Science/Technology

The Large Hadron Collider will not eat the world

There are a lot of people worried that the world will end soon. This autumn, specifically, when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland and France turns on and starts smashing protons together at velocities that are nearly the speed of light. The main concern is that these collisions will create a miniature black hole that will swallow the Earth and us with it.

Thankfully for human civilization, black holes just don’t work this way.

While the basic level of understanding of science in the United States should be much higher than it is, the science underlying black holes is pretty arcane. While everyone really should remember the basic biology, physics, cosmology, geology, chemistry, ecology, and even genetics that they were taught in high school and maybe college (alas, science is too “nerdy” or “geeky” for most to care, never mind that footballs follow a predictable ballistic trajectory determined by Newton’s Laws of Motion), the science of black holes is strange enough that it’s simply not fair to expect everyone to have much knowledge of them beyond the fact that they exist. Understanding why a LHC-created mini black hole won’t eat the planet requires a basic understanding of how black holes work, some of the weirder things they can do, and why those weird things mean that we don’t need to worry about a mini black hole eating the planet.

Our discussion of black holes starts with stars. Stars have a life cycle – they’re born, the live a long, long time, and then they die out. How massive a star is determines how long it lives and the various ways it can die. Stars like our sun, Sol, are pretty average stars, and average stars live 10-30 billion years or so, then blow up to be bigger than the orbit of Venus (some stars can become bigger than Mars’ orbit, some 227 million km, an increase of over 300x larger than the sun is now). Then they go nova, blow off the outer layers of their surface, and gradually shrink down to a dense, cold cinder called a brown dwarf. Big stars, however, live fast and die young, completing their entire life cycle in tens to hundreds of millions of years instead of billions of years. Big stars expand as they’re about to die just like average stars do, but then they go supernova.

To understand why a star goes supernova, let’s talk about gravity and fusion reactions. Stars keep their size because the explosive power of the fusion reaction that drives the star is equaled by the force of gravity holding the star together. As a star ages, there’s less and less hydrogen (the main fuel of fusion) to keep the reaction going in the core, so the star starts to collapse under its own weight. When the core of a big star gets too dense, it shrinks until something else stops it, and when that happens the energy released basically blows up the rest of the star – a supernova. The result of a supernova is one of two things, either a neutron star or a black hole. A neutron star is what’s left if the original star wasn’t quite big enough to collapse so far that the force of gravity overwhelmed light – a black hole is what’s left if the original star was so big that it’s core can capture even light.

Black holes are named such because the force of their gravity is so great that light, the fastest thing that can exist according to Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, cannot go fast enough to escape. The reason light can’t escape is essentially the same reason that rockets are huge to get the space shuttle off the Earth – it takes a certain amount of velocity (known as the “escape velocity”) to launch an object out of the Earth’s gravity altogether. When the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light, the body that creates that effect is called a black hole. The mathematical surface around the black hole’s center of mass where the escape velocity equals the speed of light is known as the “event horizon”.

Unfortunately, if light can’t escape past the event horizon, then neither can anything else – Einstein also proved mathematically that the speed of light is the universal speed limit, and no object made of matter can ever go any faster than that (in fact, nothing with mass can ever go that fast, but mass inflation and time dilation are topics for a different post). Anything that passes the event horizon is lost to this universe – only it’s gravity remains. So a black hole consumes matter and energy both.

There’s other ways to create black holes, though the collapsing star method is the only one that cosmologists are pretty sure they’ve directly observed. But Einstein also proved that energy and mass are equal, with a proportionality constant, using the equation e=mC2, where E is energy, m is mass, and C is the speed of light in a vacuum (i.e. space). Which means that, if you’ve got smaller mass but that is traveling REALLY fast (fast things have more energy than slow things do), it might be able to convert enough of that energy into mass in a collision to create a black hole. And this is where the LHC comes back in again.

The LHC is a circular particle accelerator housed underground and straddling the border between Switzerland and France. Its purpose is to test the fundamental laws of physics, specifically the existence of certain types of sub-atomic particles (especially the Higgs boson) and how they interact with each other. To do that, though, it has to accelerate protons to extremely high energy, 7 TeV (tera-electron-Volts, a thoroughly inconvenient unit for anyone not used to working with semiconductor physics and/or particles) per proton. When a collision occurs, the protons will disintegrate into sub-atomic particles that will be indirectly detected and measured by the huge and complex science test equipment around the collision point.

It’s this collision that people are worried about. Since energy equals mass, there’s a chance that the 14 TeV collision will create a small black hole. And given that, as mentioned above, black holes eat matter and energy, a tiny black hole would be a threat to the Earth, right?

Wrong. But we’ll take a brief break here for a brief musical interlude so that everyone whose eyes have glazed over to regain their senses for another round of science content (although I’m most definitely not a “she”…)

Welcome back.

Einstein was a brilliant man, but he didn’t know everything. No person, however bright, can know everything, and Einstein hated the entire idea of quantum mechanics, rejecting it as “spooky action at a distance” and famously quipping that (paraphrased) “God does not play dice with the universe.” Unfortunately for Einstein, quantum mechanics has become as firmly entrenched in physics as general relativity, and it took another brilliant man, Stephen Hawking, to realize that the two sometimes interacted in really, really weird ways.

At the quantum scale (lengths of an atom or less, 10-10 meters or shorter), recent theories of quantum mechanics say that space is foam of sub-atomic particles and antiparticles that pop in and out of existence due to the background energy of the universe. The equations of quantum mechanics say that this is possible so long as the total energy of this effect averages to 0 (zero), so for every particle that pops into existence another antiparticle (antimatter) also pops into existence. As weird as this sounds, scientists know that antimatter exists because particle physicists have created it in ultra-high vacuum chambers where it can’t interact with regular matter and annihilate itself. In fact, the medical PET scanner uses antimatter electrons known as positrons – PET stands for “Positron Emission Tomography”. Particles like this that pop in and out of existence are known in the science literature as “virtual particles” because they don’t hang around for long and their mass averages out to zero.

So, let’s propose that this foam of virtual particles is next to a black hole’s event horizon. Since particles and antiparticles can’t exist in the exact same spot without annihilating each other, the particle and antiparticle have to speed away from each other in opposite directions. Their movement makes it more likely that one will be lost into the black hole while the other will eventually escape the holes’ gravity. Because of conservation of mass and energy via general relativity, the particles (or antiparticles) that escape gradually reduce the mass of the black hole, effectively causing the black holes to evaporate. The emitted particles are known as “Hawking Radiation” after Stephen Hawking, and he also showed that bigger black holes evaporate more slowly than little black holes do.

So, if the LHC actually does create a mini black hole, then it will eventually evaporate into nothingness. And whether we need to worry about it or not will depend greatly on how fast it evaporates – if it evaporates faster than it can absorb new energy and/or mass and grow, then it’s ultimately harmless even if the LHC does create a mini black hole.

Let’s assume that the protons are each 7 TeV like the LHC FAQ says. Each 7 TeV proton then weighs about 1.2477 x 10-23 kg. Using the equation for rate of evaporation from Wikipedia, we find out that a black hole created by two 7 TeV protons colliding will evaporate into a burst of sub-atomic particles within 1.306 x 10-82 seconds. Or, if you prefer, 0.0000000000 0000000000 0000000000 0000000000 0000000000 0000000000 0000000000 0000000000 01306 seconds.

The fastest laser pulses have been sub-femtosecond pulses, and those are only 10-15, or 0.000000000000001 seconds, and those are fast enough to catch the location of an electron as they orbit an atomic nucleus. Even at 99.999991% of the speed of light, any itty-bitty black hole created would move about 3.92 x 10-74 meters in that amount of time. That’s about 10-59 the way across the diameter of an electron. So we can safely say that any mini black holes created will not escape the LHC itself.

The LHC expects about 600 million (6 x 106) collisions like this per second, so there’s a small chance that two collisions could occur a the exact right time to combine. The chance of that happening, however, is roughly equivalent to the area of a proton collision compared to the area where the collision will occur. The LHC focuses the proton beams down to 64 microns (6.4 x 10-5 m) across, or an area of 3.217 x 10-9 m2 (circular area assumed). The area of a proton is only 2.405 x 10-30 m2, so the probability of multiple collisions at the same spot in space is 7.476 x 10-22. For comparison, this is a probability of about once every 100 billion lifetimes of the universe.

So, not only will any nano-black holes evaporate too fast to be a threat, the chance that the LHC beam will be able to create a nano black hole that MIGHT survive long enough to be a threat via the mechanism of multiple collisions at the same spot in space is so low that it probably hasn’t happened in the entire history of the universe to date, and probably never will. We certainly won’t be around to see it.

The real kicker here, though, is this: while the LHC is creating high energy protons artificially, the galaxy creates even higher energy particles (known as “cosmic rays”) all the time. We know that cosmic rays hit our atmosphere all the time because the shower of sub-atomic particles that the collisions create have been observed on the surface of the earth. If higher energy collisions are occurring all the time, then either a) nano black holes aren’t created by such collisions in the first place or b) those black holes evaporate harmlessly. And since the earth hasn’t been sucked up into a nano-black hole created by cosmic ray collisions yet, we can reasonably expect that the LHC won’t create a big enough black hole either.

Hopefully this science lesson has allayed your fears that the LHC will create a planet-eating black hole. It’s not the end of the world as we know it, but you should continue feeling fine.

UPDATE #1:

A few of the comments have suggested that the LHC will produce a stationary black hole if indeed it does create a black hole in the first place. This is not correct for primary non-elastic collisions, and I’ll explain why below. In addition, I’ll explain what happens in secondary collisions in Update #2. But first, a few quick definitions.

“elastic collision” – in an elastic collision, protons act like billiard balls, with the two protons bouncing off each other.
“Non-elastic collision” – if the two protons were billiard balls, a non-elastic collision would result in the explosion of both billiard balls or the fusion of both balls into a single ball.
“Primary collision” – the first collision of the two colliding protons as they pass through the collision region. In billiard terms, this would be the first time the cue ball hits another billiard ball.
“Secondary collision” – the second collision of a proton after an elastic collision with another proton. In billiard terms again, this would be the cue ball hitting a second ball after hitting the first, or the collision between a hit billiard ball and a second billiard ball.

First, if you look at the image at the LHC Collisions page, you see that Beams 1 and 2 do not intersect in a head-on collision. Because of this, there is no possible way that any resulting particle (and a nano black hole would be have mass and therefore be a “resulting particle”) from a primary collision can have zero velocity within the LHC. The image below shows two protons, A & B, heading toward a collision at the point that the two red arrows (vectors) intersect. Each of them is a 7 TeV energy proton traveling at 99.999991 % of the speed of light C. Notice if you will that they are traveling toward each other equally in the X-direction (left/right), but that because of the angle of their paths, they are both traveling in the negative Y-direction (down). If you’re familiar with vector mathematics, then the X velocity vectors are equal and opposite, but both have the same negative Y velocity vector.

This next image shows the two protons right before the non-elastic collision, when both are still traveling down, although they’ve both traveled to the intersection point.

The final image shows that nano black hole (particle C, composed of the dotted particles A and B) is all that’s left as a result of the non-elastic collision. Notice that the blue arrow, illustrating the direction of movement, is only pointing down. This is because the X-direction movement of A and B canceled each other out, but since there was no opposing force in the upward direction – both A and B were traveling downward – C must, according to the laws of conservation of mass and momentum, continue moving down.

Notice also that the speed of the resulting particle C is 99.9999996% of the speed of light, or even faster than the original two particles. This is due to the fact that the downward movement (negative Y velocity vectors) of the two particles A and B combine to produce a particle C that is moving even faster than either proton would be individually. According to Special Relativity and the gamma (γ) function as calculated using a 14 TeV mass for particle C.

Ultimately, though, what these three images show is that, since there is no opposing upward force (positive Y velocity vector) on particles A and B, particle C cannot come to a complete rest. So if particle C is a nano black hole, and if Hawking radiation doesn’t exist, then the nano black holes created by the LHC will pass through the Earth at very nearly the speed of light, never to return and eat the planet.

Update #2

In Update #1 above, I indicated that there could be secondary collisions, specifically if protons collided in an elastic (bouncing) fashion and the collided again. In this way, it’s actually possible to create a stationary particle. However, I’ll also show that a) the probability of a secondary collision being non-elastic is negligible.

The figure below shows the sequence of collisions that has to occur in order for our secondary non-elastic collision to produce a stationary particle.

The two green colored protons are from beam 1, the two magenta colored protons are from beam two. At positions A, the four protons are positioned so that they will collide in elastic collisions at point B. Because the collisions are elastic, the four protons bounce off each other at point B with the exact angles required (in three dimensions, although only two are shown for simplicity). Then two of the protons move to point C and collide in a non-elastic (destroying or fusing) collision that produces either the destruction of both protons or a single particle with a mass equal to the sum of the mass of the two colliding protons.

Because the momentum of the protons in both the X direction (left/right) and the Y direction (up/down) are equal and opposite, any resulting particle would be stationary. And if this were a nano black hole, and if Hawking radiation and evaporation didn’t occur, then it could become a problem over the long run. However, let’s talk about how likely this is.

According to the LHC collision page again, the number of collisions is defined by the the luminosity (1034 protons*sec-1cm-2) multiplied by the elastic cross-section of a proton at 7 TeV, or 40 mBarn (40 x 10-27 cm2). Using this number, I calculate that the number of collisions per second will be 1034 x 40 x 10-27, or 4 billion collisions per second (10x more than the LHC page calculates). Assuming my number is correct since it’s a worst-case situation, and dividing the number of collisions by the average number of proton clumps (2808) and further dividing that number by the number of cycles each bunch takes through the LHC every second (11245) and we have 127 elastic proton collisions per transition through a collision region.

However, we need to calculate the number of secondary non-elastic collisions, and for those, the luminosity (which used to be 1034 protons is now the number of elastic collided protons, or 127. 127 x 60 x 10-27 gives us 7.62 x 10-24 non-elastic collisions per second. To put this number into perspective, if the LHC ran non-stop for 10 years (about 3.16 x 108 seconds), we could expect .0000000000000024 collisions. Or, to put it another way, we could reasonably expect one collision of this type inside the LHC every 415 billion years.

And this assumes that the collision is exactly aligned right to produce a stationary combined particle. Given that a combined particle would have the default speed of 99.9999996% of the speed of light, if the alignment were off by one millionth of one percent, the particle would still go careening off harmlessly in some unpredictable direction at some slightly lower but still amazingly high percentage of the speed of light.

Image credits:
Valerio Mezzanotti for the New York Times
ParticlePhysics.ac.uk
Cern/Maximilien Brice, via the BBC

87 replies »

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  2. I don’t know what the hell she just said but she sounded confident enough for me to believe that the earth is NOT going to be swallowed up.

    How unfortunate? I was really looking forward to a change of pace!

  3. So… is that a “yes” or a “no” on the tinfoil underwear?

    Nice explanation. I still find anything quantum profoundly unsettling, though.

  4. Very well written article. And the new LSAG safety document is also a very careful and well written document. I commend CERN for creating and releasing this very important document.

    However, lets be clear, the document has not been externally validated outside of CERN yet! Lets give a chance for validation and counter views!

    For a current well written opposition view, visit LHCFacts.org to see why several PHDs of Math, Physics and other Theoretical sciences argue just the opposite or your safety conclusions:

    1. Dr. Adam D. Helfer: Do black holes radiate? “no compelling theoretical case for or against radiation by black holes“

    2. Dr. Otto E. Rossler on micro black holes grow rates: “…after 50 months the earth to a centimeter would have shrunk. It would be nothing more there, not only no more life, there but also the earth would be… a small black hole.”

    3. SPC committee on the LSAG safety report Neutron Star argument “but this argument relies on properties of cosmic rays and neutrinos that, while highly plausible, do require confirmation, as can be expected in the coming years.”

    One of the problems with the cosmic ray theory of safety is that if cosmic rays could create neutral micro black holes, they would all travel harmlessly through Earth at nearly the speed of light, and no paper has been written that I am aware of the argues in detail why a cosmic ray particle impact with Earth must create a micro black hole just because a head on collider, colliding tightly packed groups of thousands of protons or Lead to Lead Nuclei head on in powerful magnetic fields might create a micro black hole (and one at low speed that might be captured by Earth’s gravity).

    Just for the record, the following statement is extremely misleading, and really just not correct “Einstein hated the entire idea of quantum mechanics, rejecting it as “spooky action at a distance”

    What Dr. Albert Einstein argued was that the true theory behind quantum mechanics should be based on calculated determinism rather than chance and probability. Entangled photons should be considered as no more mysterious than exact copies, or clones of each other. So there is no need for “spooky, faster than light action at a distance”.

    Dr. Einstein’s analysis of deterministic Quantum Theory has been refined into what is now call Bohmian Quantum Theory, and it has recently been called at least as valid as non-deterministic standard quantum theory in predicting real world outcomes. Experiments are planned to determine if Bohmian Qantum Theory is actually a superior predictor of physical reality than non-deterministic Quantum Theory. Stay tuned!

    (Excellent article detailing Bohmian Quantum Theory was published by NewScientist Magazine, “Quantum randomness may not be random”, 22 March 2008 by Mark Buchanan: New Scientist Link

  5. Even if a black hole did come about inside the LHC, its mass would be so small, and hence its gravitational pull would be so small, that it wouldnt swallow up any matter since it couldnt attract any. A black hole doesnt magically just have “lots of gravity”, it has as much gravitational attraction as the matter that composed it has.
    If the earth collapsed into a black hole for example, the moon wouldnt get sucked in, it would just continue orbiting the resulting black hole like nothing happened, because the black hole has the same gravitational attraction as the earth does. Same thing in the LHC, except the couple of protons that come together to form a mini black hole have such a small mass, that the gravitational attraction of the resulting black hole is essentially 0.

  6. JTankers said:

    One of the problems with the cosmic ray theory of safety is that if cosmic rays could create neutral micro black holes, they would all travel harmlessly through Earth at nearly the speed of light, and no paper has been written that I am aware of the argues in detail why a cosmic ray particle impact with Earth must create a micro black hole just because a head on collider, colliding tightly packed groups of thousands of protons or Lead to Lead Nuclei head on in powerful magnetic fields might create a micro black hole

    You do realize that you just made my argument even stronger, right? Let me explain how – if cosmic ray collision in the upper atmosphere don’t have to create black holes, then neither do proton-proton collisions. In addition, even if proton-proton collisions do create black holes, the resulting impact is nearly guaranteed to produce a black hole that is traveling at nearly the speed of light itself, meaning that it too would pass harmlessly through the Earth.

    Oleg – Thanks for making that point. The gravity of a dual-proton black hole is so small, and it’s diameter so tiny, that it would essentially be nothing, would be able to consume no other mass, and so would be totally harmless.

  7. As someone who read The Theory of Relativity five times in order to understand it, i appreciate and applaud the explanation, Brian. (I kind of had to read it; an uncle gave it to me for HS graduation and signed it, “never let them tell you that it’s all relative”.)

    But that’s not my point…am i the only one who’s a little bit disappointed by Brian proving that the world won’t end from a man-made black hole? I find the irony and poetic justice of this possibility delicious. So thanks for ruining my day, Brian.

  8. Brian:

    Thanks. You are a treasure.

    It’s been many years since my own classes in quantum mechanics, and much has been discovered and/or added to theory since then. Hawking radiaion was known during my undergrad years, but it was a new concept, and Hawking himself hadn’t reached the legendary status he has, today. I appreciate the update. Makes me feel old, but like an elderly, appreciative guy.

    A quick question about the speed of light limit: Are there no such things as tachyons? What’s the latest on them?

  9. In general principal, I agree with Oleg (with what little I know of quantum physics), though it makes me nervous. It reminds me of Einstein’s explanation for why he opted to work on the Philadelphia Experiment rather than the Manhattan Project in WWII. Perhaps he knew nuclear weapons would work and was only making excuses to try and dissuade the U.S. from going down that path. However, he claimed that a nuclear weapon wouldn’t work because trying to initiate the chain reaction was akin to playing billiards on a football field. The particles were too small and too far apart to effectively start the chain reaction. Obviously, he was wrong.

    Articles like this make me think of the Drake Equation. Considering we believe the Universe to be approximately 15 billion years old, that’s seems like a fair amount of time for other civilizations to reach the technological level such that they would emit non-naturally occurring radio waves, thus making them detectable to us. Granted, there are potentially large distances involved, which adds to the time it would take for us to detect them. And there are likely other variables in play as well. Still, the odds that we’re the first such civilization seem highly unlikely. I can’t help but wonder how many intelligences out there may have winked out of existence because they played with fire without first checking how much fuel they would have needed.

    I’m not suggesting we should halt research. Exploration is in our very nature. It’s just food for thought.

  10. Well, Brian, your explanation is fine as far as it goes.

    However, you said “nothing (can) travel faster than the speed of light…” except the information transfer in particle pairs due to ‘spooky action at a distance.’ The only way to understand THAT is to assume there’s something wrong (or incomplete) with the standard model of space and position. Plus there is a theory that gravity should be stronger than it is, but isn’t because it’s actually leaking in from another universe. So, to my limited understanding of these things, couldn’t it be just possible that a micro-black-hole could pull matter and energy form another universe, enough to grow to significance? Or instead of a black hole, a tiny wormhole could open and begin to leak us into another universe with its own set of rules?

    I admit the chances are excellent that nothing bad will happen. But don’t blame us for worrying about unforeseen consequences. I, for one, will be hoping we don’t end up with some high-tech version of “Hey ya’ll… watch this!” That’s what mucking with the unknown entails…. and our experiments should, and will, proceed. I’m just sayin’.

    Although I’d feel better about your explanation, too, if you were able to use “it’s” and “its” correctly.

  11. man creates AIDS, AIDS KILLS MAN, MAN CREATES THE GNOME MAP, Now there is cloning.
    man creates a tiny little black hole. when have you seen that man has limits on what i can create.
    i guess man does not deserve to survive. wake up people.

  12. Why Even Do This If The Experts Already Know Everything?

    The theory that these experiments will not create apocalyptic black holes or even strangelets is very exotic, and likely wrong. We are all betting our lives on some very tricky equations! Besides, couldn’t the money wasted on all this esoteric research be better used to finance wind power or something?

  13. To quote from the article, “No person, however bright, can know everything.”

    With luck, one knows enough.

  14. I don’t know what you mean by a “negative mass particle”. If there were such a thing, one would expect that it would be repelled by gravity rather than attracted. I’ve never heard of that happening.

  15. So whats happens when they fire up and its all a success? They create a micro black hole and then start talking about another lost piece of the universe and decide to ramp up to a larger and larger colliders. So you go from micro to a mini black hole.

    Scientists are not going to stop until 2 things happen. 1) They run out of money 2) They actually create a black hole large enough to rip chunks of Earth.

  16. But wait! Isn’t the singularity at the heart of a black hole supposed to be the infinite balance of negative vs. positive? If the universe is a bubbling “foam” of matter/ant-matter, wouldn’t that also be the same as an infinite balance of positive vs. negative? So therefore, couldn’t you say we exist in a singularity? So perhaps we exist, thinking our Universe is expansive, but in fact we live in an infinitely small singularity in some other Universe. So why does my credit score matter? And why CAN’T I cheat on my spouses…, um, I mean spouse?

  17. So an average genius like Einstein didn’t know everything but our super geniuses of today do?
    Maybe this sort of thing is why project SETI hasn’t found anything out there. I can just see some eight
    legged alien scientist saying to one of his fellows: ” Hey Zokar, watch this ! ” and a few seconds later
    an entire solar system is gone. Only kidding. Go for it. Nothing will probably go wrong…..go wrong….go wrong.
    And even if you do accidentally blow up the world at least you will be denying Bush that honor by beating him to the punch. Hurry before he finds out what you are doing.

  18. For such a clearly stated disquisition on so dense a subject (to me at least, and no pun intended), I usually go to Powerline or The Corner for enlightenment. Now, they KNOW black holes. They suck the life out of everything.

    This was quite interesting, thanks…

  19. Great! The earth will not be swallowed up. Assuming that’s true, is anyone concerned about more subtle effects? How about widespread depression, increased rates of miscarriage, suicide, and certain cancers, just for example? I’m speculating of course, but the key thing is that nobody’s even concerned about such “low-level” effects.

    Just think, emissions from a little bitty cell phone used by a pregnant woman can affect the behavior of her child after birth. Other biological effects have yet to be proven, and are still widely denied, but even the scientists who study these effects admit that they use a wired headset with their own mobile phones–they say it’s just common sense not to hold such a thing next to your head.

    Could it be that this little Large Hadron Collider might have unexpected biological effects on mankind? Does anyone care about that? Or does the crude assurance that it’s “not going to swallow the earth” enable us to lapse back into complacency?

    A good question to ask would be, how close do the scientists stand to the LHC? How much shielding is required? What are the attendant security measures, safety protocols, alarm systems, etc. I bet they’ve got a pretty good fence around the thing. Seeing that would give more cause for alarm than is expressed here.

    But of course, we won’t hear about the effects for 20-30 years or so…Just as the wealthiest among us are boarding their private spaceships and abandoning this devastated planet…

    Yes, it’s far-fetched. No, it’s not unthinkable.

  20. I’m sorry but you sound incredibly pompous as if we know how a black hole works like we do a wristwatch. Hawking radiation has not been proven- it’s just a theory. We have put a lot of physics into how they work but we don’t anything for sure- the universe is a violent and chaotic place. We have never had an experiment on this level before on Earth. Nothing is for sure and should be taken for granted. Hubris before the fall.

  21. Thomas Brown said:

    However, you said “nothing (can) travel faster than the speed of light…” except the information transfer in particle pairs due to ’spooky action at a distance.’

    The problem is that the kind of transfer of information that is occurring isn’t useful in a classical sense. You can’t transfer bits of digital data, for example, only quantum information that, by it’s very nature, is probabalistic in nature. And if you transfer the quantum information that there’s a 50/50 chance that the other side is a 0 or a 1 (digital bit), so what? At this point, there has been no recorded examples of classical information transfer via quantum entanglement.

    So, to my limited understanding of these things, couldn’t it be just possible that a micro-black-hole could pull matter and energy form another universe, enough to grow to significance?

    Nope. The Hawking radiation you denegrate has more theoretical proof behind it than the multiple universe theory you’re implying here. Furthermore, you have you science backwards – the theory is that gravity should be much less than it is and that the additional gravity is from alternate universes. Even if the multiple universes theory is correct, however, there is no evidence that any energy or mass is capable of transitioning between universes – only gravity appears to make the connection.

    Blues said:

    The theory that these experiments will not create apocalyptic black holes or even strangelets is very exotic, and likely wrong.

    And you know this how and why? Examples and/or links would be appreciated.

    Besides, couldn’t the money wasted on all this esoteric research be better used to finance wind power or something

    Whether the money spent on the LHC is money better spent on other things is a question of moral and ethical values – how do you value scientific progress as compared to alternative energy research. And that’s a question I’ve no even tried to address here. That alone could be a series of probably hundreds of posts.

  22. Bob said:

    So an average genius like Einstein didn’t know everything but our super geniuses of today do?

    I’m neither denigrating Einstein nor elevating more recent geniuses above him by suggesting that Einstein couldn’t know everything. All scientific advances form a continuum, with the work of one genius building upon the foundation of the work of prior geniuses. Einstein couldn’t have done the work he did without the work of Kepler, Newton, Maxwell, et al. Similarly, Hawking couldn’t have done his work without the work of Einstein, Bell, Shannon, Bohr, et al.

    Mishkin-Fishkin asked:

    Could it be that this little Large Hadron Collider might have unexpected biological effects on mankind?…

    A good question to ask would be, how close do the scientists stand to the LHC? How much shielding is required? What are the attendant security measures, safety protocols, alarm systems, etc. I bet they’ve got a pretty good fence around the thing.

    In answer to your first question, it’s possible, but you have to ask what the probability is of such unexpected biological effects. The LHC is buried underground 50 to 175 meters for two purposes – it was cheaper since acquiring the farmland above the ground would have cost too much, and 50 meters of rock minimum is a great way to shield the detectors from natural cosmic ray radiation and, similarly, to shield organisms on the surface from any radiation created by the proton collisions. See the LHC UK FAQ. The LHC radiation, when turned on, would likely be lethal – 50-175 meters of rock prevents that from leaking out.

  23. arouet said:

    Hawking radiation has not been proven- it’s just a theory

    And, if various m-dimensional theory dimensions are “large,” and the LHC actually creates nano black holes, then we may actually be able to experimentally observe Hawking radiation. Which, given how harmless such a small black hole would be due to how fast it would evaporate (or, if it doesn’t, how quickly it’ll pass through the earth and out the other side) would be very cool.

  24. Good article. I’m glad science is far more responsible today than it once was. I do recall reading somewhere that during the first tests of the nuclear bomb, some scientists on the project were unsure if the nuclear reaction would *ever* stop, so they weren’t entirely sure if they were about the destroy the Earth. Lucky for us, they didn’t!

  25. I guess what I find bothersome, and it’s very likely stemming from the superstitious aspect of our nature, is that while it’s “very very very very . . . very unlikely”, it’s still -possible-. And not just “my mind is wandering, I’ll concede that -x y or z- is -possible-“. … That is, we’ll be smashing a lot of bits together which has a MUCH higher possibility of causing multiple micro-black holes in proximity, yet if we only collide 2 particles at a time, we reduce the chance of “multiples” to 0. Wouldn’t that be “safer”? At least until we measure and observe a few micro-black holes (if they even form)?

    I just worry about the arrogance of man on occasion. We didn’t “know” how radiation from atomic weapons worked, and we killed and destroyed the lives of a lot of soldiers during those experiments. I get nervous when a fellow geek says “bah, the probability is way low. What happens if I do this?”

    Given the Hawkins Radiation theory, assuming it’s at least partially correct, what’s to say the energy from the collider isn’t interfering with “natural processes” enough to cause an otherwise “innocuous” micro-black hole to become a raging monster? That is, if the balance of matter popping in and out of existence, coupled with the tendency of “negative particles” to be absorbed more readily by a black hole, is “artificially blocked”, that means the micro-black hole -could- feed on matter inside the collider. That would cause the black hole to grow, would it not? At least until it breached the collider and the “natural limiting effect” could take over.

    So, what happens if we have a 5 ft wide black hole stuck underground?

    And, while I’m pretty rusty on my quantum mechanics (more like illiterate), I was under the impression that we “knew” that black holes were actively sucking matter IN, and we just didn’t know where that matter went. When, exactly, did we measure/test/observe that to not be the case? Or is that all “mathematical theory” where someone might have forgotten to carry the 1?

    I guess, without having a hand full of PhDs in my pocket, I should try to understand what’s being said the best I can and “trust” that the scientists working on this aren’t overstepping their understanding. … at least it’s in France, away from here 🙂 …. I just worry when the answer is “well, it should work ‘in theory’ “…

  26. I’m with Savantster on the “arrogance of man” worry… it’s like handing a monkey the car keys and telling him to be careful. Plus, if Brian is wrong and we all get spaghettified, I won’t be able to mock him. I resent that.

  27. Savantster said:

    That is, we’ll be smashing a lot of bits together which has a MUCH higher possibility of causing multiple micro-black holes in proximity, yet if we only collide 2 particles at a time, we reduce the chance of “multiples” to 0. Wouldn’t that be “safer”?

    Yep, and that’s what the LHC is doing – they’re creating small numbers of proton collisions and at lower energy first, seeing what happens, then gradually boosting the LHC to full power and full beam density. It’ll take them months to go from first protons (in May) to full power (sometime this autumn).

    As for “possibility,” it’s possible that you’ll tunnel through that wall using particle-wave duality just like an electron can tunnel through a material that it lacks the energy to get through due to the fact that it has a wave-like nature. But the probability is so low that tunneling of anything larger than an electron has never been observed. It’s possible that you’ll be killed in a bio-terror attack, but it’s FAR more probable that you’ll die in a car accident.

    I understand that people react to exceedingly improbable horrible outcomes more than they react to very likely unpleasant outcomes – it’s part of human psychology. And the LHC qualifies – just because I can say that it’s infinitesimally unlikely (but still possible) that the LHC will be dangerous, some people will simply latch onto the infinitesimal probability and never let go – even as they worry so much that they die of a stress-induced heart attack or stroke instead of a nano black hole.

  28. There is a fine balance between the fear of the dark our ancestors had 50,000 years ago that kept them from being eaten by lions, and being cautious in the face of a new dark found after shining a light into the shadow.

    I guess I still have a bit of my instinct intact even though I mock the average joe with their seemingly infantile level of trepidation at almost all things (except the NFL, NASCAR and Monster Trucks, it seems). We’re talking about releasing never before seen particles and pretending like “the math is done, stop worrying!” means it’s as factual as the sun rises in the east.

    I’m not stressing over it, I’m kind of excited, actually. And, if in the end it -does- destroy the planet.. Meh, we’ll all be dead and it won’t matter much. Right? 😀 .. I can live with that 😉

    I do appreciate the added theories and info I didn’t have before, though. I wasn’t sure just how unlikely it was nor what the seemingly controlling factors were. You did an excellent job of gathering up info that was seemingly too dispersed for me to bother with (I’m a bit lazy, you see). The only other bit I had to go on in the past was that “we might make a black hole, we’ll see”.. -that- was a bit nerve wracking.

  29. Thanks. This stuff takes a while to process so that the uninitiated can understand it more easily.

    JS – you asked about tachyons. These are still theoretical particles, I’m afraid. No-one has observed them yet, and while I think they’re quite cool in general concept, I don’t know much about them myself. Sorry.

  30. As much as the scientific community “thinks they know”, it’s obvious that they are working on theory that is still largely unproven and are delving into the very fabric of quantum physics. If they make a mistake, there won’t be time to say “whoops” we are wrong, but as long a people like this insists on playing God with the unknowns that control the universe, I believe that mankind is essentially at their mercy and we have to hope they truly understand what they are doing, besides spending countless billions of dollars that could be used for better purposes.

  31. William Cormier said:

    As much as the scientific community “thinks they know”, it’s obvious that they are working on theory that is still largely unproven and are delving into the very fabric of quantum physics.

    That would be true if particle accelerators were all new and stuff, but we’ve been smashing protons, electrons, neutrons, positrons, and anti-protons together for decades now, and it’s just not that big a deal any more. The only difference between those accelerators and the LHC is that the LHC is big enough and powerful enough to reach higher energies – that’s it.

  32. Brian, thanks for your intelligent and non-defensive answers to the comments, including mine. It’s rare for writers to take the time to follow up like that, and very welcome. I plan to reread your article, and pass it on to my friends.

  33. Particle-antiparticle pairs pop up spontaneously in space. They both (electron-positron) have the same POSITIVE masses. There is no negative mass. The gravitational energy density of space near the BH is momentarily converted to this particle-antiparticle pair. Anti-particles do not have negative mass. They have complementary quantum mechanical states which cancel out if the particles recombine to release energy in terms of photons (i.e. positive and negative particles release gamma rays). And the closer to the event horizon you are, the higher the rate of change of the gravitational field and the higher the likelihood of one of the particles being consumed, while the other gets away without recombining and destroying the pair. The occurrence of photons from the high gravitational mass of the BH induce more virtual pairs near the event horizon of the BH. Hence net energy release from the black hole.

    The pairs pop up OUTSIDE the event horizon of the black hole formed from gravitational energy. To conserve momentum, each goes in opposite directions from the point of creation. If one of the two falls into the black hole, and the other escapes, then the black hole has radiated energy by converting some of the gravitational field to a particle. Otherwise virtual particle collide and are destroyed releasing photons (gamma rays).

    [Ed. Note: Thanks for the correction. I’ll update the original post to correct the errors in how Hawking radiation actually should work]

  34. Re: 28 – the surface area, and the volume and radius of a BH is related to its mass, and a 5 foot diameter BH would have a huge mass, something between the Earth and the Sun, and not be caused by two atomic nuclei colliding.

  35. That’s a bunch of BS. It’s clear you have no idea what you are talking about. There’s going to be a black whole that will swallow half of europe before they get to the fire extinguisher.

  36. There’s one big problem with this self-promoting article. The Hawking Radiative effect these scientists so laud over has never been proven. It is just a theory like so many others that are taken as gospel. The energy yield of the first atomic bomb was drastically underestimated by the current theory of the time. But that’s the point isn’t, it’s just an imperfect theory, and for the author to speak down to people who raise concerns over the large energies and exotic particles involved in these experiments, as if she knows for sure what the outcome of all possible collisions will be is a bit presumptuous it seems.

  37. Wow, Brian, you got folks worked up with this one and an interesting thread ensued.

    Philosophically, should we even be that worried about the world ending in a man-made black hole? As someone else pointed out, we’d all be “dead” so it probably wouldn’t bother us. And who knows, perhaps we’re a cancerous growth on the universe that other life forms would think went into spontaneous remission.

    The point on mucking about with things we don’t really understand should be well taken; we do have a habit of unintended consequences.

  38. Lex said:

    The point on mucking about with things we don’t really understand should be well taken; we do have a habit of unintended consequences.

    Certainly true. However, sometimes it’s not possible to prove something in science without taking some risks. In this case, the questions I’ve attempted to answer are as follows: what are those risks, how likely are they, and what precautions have been taken. I didn’t address strangelets, but I’m not worried about those either because of the update I posted regarding the resulting velocity of any created particles.

  39. Smug: That’s a bunch of BS. It’s clear you have no idea what you are talking about.

    You, on the other hand are … I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the name of the prestigious European university where you chair the Physics department?

    Tell you what, I got $100 says Brian is right and Europe is still in one piece after the test. Want a piece?

  40. THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL OF PRINCIPLES IS BEING IGNORED.

    It matters not how likely it is to create a black hole, the fact is that Government has NO RIGHT to put my life and those of everyone else on a roulette wheel regardless of however unlikely this outcome is. This smacks of “WE KNOW BEST”, and is identical to the endless announcements that our liberties have to be curtailed because of some Al Qaeda threat that only “they” can understand, because the average man is too simple in the head to comprehend it.

  41. Robert L Thompsett said:

    It matters not how likely it is to create a black hole, the fact is that Government has NO RIGHT to put my life and those of everyone else on a roulette wheel regardless of however unlikely this outcome is.

    What you’re arguing for here – the right of individual self-determination for every individual without interference – is a valid ideal, fundamentally Libertarian in its foundations, but it’s also utterly impractical in the real world. The government does exactly what you’re complaining about every day with every law they write.

    Furthermore, though, you put your lives in the hands of others nearly every moment of every day. When you get into an automobile or ride a bicycle or walk down the street, you’re trusting others to not hit you and kill you with their car, a possibility that has far greater probability than a black hole eating the planet. When you eat vegetables, grains, and meat, you’re trusting that the producers of that food didn’t poison you accidentally or intentionally. When you are treated for a medical condition, you’re trusting that the manufacturers of your medicine didn’t intentionally hide negative side effects (committing fraud) for their own monetary gain.

    What you’re complaining about is really no different, except that we have many examples of motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians dying in automobile accidents, many examples of intentional and unintentional poisoning, and many examples of pharmaceutical companies committing fraud and selling unsafe “medicines.” We have no examples of a black hole being created and eating the planet.

    It’s simply not possible to live in any society in a completely self-determined fashion – societies must have rules (ie laws) in order to function, and those rules inherently restrict self-determination.

  42. Many of those involved in this conversation remind me of people who refuse to get their children vaccinated for fear that they may contract either unproven side effects or the extremely rare proven ones. They’d rather have their children undergo the reasonably high risk of contracting, say, polio than the very tiny risk of suffering a side effect from the vaccine.

    As for Robert Thompsett, I find your logic puzzling. Are you suggesting that every citizen of every country must consent to every scientific experiment before it can proceed? Who would decide except the gummint?

  43. There are many things cutting-edge physics still can’t explain. For instance the dance move known as “The Moon Walk”. Or the ability some people have to partially spit and suddenly suck the spit-glob back into thier mouth (Spitty-Slurpy). So my point is…if Physicists can’t explain the Moonwalk or Spitty-Slurpy how can they ever be trusted to operate a machine as large and complex as the LHC?
    Indeed, while I am on my pulpit….whose to say the LHC will even function properly?

    Scenario: Female technician while monitoring energy stream realizes she has a hot date with the nerdy, pony-tail wearing Phyisicist from Belgium. Pulls compact out of purse (I know female physicists don’t wear make-up…just go with me here) and accidentally drops said compact into energy stream causing a particle-deflection which shoots out from the ground into the sky and vaporizes the International Space-Station.

    You see. All kinds of things are possible once we heat this baby up. Can I call it “This Baby”? I’m sort of excited.

  44. First off,

    “If higher energy collisions are occurring all the time, then either a) nano black holes aren’t created by such collisions in the first place or b) those black holes evaporate harmlessly.”

    Using an If-Then statement to ‘prove’ conjecture based on a an imperfect theory based on indirect observations (using the methods that we use to measure the universe such as radio spectography or something) is NOT science! There are massive holes in the above argument, saying things like, we know this, so this kind of thing can’t happen, or if it does happen, it won’t mean anything etc. etc..

    You DON’T know these things…these are theories based on theories based on theories. We DON’T know what will happen when the particle accelerator/collider whatever turns on. This argument makes use of the current body of knowledge and explains what we THINK in a very cogent way…golf clap…but it is NOT the end all be all argument. And the author shouldn’t sound like it is.

    Also, regarding the above poster who wonders about other civlizations over the last 15 billion years, and why we haven’t detected them:

    Read some Stephen Baxter. His science fiction argument is thus: Due to the simply HUGE amounts of space/time that are inbetween solar systems, galaxies, and the like, a civilization can only grow so large before it destroys itself competing for resources. We simply can’t break the speed of light space/time barrier…in short, we can’t travel fast enough to outrun what is going to destroy us.

    So, perhaps there have been, are, or will be other civilizations…just like ours…but they have, are being, or will be, destoyed by the problems that nothing short of light speed can fix.

  45. A One God Universe
    ————————–
    Consider the impasse of a one God universe.
    He is all-knowing and all-powerful.
    He can’t go anywhere since He is already everywhere.
    He can’t do anything since the act of doing presupposes opposition.
    His universe is irrevocably thermodynamic having no friction by definition. So, He has to create friction: War, Fear, Sickness, Death,
    To keep his dying show on the road.

    Sooner or later, “Look boss we don’t have enough energy left to fry an elderly woman in a flea bag hotel bar.”

    “Well, we’ll have to start faking it.”

    Joe looks after him sourly and mixes a bicarbonated soda. “Sure, start faking it. Sure, and leave the details to Joe.”

    Now look, from a real disaster you get a pig of energy: Sacrifice, Heroism, Grief, Separation, Fear and Violent Death, and remember one violent death yields more energy than a cancer ward.
    So, from a energy surplus you can underwrite the next one.
    So, from a energy surplus you can underwrite the next one.
    But the first one’s a fake, you can’t underwrite a shithouse!
    Trying to explain to God Almighty where His one God universe is going.
    The asshole doesn’t know what buttons to push or what happens when you push them! Abandon ship, god damn it every man for himself!

    Recollect Pope John XXIII saying, “Like a little soldier, I stand at attention in the presence of my captains.” The old army game from here to eternity: Get there firstest with the brownest nose.

    — William S. Burroughs

  46. If you only knew how hard it is to get get any where NEAR the beam line when its running… I’ve done some stuff with one of the beamlines at BNL (remember when they were going to make black holes a few years ago?) and some stuff with the proton beam here at LLU (we use it to treat patients for cancer). You have to jump through hoops from hell just to get near it. True, it hasn’t always been the case. There have been some stupid people in the past. But now? I think the compact mirror is the least of our worries. No matter how hawt that nerdy belgium physicist might be. Hahaha.

  47. Sam said:

    Using an If-Then statement to ‘prove’ conjecture based on a an imperfect theory based on indirect observations (using the methods that we use to measure the universe such as radio spectography or something) is NOT science!

    You’re right – it’s logic, and while logic underlies science, it’s not science in and of itself. The process of using logic to deduce from evidence and conjecture how reality works is science.

    Here’s the science of what we know, and how:

    We know that there are cosmic rays in space. We know this from the indirect evidence of particle raining down on the earth’s surface that can only be produced by impacts of cosmic rays on the atmosphere and from the existence of the ionosphere region of the atmosphere. We also know it from direct evidence of cosmic rays impacting satellites and the effects they cause.
    We know that cosmic rays in space have higher energies than what the LHC can produce. We know this from the observed “air showers” of high energy particles that are predicted by Einstein’s general relativity (a scientific law that has been verified over and over and over again) and from calculations that have determined that the observed air showers can only be produced by collisions with particles that have energy up to and maybe beyond 1020 eV, which is 10 million times more powerful (107) greater than what the LHC can produce (14 x 1012 eV).
    Since collisions of this magnitude have been observed dozens of times and we’re still here to measure them, we know that the collisions do not create dangerous particles.

    Using logic, and taking the facts we have at our disposal, we can predict that any particles created by the LHC will also not be dangerous.

    We DON’T know what will happen when the particle accelerator/collider whatever turns on.

    Of course not. The entire point of doing any scientific experiment is to see what happens. If you already know, there’s no point in doing the experiment. That’s the fundamental point of science – to discover things about reality that we don’t know. What we do know, however, is that the LHC will not be dangerous, at least not in the nano black hole/strange matter way that most people seem to be worried about.

    Just don’t stand near the beamline when it’s running – the ionizing radiation coming off it will almost certainly kill you. Of course, that’s what multiple safety lockouts are for. Maybe Mike Pecaut could give you some examples of the hoops he’s had to jump through.

  48. I don’t know what the LHC will have, but BNL (Brookhaven National Laboratory) has several levels of lockouts. First off, the entire beamline is on a military base. Even if you get on, base (which, admittedly, probably isn’t all that hard if you’re determined to do so and know where you’re going), you can’t even get into the room in NSRL (NASA Space Radiation Laboratory) where they do biological experiments w/o first calling the control room, getting your eye scanned to prove identity, and simultaneously turning lockout keys. The beam line doesn’t even come into that room unless the people in control want it to go there. Otherwise, the beam is limited to the main ring. And even if the DID want it to go in there, they couldn’t send it unless all of the keys returned to their proper locations, and doors are closed and alarmed.

    Once you get through the door, you have to walk down a long concrete hallway lined with video cameras and motion detectors and emergency shut off buttons.

    That’s not counting all the radiation training and paperwork you have to do just to be considered for being there in the first place.

    Believe it or not, this is actually better than it used to be. It used to be that they had a person physically standing there signing you in and out of the room at several stages of entry. It took 5-10 minutes just to get into the room.

    I’m not sure what kind of energies the physics experiments usually deal with, but we were generally in the 500 MeV to 5 GeV range because thats where most (but certainly not all) of the GCRs are in terms of energy.

    One note of clarification: Although most of the GCRs is made up of protons, I think the high energy GCRs you are talking about are not really single protons. They are probably (HZE, or high energy, high atomic number) iron or carbon atoms stripped of their electrons. They actually represent a small fraction of the GCR particle fluence, but they are also responsible for most of the biological damage.

  49. This whole situation gives me the galloping willies.

    I agree with Mr. Thompsett in No. 43.

    This situtation is stupidness giving itself airs and affectations that it’s really smartness.

    Everyone at the time was exclaiming how safe the Titanic was. The safest ship afloat. Virtually unsinkable. And we all know how that turned out.

    “Scientists” can be just as completely devoid of common sense and ethics as anyone else. They can lie just as much as anyone else to further some personal agenda.

  50. Steve:

    Sure. Scientists can lie. But what those who haven’t a scientific education don’t understand is that other scientists like nothing better than demolishing their colleagues’ postulations. That’s why science works so well. Those who avoided science classes don’t seem to understand that science is not a monolith. Science is not a church. Science is a jungle where the law of intellectual tooth and claw reigns, and the prey are ideas and so-called “facts.” Only the strongest ideas and discoveries, that are so probable that they might as well be called “facts,” survive.

    Mary Shelley did us a favor, in a way, when she pointed out the dangers of science in her novel, Frankenstein, but we should also remember that the novel was given a second title: The Modern Prometheus. For those who are Greek-myth-challenged, Prometheus brought fire to mortals, thus earning the eternal enmity of the gods. Fire was a blessing and a curse, but Shelley, being the romantic she was, focuses heavily on the curse in a paean to Rousseau. We’ve been living with the anti-science crowd ever since.

  51. I agree that scientist individuals can be devoid of common sense. I’m pretty sure I’m one of them. However, when you’re talking about an experiment like the one at LHC, you are talking about an entire community of scientists who are all fighting for the same tiny pot of money. That generally means that big projects like this are scrutinized and reviewed and criticized within the community beyond belief. And then the same thing had to happen with the funding agencies and governments. If there was any flaw to the theory, some genius would have found it. That’s not to say it’s perfect. It can’t be. But it’s close.

  52. Dr Slammy,

    You were brilliant when you said’ ‘

    Tell you what, I got $100 says Brian is right and Europe is still in one piece after the test. Want a piece?’

    I’ll go partners with you on this, and lets offer odds of 1000:1 that Brian is right, and Europe will still be in one piece after the test. I will cover all the bets as high as you care to go. I also accept paypal as a method of exchange. I’m ready for some action. Anybody want to bet $100 and have a chance of winning $100,000? I’m willing to risk my whole bankroll, hell, I’ll even throw in some art into the pot.

    I’m just curious about one thing…..I know a couple of the commenters on this site have science/engineering backgrounds…..but what percentage of commenters on this particular thread are non-scientists?

    If any takers, stop over to my blog and, get your action down.

    Jeff

  53. Open letter to Professor Hawking
    Dear Professor Hawking
    The safety of micro black hole(mBH) production in the CERN LHC accelerator, operating in COLLIDER MODE, has not been properly addressed.
    Six LAYERS OF PROTECTION for the Earth and all its inhabitants have been ASSUMED and discussed during the last decade or so:
    [I’ll briefly outline the first five, and then explain a FATAL MATH ERROR in the sixth]
    1. NO BLACK HOLES WILL BE PRODUCED.
    Ten years ago we were assured that mBHs could not be produced by any conceivable accelerator on Earth. The Plank Energy 10 ^ 19 GeV was supposedly required to produce a micro black hole. This would require an accelerator thousands of light years across.
    Today CERN and others are assuring us(if that’s the right word!) that the LHC will be a “BLACK HOLE FACTORY”, operating at only about 10 ^ 4GeV. Thus people believe a certain version of string theory with extra dimensions, and it is now thought that mBHs are 10 ^ 15 times easier to produce. And can be produced in an accelerator 10 ^ 15 times smaller in diameter than the hypothetical galactic version.
    A revision of 15 orders of magnitude should make people more modest about the certitude of their pronouncements. According to CERN:
    PROTECTION #1 NEVER EXISTED, but don‘t worry, they are absolutely certain of the next layers of protection, just like they used to be absolutely certain about #1.……………….(1)

    2. BLACK HOLES WOULD EVAPORATE TOO QUICKLY TO INTERACT WITH THE EARTH.
    The 5 x 10 ^ 3GeV mBHs they are confident of producing would have a lifetime of around 4 x 10^ -86sec according to what was believed a decade ago and more ago. Since this is about 42 orders of magnitude smaller than the Plank time(5.4 X 10 ^ -44sec), not surprisingly, mBHs of that mass were deemed impossible.
    Now their lifetime is supposed to be in the order of 10 ^ -26sec, because of higher dimensions at small scales.
    So we’re supposed to REVISE THE LIFETIME OF AN mBH UPWARD by a whopping 60 ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, and SUPPRESS HAWKING RADIATION (HR)by the same amount. To put things into perspective, the ratio between the Plank time 5.4 x 10 ^ -44sec and estimated age of the universe is about 10 ^ 62. We could hardly be more unsure of the actual mBH lifetime, in a quantitative sense, since the predicted values are so dependent on the “flavor of the month” version of string theory.
    Even if we are confident that a mBH must decay by Hawking Evaporation(HE):
    PROTECTION # 2 INVOLVES MAGNITUDES THAT ARE TOO WILDLY SPECULATIVE TO RELY ON. The fact that HAWKING RADIATION HAS NEVER BEEN OBSERVED in cosmic ray showers, suggests a process too slow to save us, even if it occurs.
    Purely from the HEALTH AND SAFETY point of view, we must assume therefore
    THAT PROTECTION # 2 DOES NOT EXIST…………………………..(2)

    3. PERSISTENCE OF EARTH, MOON, AND OTHER BODIES IN SOLAR SYSTEM PROVES SAFETY OF mBH BOMBARDMENT.
    False analogy. Natural fission has been going on in the Solar System for Eons, without ever causing nuclear explosions(exponentially growing reactions). By changing the GEOMETRY of the experiment, TRINITY, the first atom bomb test, succeeded first try.
    ALL mBHs produced by bombardment by high energy cosmic rays are NECESSARILY RELATIVISTIC. The CENTRE OF MASS VELOCITY of the collision is relativistic, and this is CRUCIAL TO THE SAFETY OF THE EARTH, Moon, Sun etc,.
    These mBHs would cross the full diameter of the Earth in 0.042sec, Jupiter in 0.46sec, and the Sun in 4.6sec. Because of the small size and enormous speed, they would fly through like very heavy neutrinos, and have plenty of time to decay in the vastness of space. They would NEVER BE CAPTURED, AND SO WOULD POSE NO THREAT.
    Operating the LHC in COLLIDER MODE, ensures that the centre of mass velocity of the collisions are distributed about zero, and not just under the speed of light. It CHANGES THE GEOMETRY of the experiment. This guarantees that some of the mBHs produced by the LHC IN COLLISION MODE would be GRAVITATIONALLY CAPTURED IN THE BULK OF THE EARTH, something UNPRECEDENTED in its history.
    Any such mBH can never escape, and if it starts to absorb nucleons before it has time to evaporate, then it constitutes an EXISTENTIAL DANGER to the Earth. The only thing that matters then, is the TYPICAL DOUBLING TIME T2, analogous to T 1/2, the half-life for radioactive decay.
    Such mBHs would have all the time in the world to grow exponentially. And “all the time in the world” might be very short.
    PROTECTION # 3 DOES NOT EXIST IF LHC OPERATES IN COLLIDER MODE……….(3)

    4.THE VASTLY HIGHER ENERGIES OF SOME COSMIC RAYS STRIKING EARTH ARE PROOF OF SAFETY.
    All the mBHs produced by such very high energy particles are relativistic, and are harmless, for the reasons described above. OPERATING THE LHC IN COLLIDER MODE REMOVES THIS PROTECTION IMMEDIATELY, so:
    PROTECTION # 4 IS TOTALLY BOGUS………………(4)
    5. THE COLLISIONS HAVE LESS ENERGY THAN A FEW FLYING MOSQUITOS, so must be safe.
    False analogy. The energy of the neutrons that triggered the exponential process in the TRINITY ATOM BOMB TEST 1945 in the New Mexico Desert was many orders of magnitude less than this, but STARTED AN EXPONENTIALLY INCREASING PROCESS. During the short time the U235 is explosively brought to a supercritical state, EVEN ONE SLOW NEUTRON causing fission is sufficient. Doesn’t take much energy to LIGHT A FUSE.
    [Of course a relativistic neutron produced by cosmic rays, that zipped thru the core of an A-bomb with no chance to cause fission, would be pretty harmless……]
    PROTECTION # 5 IS UTTER BILGE.
    PROTECTION #2-5 are constantly quoted by CERN, whose attitude to RISK ASSESSMENT is really about PUBLIC RELATIONS and not the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE…………..(5)

    CERN is so blase about the weakness of the arguments for the PROTECTION #2-5, because even if they are rubbish, they think the next protection is surely a clincher:
    CERN quote a mBH with a mass equivalent to 5000 nucleons, which might be typically produced, which absorbs one nucleon per hundred hours.
    6.EVEN IF THE PREVIOUS PROTECTIONS FAIL, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DANGER BECAUSE:
    [At that rate, even if one did not take into account the fact that each black hole would slow down every time it gobbled up a proton, and thus suck down matter at an even slower rate, “about 100 protons would be destroyed every year by such a black hole, so it would take much more than the age of universe to destroy even one milligram of Earth material]………(6)
    Let’s see now, one mg contains about
    M/u nucleons, where M=10 ^ -6 kg and u = 1.67 x 10 ^ -27kg
    So number of nucleons to be destroyed is
    N = 6 x 10 ^ 20 (ie Avogadro’s Number divided by a thousand, as we would expect)
    So divide this by 100 to get a time to destroy that many nucleons of
    T = 6 x 10 ^ 18 years, much more than the age of the universe.
    Note the AMAZING ASSUMPTION OF LINEARITY. This must be the BIGGEST SCIENTIFIC BLUNDER IN HISTORY, and the most EXPENSIVE, if it literally costs the Earth.
    A classical mBH accretes exponentially even as it slows down…….(7)
    Speculative extra dimensions reduce the rate until the effect of the extra dimensions is no longer noticeable. On coming to a halt at the centre of the earth, material is forced towards the entire AREA(think N-squared) until conservation of momentum forces accretion to occur along the equator. So we could get a brief period of asymptotic growth, followed by exponential. In the exponential process N = No e ^ kt, the e time is less than 60 years! We cannot observe the minutae of the actual processes within the Earth. And extra mBHs are being added, presumably with variable starting masses and accretion rates, which depend on the size. The overall result is similar to that for analogues in the Economy. The growth of an investment portfolio for example, but one in which the individual investments cannot ever lose, cannot stay still, and after the initial settling period, cannot increase as slowly as a linear rate. ALL BOOM, and NO BUST. Such investments grow exponentially, until something runs out…..in this case, the EARTH ITSELF.
    It is easier for mere mathematical mortals like me to understand it in terms of something like the growth of an investment. The period is 100 hours, and the rate is .02% COMPOUND INTEREST. That approach is familiar to non-scientists in business etc, and this is an open letter. The best way to do the math then is in terms of the DOUBLING TIME T2, the time to double the investment. Even wild fluctuations in the rate, can be accommodated by corresponding reductions in T2. It still only takes a certain number of doublings to consume the Earth.
    N = No(2 ^ n) where n is the number of doublings each taking T2.
    No = 5000, then with dN/dt starting at 1 per hundred hours(2.8 x 10 ^ -6 nucleons per sec), the mBH doubles in 40 years, and gobbles the earth in just under 160 such doublings, or about 6400 years.

    ( the factor is 2 ^ 160 = 10 ^ 48 approx, and we started with 5 x 10 ^ 3.)

    There is another huge problem:

    A classical mBH of mass about 5GeV has a radius of approx 10 ^ -50m, so much under the PLANK SIZE, as to be pretty meaningless. No wonder it used to be thought that such mBHs were impossible.
    The SAME mBH is now supposed to be around 10 ^ -19m. ANOTHER WHOPPING REVISION, 31 MAGNITUDES!
    So the CROSS SECTION, and ability to interact with matter is INCREASED by about 62 MAGNITUDES. And no-one at CERN is modest enough to say WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL WE ARE DOING!
    In view of the wild variations in the order of magnitude of the cross-section, depending on the particular model, we should note that if the mBH starts accreting at one nucleon per hour, the Earth has only 64 years, and if we start with 100 nucleons per hour, the Earth has less than 8 months, the last of which would be horrific in the extreme. Only if the doubling time is long in Geological terms, EONS, is the COST to the Earth negligible……..(8)

    Yet CERN have an AMAZING FAITH that:
    A black hole absorbs only one nucleon per hundred hours or roughly 10 ^ 2 per year indefinitely………IRRESPECTIVE OF HOW BIG IT GROWS
    When it is a million times, or a billion times, or a trillion times more massive, the mBH still gobbles only one nucleon per hundred hours……even when it grows from N = 5000 to N = 6 x 10 ^20, and presumably even when it grows to 3.6 x 10 ^ 51(the number of nucleons in the Earth). In a linear model, this sure would take a long time. Let’s restate it:
    CERN BELIEVE THAT ACCRETION OCCURS AT A CONSTANT RATE, INDEPENDENT OF SIZE AND MASS.
    WHAT AN EXTRAORDINARY CLAIM.
    dN/dt = a constant for a black hole in the Earth.
    This constant is INDEPENDENT OF THE MASS AND SIZE, an astonishing state of affairs. At just what scale does this break down?
    A 10 ^ 9 solar mass black hole in the nucleus of a Quasar perhaps? The density of space in the central region of a Galaxy near a SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE is nowhere near that in the interior of the Earth. And as we have seen, the people at CERN think that SIZE DOESN’T MATTER! I believe that Astronomers, if they actually thought about it, would LAUGH THEM TO SCORN.
    But this is TRAGIC COMEDY:
    (7)To apply a CERN type RISK ASSESSMENT to the TITANIC would find that it could not possibly sink, since the rate of taking on water would be independent of the size of the hole, so tearing a 100 meter long gash would do no more harm than drilling a millimeter diameter hole. How could it possibly sink? FORGET THE LIFEBOATS!
    After all, starting with a microscopic hole, it should be possible to cut it to any arbitrary larger size without increasing the rate at which water is entering! I suppose we could cut away the entire ship, which is what they may succeed in doing with our Spaceship Earth. We might be tempted to laugh at the idiocy of all this, but that would be like whistling in the cattle cars trundling down the track towards Auschwitz.
    And it would be unfair to compare the new LHC GAMBLE to the launch of the TITANIC, because:
    The designers and operators of TITANIC were OPTIMISTS, but NOT CRIMINALS.
    CERN

    They
    1. Did not seek out dangerous objects like icebergs.
    2. Had credible detection methods for potentially dangerous objects. Foghorns and echoes. Men with binoculars on watch.
    3. Had credible methods of detecting damage, and if not too severe, of effecting temporary repair. Sound of collision, crew reports of shipping water, plates and braced beams etc.
    4. Had watertight compartments to contain flooding, if not too severe.
    5. Had some lifeboats, so that at least some people would survive.
    6. Had radio communication, to call in outside help.
    7. Had the whole world outside the ship to be rescued to.
    8.There was no conceivable way for the rest of humanity to go down with the ship.

    1. Gleefully seeking to operate BLACK HOLE FACTORY.
    2. No detection of mBH that doesn’t evaporate harmlessly.

    3. No detection of damage, until it is terminal for the Earth. No repair.

    4. No containment of mBH that doesn’t evaporate harmlessly.
    5. No escape.

    6. No rescue from E.T!

    7. Nowhere to go.

    8. We’re ALL IN THE SAME BOAT.

    CERN HAVE NO PLAN B,
    and would not even know there was a problem until it was too late.
    I suggest that the fairest comparison would be to a monstrous slow motion version of the original TRINITY ATOM BOMB TEST, with all of us NOT JUST OBSERVERS, BUT PARTICIPANTS.
    Note that a CERN style risk assessment would conclude that the original atom bomb could not possibly explode, because
    1. Natural fission has been going on in the earth for billions of years, and the Earth is still here.
    2. We never detect even small natural nuclear explosions in seismic records.
    3. Neutrons produced by cosmic rays on the surface of the moon must cause fission events, but we never witness explosions.
    4 .The amount of fissile material available for natural fission events in the Earth, Moon, and Solar System is vastly bigger than anything we could pack into a bomb.
    5. A single fission produces less energy than a mosquito’s heartbeat.
    6. A neutron capable of causing fission has less energy than a mosquito’s thought about its cardiovascular health.
    7.Before the concentration of fissile material can become supercritical, the heat produced will A. Make it expand or
    B. melt or
    C. vaporize and so become sub critical.
    8. And this is the clincher, natural fission occurs, and the process takes billions of years before a fraction of the fuel is used. Otherwise there‘d be no fissionable elements left!
    9. The 35kg of U235 contains about 10 ^ 26 nuclei. If the time for one fission to trigger another, T2 is say 10 ^ – 8 seconds, then it would take 10 ^ 18 seconds for the bomb to run its
    course, or longer than the age of the universe. It would hardly get warm…….because of course, according to CERN the process would be linear. Of course if it was……golly gosh, exponential, it would take about 87 doublings, or in this case under a microsecond!
    Please check my claims, and get colleagues and grad students to do the same. A lay person like me has zero credibility in the CLOSED CERN MINDSET.
    If you are alarmed by CERN’s DISREGARD for the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, and failure to understand that a possibly small, BUT WILDLY UNKNOWN PROBABILITY multiplied by the ULTIMATE LOSS(it is infinite to us!) is unacceptable:
    I beseech you to write an OPEN LETTER to the Director of CERN, copying to President Sarkozy and other heads of state, colleagues etc……….(9)
    COLLIDER MODE SHOULD BE DISABLED until INCONTROVERTIBLE EVIDENCE of HAWKING RADIATION is found in beams striking STATIONARY TARGETS, just like cosmic ray impacts(and so just as safe), and in the COSMIC RAY DATA itself.

    In the last century, Einstein’s General Relativity theory predicted twice the bending of light passing the Sun that Newton’s theory predicted. That factor of two made it possible for Eddington and to verify Einstein’s prediction in 1919 during a Solar Eclipse.
    Today we have competing ideas, whose particular expressions predict wildly different orders of magnitude…….and NO EXPERIMENTAL DATA to help us DECIDE WHICH IS EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO THE TRUTH.

    CERN might try to jump the gun, and launch before the expected date. If HAWKING RADIATION IS OBSERVED, beyond any doubt, then we are safe until they dream up the next way to endanger the Earth. Banishment of the whole show to a distant asteroid should be contemplated, if we are to avoid becoming an exemplar for the FERMI PARADOX…….(10)
    But if none is observed, then don’t expect an admission “we were wrong, and didn’t know what the hell we were doing”. Instead expect “we told you it was safe”. That could be disastrous, because, mBHs could already be accreting in the Earth, and even if not, more powerful experiments such as COLLIDING LEAD NUCLEI at 10 ^ 6GeV, would be started to discover the elusive God Particle, the Higgs(eluded us since the 60s), and create those oh-so harmless micro black holes…………..

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-ph/pdf/0310/0310162v1.pdf
    Ihttp://www.ichep02.nl/Transparencies/BSM/BSM-4/BSM-4-3.landsberg.pdf

    (1)
    CERN still cite this:
    Note the scathing dismissal of mBH production:
    http://doc.cern.ch//archive/electronic/hep-ph/9910/9910333.pdf

    (2)
    Do mBHs radiate? Is HR fast enough?
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0408/0408009v2.pdf
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/gr-qc/pdf/0304/0304042v1.pdf
    Note the UNQUESTIONED ASSUMPTION that HR will save us:
    http://doc.cern.ch/yellowrep/2003/2003-001/p1.pdf
    (3) (4) (5)
    Note the repetition of the false analogies, and the CULT LIKE BELIEF that HR will save us:
    http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/Safety-en.html

    CERN totally ignore the PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE:
    http://www.infra.kth.se/~sandin/dissintro.pdf
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

    Again the FAITH that HR will occur, and will be rapid enough to save us. More worried about careers and Noble Prizes!
    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2008/02/28/2174524.htm
    (6)
    Really awful FAITH in linear growth:
    http://www.livescience.com/environment/060919_black_holes.html
    Do people who associate themselves with CERN get loans from Swiss banks that charge 5 cents a year interest on 1 Euro, and still only charge 5 cents a year interest on 1billion Euros, or a trillion, or 10^20, or the number of nucleons in the Earth, 3.6 x 10 ^ 51?
    (7)If we look at the claim that initially the rate of absorption slows as the mBH slows and grows, and consider the Classical case:
    The mBH is effectively flying through free space, since most of an atom is empty space.
    An mBH with an initial mass Mo, initial velocity Vo that absorbs a nucleus mass m:
    By conservation of momentum if M = Mo + m
    M x V = Mo x Vo
    So
    V = Mo x Vo / M
    Expressing everything in atomic terms of nucleons
    V = No x Vo / N

    V is inversely proportional to N.
    Number of nucleons absorbed per unit time is proportional to Volume swept out by mBH:
    dN/dt = Const x pi x R ^ 2 x V
    Where R = 2GM/c ^ 2, the Schwarzschild radius.
    Gathering constants and noting that R proportional to N, and V inversely proportional to N
    dN/dt = k x N ^ 2 / N
    Gives us
    dN/dt =kN
    Integration gives us
    N = No e ^ kt
    (8)
    In the last 20 doublings, the mBH goes from being one millionth the Earth’s mass to gobbling it up. 2 ^ 20 = approx 10 ^ 6.
    In the last 10 x T2, the mBH gobbles the last 999/1000 of the Earth.
    Survival time is insensitive to initial number of mBHs absorbed in a short time, if belated prudence sets in and the machine is switched off. Thus a thousand mBHs shorten the life by about 10 x T2, say from 64 years to 60. since 2 ^ 10 = 1024, or approx a thousand. So PERVERSELY, even a single mBH is almost as dangerous as a whole lot of them. It just gains us a little extra time towards the end.
    Survival time is of course proportional to the typical or average doubling time T2.
    (9)
    A closed letter would be thrown into the bin, or would disappear into a bureaucratic black hole!
    Or some secretary who doesn’t know a hadron from a haddock would keep it on file until after the LHC is fully operational, so as not to upset the boss……
    (10)
    Perhaps all civilizations in the Galaxy are like us, and find it easier to switch on a LHC in collider mode, before they have self-sufficient space colonies which would allow them to avoid total extinction. Hence the answer to the question, “where the hell are they”?

  54. I don’t wish to wax conspiratorial here, and I realize I have been treating the subject with some levity (and indeed sometimes science requires some serious levity) in my previous posts, but I think it important to here recognize that in a project as large as the LHC, one which has such a considerable pecuniary investment from many parties, there are competing goals and objectives, some of which are for the public consumption and others which certainly are not.

    It is not the publicly stated goals of the LHC which invokes some hesitance in me but the non-stated non-public goals of such a project which causes me pause. A simple examination of other large-scale scientific projects throughout history shows that in order to procure the necessary monies for these projects, often elements within the scientific community must dance with the devil, I.E participate in projects which benefit parties for whom the advancement of pure science is not the prinary objective.

    Often there are many classified projects within projects in such situations and I am speaking from personal experience. I am not convinced wholheartedly that these other projects have the advancement of pure science in mind as much as the advancement of technologies that can be utilzed in the defense sector, which must be kept from the public…or even in sectors more exotic than defense.

    Before one cries foul i suggest you reflect on the customary methods the various defense agencies utilize to achieve thier scientific goals. With such a history behind them it would be more unlikely than not, that such projects are already underway concerning the LHC.

  55. Jeff: I’m a non-scientist, but am well enough educated that I have a fair sense of how to sift smart from stupid. I’m not always right, but I’ll take my chances with this crowd.

  56. I’ll address the massive post from free_Zr later tonight, when I have time to do it properly.

    It’s not often that a comment is nearly as long as the original post. Or this badly flawed. I’ll explain how, either in a comment or as an update to the original post, tonight.

  57. free_Zr:
    Did you write this diatribe. I thought I read the same thing once before a month ago or so. It’s so flawed.

    I found it here from a guy named stjohn:

    Link

    Using wikipedia as a source in a science letter, to Professor Hawking, nonetheless….sloppy work.

    Stop by my blog and get a crack at winning some money. I’ll give you 1000:1 odds that Brian is right.

    Jeff

  58. OK, Jeff. I literally fell off my chair laughing at this. Someone used WIKIPEDIA to try to convince Hawking he’s wrong????

    Oh … my … God.

    Except now that I’m done laughing, I suddenly feel frightened.

  59. Indeed,wiki has it’s uses. However, in scientific papers, it’s a major no-no. If I would have used a collaborative source when I wrote my dissertation, they would have laughed me out of the room at my defense, and I would still have the title of Mister…..not that I ever get addressed as Dr.Watson, which is a matter of my choice. I prefer to be called Jeff, or “Hey you.”:)

    However, using wiki as a source to try to convince Hawking, is simply the most laughable thing I’ve seen in a long time.

    Jeff

  60. Well, I’m going to say we’re screwed, blued, and tattooed. Those who have an inner craving to commit suicide are going to do it and involve the rest of us in it whether we want to be involved or not.

    The users of DU gave all sorts of explanations and excuses and reasons why DU was so “safe” to use. Which turned out not to be the truth at all. Big chunks of the Earth are now permanently poisoned with uranium dust. Those who have a personal agenda of greed or egotism or sheer stupidness or whatever will lie and lie and lie and lie to reach the goal they want.

    If those at CERN are so smart and all-knowing, how come no one there can figure out what the Uniform Field is, even thought they may be literally looking right at it and still not recognize it for what it is? Both at the top and bottom of this page, there it is, the Uniform Field. The Field that literally everything is created from and exists within. And not one of those at CERN would have seen it for what it is. Even though it’s completely ridiculously simple.

    If those at CERN can’t even perceive even the very most obvious of all things, how could I possibly trust anything they say regarding a situation that’s so absurdly dangerous?

    Regarding the Uniform Field, you have a cubic meter and start removing stuff from it, including even down to the quantum foam and even smaller stuff than that. Literally every single everthing is removed. What will you be left with? Besides zero? Zero doesn’t count as it isn’t the Uniform Field. And it can’t be vibrated. But there’s something else there that can exist in a state of vibration. Something that can’t be removed from that cubic meter no matter how hard you tried even with the very most advanced of technology. So what is it? A field that is completely uniform everywhere in all situations, spaces and times and dimensions?

    Hint: look at the top and bottom of this page. See? It’s simple. And it didn’t cost billions of euros and not anything was destroyed. If you figure out what the Uniform Field is, it’s fairly easy if somewhat tedious at times to then figure out the rest of the stuff that emanates from it. All kinds of interesting stuff. Even the programming code of our universe.

    Like I said before, we’re being screwed, blued, and tattooed by those with a suicide wish. I don’t have anything particular against suicide. If you want to commit suicide, that’s your personal business for whatever personal reason you’re doing it. But don’t involve others who don’t want to be involved. If you want to suicide, then do it honorably.

    I’ve been following along with the LHC for the past 6+ years and I say it’s truly a stupid and dangerous idea. And totally not needed. Pen and paper work just great for figuring stuff out if one actually bothers to use a few brain cells. Lil’ Steebie here is first in history to figure out what the Uniform Field was and all I used was pen and paper.

    The cost of a pen: next to nothing.
    The cost of paper: next to nothing.
    Actually using one’s brain: priceless.

    Ps. The programming code of our universe isn’t anything at all like what middle eastern derived mythologies say it is. Personally, I find what it actually is to be completely hilarious. But then, that’s just me. George Carlin would have found it funny, too. I’m gonna miss you, George. You weren’t at all shy about poking fun at the anal retentives who delude themselve that they are the center of all the universes and whatever personal opinion they have at the moment has just automatically become the Supreme Law of Everything no matter how untrue that personal opinion is.

  61. I heard from a concerned scientist on Coast to Coast AM that we won’t simply be able to breath a sigh of relief once the LHC is fired up and nothing happens. It could actually take anywhere from a few to millions of years before a stranglet or other dangerous particle would interact with other matter and be detected, so the appocolyptic scenario could take any amount of time to actually occur. Do you, Brian, or anyone else know anything about this? I certainly am not an expert and I appreciate the discussion.

  62. free_Zr said a great many things, the important things of which are excerpted below:

    Ten years ago we were assured that mBHs could not be produced by any conceivable accelerator on Earth. The Plank Energy 10 ^ 19 GeV was supposedly required to produce a micro black hole…. Today CERN and others are assuring us(if that’s the right word!) that the LHC will be a “BLACK HOLE FACTORY”, operating at only about 10 ^ 4GeV. Thus people believe a certain version of string theory with extra dimensions, and it is now thought that mBHs are 10 ^ 15 times easier to produce.

    You, and the CERN scientists you’re supposedly quoting, are relying on one of the very “flavor of the month” string theories. And given that there are potentially an infinite number of correct solutions (all of which have zero predictive value and so are unscientific at best and mathematical masturbation at worst) to string theories, using the one that might give rise to black holes at a low energy is intellectually lazy. This is true both of the CERN scientists and the original composer of this so-called “open letter.”

    We could hardly be more unsure of the actual mBH lifetime[from 10-86 to 10-26 due to string theories], in a quantitative sense, since the predicted values are so dependent on the “flavor of the month” version of string theory.

    And this is why the best bet is the one that doesn’t rely on dubious, untestable string theories in the first place, the basic non-“large extra dimensions” theory that gives us a black hole lifetime of 10-86.

    The fact that HAWKING RADIATION HAS NEVER BEEN OBSERVED in cosmic ray showers, suggests a process too slow to save us, even if it occurs.

    First off, there’s a fundamental error here – we’re incapable of observing Hawking radiation through the atmosphere at all because the gamma rays produced by any theoretical nano black hole would be absorbed entirely by the atmosphere. There’s a reason that all gamma ray observatories are satellites – only satellites can detect gamma rays because they’re above the atmosphere. In addition, the Earth does not emit gamma rays except from artificial nuclear reactions (specifically above-ground nuclear weapon detonations).

    There’s an alternate and simpler (and thus far more likely) conclusion to be drawn here – high energy cosmic rays do not create black holes at all.

    Operating the LHC in COLLIDER MODE, ensures that the centre of mass velocity of the collisions are distributed about zero, and not just under the speed of light….

    All the mBHs produced by such very high energy particles are relativistic, and are harmless, for the reasons described above. OPERATING THE LHC IN COLLIDER MODE REMOVES THIS PROTECTION IMMEDIATELY

    Entirely false for primary non-elastic collisions. See Update #1 in the post above. The ONLY possibility of creating zero-velocity non-elastic collision is if it happens as a result of two elastic collisions that happen to hit exactly right. For an estimate of that likelihood, see Update #2 above.

    The energy of the neutrons that triggered the exponential process in the TRINITY ATOM BOMB TEST 1945 in the New Mexico Desert was many orders of magnitude less than this, but STARTED AN EXPONENTIALLY INCREASING PROCESS.

    To use the original writer’s own words, comparing the LHC to nuclear weapons is a “false analogy”. Slow neutrons collide with things like atomic nuclei – the only way to get naturally repelling protons (due to electric charge) to collide with each other is to dramatically increase their energy. This is comparing apples to oranges.

    During the short time the U235 is explosively brought to a supercritical state, EVEN ONE SLOW NEUTRON causing fission is sufficient.

    This would be true only if a single slow neutron happens to hit a heavy atomic nucleus, but if you could somehow stop the material from decaying and fired individual slow neutrons at it, you could probably fire them for days without actually causing a fission accident.

    The reason that specific temperatures, shapes, or densities are required to reach a supercritical state is to ensure that enough of the millions of neutrons being naturally emitted by decaying atoms of uranium or plutonium actually hit other atoms in order to speed up the natural fission process. Without a critical density of both fissionable atoms and neutrons with which to initiate fission, a fission reaction goes nowhere.

  63. Steve Williams said:

    Lil’ Steebie here is first in history to figure out what the Uniform Field was and all I used was pen and paper.

    And you’ve published your theory where, precisely? You’ve convinced experts that you’re right exactly how?

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, Steve. Put up or shut up.

    Unless, of course, you’re saying what I think you’re implying, that the “Universal Field” is something mystical or spiritual – God (or gods, or the Force). In which case you’re confusing the untestable for science and we have nothing more to discuss.

  64. Greetings!

    Another way to play ‘spot the kook’ (besides the obvious, like citations from wikipedia) is the use of CraZy CaPS. Crazy Caps is a SURE-FIRE indicator that SOMEONE has been SmOkInG sOmeTHinG instead of doing their PHYSICS HOMEWORK.

    I get the distinct impression from some of the nay-saying commentary that not only should we not be building the LHC, but we should all still be huddled under damp animal skins next to smoky campfires like our Homo Erectus ancestors – for our own safety, of course. Because mankind in the collective is clearly too stupid to be in charge of their own destiny. (But the nay-sayers, of course, in their wisdom can “see the light” where the rest of us cannot.)

    What I find most amusing (and alarming, at times) is that these same critics who are so skeptical and downright hostile towards conventional science are all too eager to suck down pseudo-science, shaky metaphysics, and new-age claptrap in huge gulps without a second thought, much less a critical eye.

    Sorry, but I’ll take facts and logic that have passed through the sieve of scientific rigor over moralizing diatribes and “this is what I think so it must be true” ruminations. Sorry; I’m funny that way.

  65. I am pleased to lean that most micro black holes that might be created by the Large Hadron Collider should exit Earth. That means that if stable micro black holes are detected, there is a chance to shut down collisions and investigate.

    Have you read the disclaimer from CERN’s own SPC Committee that validated the 2008 LSAG Safety Report:

    Quote “this argument relies on properties of cosmic rays and neutrinos that, while highly plausible, do require confirmation” – SPC Committee

    Still sounds like conceivable danger to me… This approval report is available here: http://indico.cern.ch/getFile.py/access?contribId=20&resId=0&materialId=0&confId=35065

    I am not aware of any irrefutable arguments for the safety of creating micro black holes with velocities too slow to escape Earth.

    Three strongly disputed assumptions… Micro Black holes are created or not, decay or not, grow slowly or not.

    I hope I’m miscalculating, but I fear this might be a bit like playing Russian Roulette and not knowing how many cylinders are loaded, none, all?

    LHCFacts.org

    Have you seen the “Your Prefer Your Collider” music video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1L2xODZSI4

  66. Remember, I’m offering 1000:1 that Europe won’t be swallowed up, because Brian is right. All of you nattering nabobs who predict disaster, step up to the plate and put your money where your mouth is. Details on my blog. A thousand to one is great odds.

    Jeff

  67. Well, until this whole thing is settled, i’m going to continue to say to people, “Look, it could be worse. The LHC could well make a blackhole and suck us all into nothingness.”

    And i’m happy to hear that it could be millions of years before the event is recorded…no one will be able to prove me wrong.

    Brian, i don’t think that our penchant for releasing unintended consequences should stop the work, but that might be because i’m not worried about the blackhole scenario. I figure that i have much greater things to worry about, and if that’s what happens i won’t need to worry anyhow.

    Full disclosure, i’m not a scientist…but i’ve seen them on TV (i guess i don’t know if they’re real scientists. Between Heisenberg and Zeno it’s hard to get anywhere or know much of anything.

  68. QUOTE: Brian Angliss, June 24, 2008 at 10:18 am :
    ……..It’s simply not possible to live in any society in a completely self-determined fashion – societies must have rules (ie laws) in order to function, and those rules inherently restrict self-determination…..

    For someone commenting on SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH is it absolutely stunning that you should base your argument upon the existence of fantasy entities like WEREWOLVES, THE TOOTH FAIRY or EVIL WOODLAND SPIRITS..

    There is NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER FOR THE EXISTENCE OF “SOCIETY”.

    >>>>SOCIETY DOES NOT EXIST <<<<

    “SOCIETY” is an entirely fictional entity, no different from talking about VAMPIRES, PIXIES or SANTA CLAUS.

    THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE EXISTENCE OF “SOCIETY”: WHATSOEVER.

  69. Mr. Thompsett, I was not responding to any criticism of yours that was based on scientific research, since your complaint was utterly non-scientific itself. Your complaint was this:

    [T]he fact is that Government has NO RIGHT to put my life and those of everyone else on a roulette wheel regardless of however unlikely this outcome is.

    That is a moral statement, and I was countering it with facts, rather than attempting to comment about scientific research in any way. If you care to address any of the myriad of scientific points I’ve made over the course of this discussion, I’ll happily re-engage in discussion with you.

  70. RE: Brian Angliss QUOTE: “That is a moral statement”

    …This just about sums it up. If this project cannot be defended on a MORAL BASIS, IT MUST BE CLOSED DOWN. The Hadron Proect is no different in concept to justifying raping and murdering pre-teen girl, by using a tape recorder and a sound meter to see what sort of screaming they make.

    The only difference between the people who built the Hadron Collider and those who manned the gas chambers at Auschwitz is that at least the Waffen SS were determined only to liquidate some of the world’s population and not all of it.

  71. I think there are no reason to care about end of the world. The maximum what can happen its complite annihilation of France and Switzerland and global Ice Age after it!

    For security reason I suggest to the civilians in the location of this machine to leave this place at time of experiment, and the people who do this experiments to warn those people before machine start to go on full power – for them to pray!

    And this will never happen, because its stupid as a fact… Live such long time by creating such long history of human race and to reach the final step its destroying of all(except of correcting), for Nova World!??? I think God have a lot of places in hisshe’s hands to create New Worlds, or you think we dont like them because a lot of p0rn in internet!? OK… For example, the God is hate the p0rno, but why he is create them?

    K.O. Have Nice Day, France and Switzerland! 😉

  72. I know this is a bit late, but I just heard of this and to be honest its hurting my health with stress. I am already a bit weak and have anxiety problems, so this isn’t helping me. I haven’t slept in days due to this nightmare fuel. I am a college student who’s finally getting herself together where she should be. The idea that people are gambling with our lives scares and worries me. I wanted to check for any dates for when this will be launched but i don’t know when they are. I would love to know first off. Secondly, do they have any more information or proof that nothing ‘should’ happen? I can’t seem to find that information, and it would really give me some peace of mind if you would help me.

  73. Articles like this make my day. Just moments ago I was slipping into one of those “waa world is gonna end doom ‘n’ gloom” phases. But this put a great big smile on my face. Thank you. 🙂

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