw hotel prices were going almost out of my reach as at many places the best I could do was $100 a night (plus the 16% tourist tax). I searched for a hotel I had stayed in on my first visit. It was right on the beach and the rate was $35 a night. Now, the same hotel is more than $100 a night, and the pictures on the web leads me to believe that no change has been done to the hotel and its rooms.

I do understand the ugly side of capitalism when the same property is turned over (sometimes multiple times) and each new owner is now trying to recuperate his investment plus profits and now can charge several times for the same service or product as the previous owner/provider. But in this one little example lies the face of the Costa Rican dilemma: How many tourists can afford this rate? (I would agree - quite a few). How many tourists will be willing to pay this? (Again I would agree - quite a few.) How many tourists would stay away? A few like myself especially if their currency is losing ground internationally, like the U.S. dollar has been doing AND most importantly How many locals will be willing to pay this?

When I visited this hotel and others the first few times, the hotels were generally full of foreigners but there was a 
mixture of locals in each of the hotels, my guess about a fourth were locals. The last time I visited Costa Rica, I
  found the locals were almost non-existent (this despite the fact that the locals are offered a lower ‘local’ rate).
What is happening? The locals can no longer afford these hotels that the foreigners frequent, and the big gap between the haves and have nots has become extremely apparent to us all.

For me, the joy of staying in a beautiful locality without wondering about the cost per day is no longer possible (at the back of my mind I know, each day is costing me $100 a day plus the car rental $50 or so per day plus the food, gas etc. etc.). The costs are now similar to staying in Atlantic City or a small city in Europe.

So, I ask myself why visiting Costa Rica is better than visiting another place? The answer: it’s not. If you have seen the country already, a repeat visit is not worth my limited travel money. Instead, I will explore another country with the same money; whether its Brazil, Argentina, Ireland or some other place that I have never visited. If the costs were lower, it would make Costa Rica worth visiting again (at least in part).

The next question: what about moving/living in Costa Rica. I had made a limited number of inquiries and saw a local Tico home that the Tico had bought for $17,000 and was renovating it to make it more comfortable. (Yes, it was not acceptable for my standard of living.) I also saw some advertised condos and home units being built and sold and was thrown by the prices being demanded. A 2-bedroom condo was being sold for $200,000 or more. The houses were even higher.

Most of these were in fenced/guarded areas and offered a ‘hint’ of security.

I realized what was going on. Many developers had decided to sell these properties as a cheaper alternative to living in Florida, Arizona or California. And what they had done was to reduce their clientèle from most of the citizens of U.S.A. (and Canada etc.) to only those that are in the upper level of society. (I live in Denver and most middle class families own homes that are less than $300,000. Mine is only about $225,000.)

What does it mean? I can’t afford to buy most of the condos and homes in Costa Rica even if I sell my home at some profit (even less likely in the next three to five years). And yes, making a swap doesn’t seem so bad. I give up my home in Denver and move to a home in Costa Rica without gaining/losing money. But without any gain in my personal assets, the uncertainty of moving to another country becomes far more riskier. If I was able to pocket $50,000 or $100,000 or was certain that I would not have a problem in living in Costa Rica then it wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t look for a safety net.

And so what does the crime in Costa Rica have to do with it? This is the deal killer - I am no longer certain of my personal safety, my family’s safety, my property’s safety in Costa Rica because of the rising incidents of home invasions, gun crimes and the increased street and petty crimes. And I have to think about changing my lifestyle of being almost 100% secure in Denver to being only somewhat secure in Costa Rica: starting to lock and double lock my car, my home, hiding my property, building concrete safes or safe zones in the home, bars on the windows, glass pieces or wires on top of walls/fences around my home; looking at everyone in a bus or train or in the street with suspicion etc.

Is it worth it? The answer is absolutely not.  Many Costa Ricans counter with how high the crime is in North America but they forget the sense of security we have despite the crime here. This sense of security is rather non-existent in Costa Rica (yes, I have talked to the locals also, so if you have found your secure piece of heaven - good for you!).

Final note on Costa Rica: There are even more problems brewing in the society that I can only sense a little bit. The attitude of "he deserved to be robbed, he has more money" has always been there but now the cases of protests against developers trying to "drain" aquifers used by locals and "foreigners" creating more garbage than the locals, polluting the landscape; and adding living cost to the locals (rising prices of food and other commodities that the "rich" can afford to buy at a higher price than the locals) etc. etc.

My conclusion has been that its better for someone like me to stay in a secure, free Denver than to move to Costa Rica. I will have nice memories of my visits there and can go back if I want to visit again as long as the prices and safety are similar to other places I am considering visiting.

So I have crossed off Costa Rica from my list of possible places to relocate to and am exploring other places currently, hoping to make a move in the next two or three years.
Raman Jalota
Denver, Colorado

EDITOR'S NOTE: We hope you will contact our advertisers for reasonable accommodations because they are inviting you by means of our newspaper.

Kids to be asked to exchange weapons for other toys on Día del Niño
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

School kids are being encouraged to bring guns to school Tuesday. The idea is to put weapons in the trash along with other toys that reflect war or weaponry.

The program is being put on Tuesday, the Día del Niño, by the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The program is aimed at sixth-level students in the downtown schools España, República de Chile,
Buenaventura Corrales, Unificada Vitalia Madrigal (República de Perú) and Fernando Centeno Güel, said the judicial organization.

The program is based on the theory that having weapons in the home creates dangerous situations. Children are being asked to exchange their toy weaponry for notebooks and similar items, although real guns will be accepted.

The event will be at the Plaza de la Justicia in the court complex starting at 9 a.m. with a K-9 demonstration.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 178

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European scientists ready to charge up giant atom smasher
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After more than 30 years of planning, 14 years of building and $10 billion later, the Large Hadron Collider, the world's biggest atom smasher, is due to start up on Wednesday. Scientists predict collisions of sub-atomic particles produced by the collider will allow them to get closer than ever before to answering questions about the origins of the universe.

Project leader Lyn Evans has been coddling this colossal machine from the start.

"It has been 14 years. I think this is really a very long time for any scientific project and, quite frankly, I'm glad to see the end," said Evans.

The end is actually the beginning. But, as Evans explains, the start of this grand voyage into the unknown will not begin by pulling a switch to get the machine working for the first time.

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"There is not a big red button as many people think, that the thing switches on and results come spewing out," added Evans. "It is a complex operation, and we start by trying to get a beam just to go around the ring once. And, if we can achieve that on the first day, I will be extremely happy." 

The Large Hadron Collider is the world's most powerful particle accelerator. The giant machine could revolutionize human understanding of the universe by recreating the conditions which were present less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

The gigantic ring-shaped device is housed in a 27-kilometer tunnel, which straddles the Swiss-French border at the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva.

The collider has massive detectors that fill cathedral-sized rooms at intervals along the ring. Some 6,000 super-conducting magnets guide the beams. Evans says 50,000 tons of equipment will have to be cooled down to temperatures that are colder than that of outer space.

He says protons are fed directly into the collider ring via two injection lines, one for each beam. He says the first attempt to circulate two proton beams all the way around the ring will occur Wednesday.

"When these beams collide, then, of course when two particles collide, then they produce energy, which can convert itself into mass and if you got high energy then you can produce heavy objects," said Evans.

It will take a couple of months to bring collisions up to the desired energy. When the collider gets up to speed, the accelerated protons will travel with nearly the speed of light. The machine will produce about 800 million proton-proton collisions every second. 

Organization for Nuclear Research theoretical physicist John Ellis said people should think of the collider as the world's most fantastic microscope.  He says the device will be able to look 10 times deeper inside the structure of matter than any accelerator or microscope that has been built before.

Physicists believe the LHC will lead to the discovery of a new particle called the Higgs Boson, named after the British physicist Peter Higgs. The Higgs is often referred to as the missing link in the history of particle physics. It is thought to hold the answer to why sub-atomic particles have weight or mass. 

Ellis says the collider is capable of unlocking other issues of equal or greater scientific interest.  He says his particular passion is to probe dark matter.

"Astronomers and cosmologists tell us that something like 80 percent of the matter in the universe is invisible, the so-called dark matter that nobody has ever seen. We know it is there because it exerts gravitational forces, but it does not shine, so presumably it is not made of the same stuff as regular matter," added Ellis.

As scientists celebrates its achievement, some people are predicting the collider will create a mammoth black hole that will swallow up the earth. Several lawsuits have been filed to stop the collider from starting up.

Physicists call these doomsday scenarios ridiculous. They say cosmic rays have been bombarding the earth and triggering collisions similar to those planned for the collider since the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

"There is absolutely no evidence that black holes are eating up planets thanks to these cosmic ray collisions. No black hole will swallow up the earth," continued Ellis.

"I do not expect to be swallowed up by," said Evans. "I think nobody in their right mind expects to be swallowed up by hypothetical black holes  . . . ."

Jo Stuart
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