Saturday, September 15, 2007

Large Hadron Collider: Apocalypse Soon?

Probably Not

While looking over my site visit statistics, I found that many of my visits are to my article a few months back about the Large Hadron Collider under construction in France and Switzerland. A quick glance through the search terms that have led people to the article yield the following:

  • LHC Black Hole
  • Large Hadron Collider Doomsday
  • Large Hadron Collider Apocalypse
  • Large Hadron Collider Destroy Universe
  • Harge Hadron Collider End of the World
  • CERN destroy world
These searches are coming from the UK, France, Texas, Massachusetts, get the point. It seems like a lot of people are worried about CERN's LHC destroying the world.

Since this seems to being weighing heavily on the consciences of many people, I thought I would address it with a little more detail.

The nature of black holes has been debated for quite some time. What most people know about black holes is that they are incredibly dense masses in the universe. Since the force of gravity is dependent on mass, a black hole has an incredibly strong force that is powerful enough to capture even electromagnetic waves like visible light. For me, this has always been a little bit preplexing becase I used to wonder why Black holes ever stopped engulfing everything around them. To my mind, if something was massive enough to capture anything of mass around it, then it would continue to add mass. If it continued to add mass, it would then have an even greater gravitational force. Why would it ever stop?

It seems that black holes do lose their mass. They emit radiation which is actually representative of the mass and energy consumed by the black hole. Eventually, they radiate into nothingness; particularly small black holes created by collisions of tiny subatomic particles.

Now, I cannot claim that these are unequivocal facts. Much of this has been debated since the early 1970's. Stephen Hawking himselfrecently retracted his postulation that the radiation out of black holes carries no information from the mass and energy captured by it. He now believes that the radiation does carry information about what the black holes is made out of. He hsays the only problem with the information is that it is so random and jumbled that piecing it together into something we can interpret is virtually impossible.

However, the idea of black holes quickly radiating their energy such that they lose their mass makes a lot of sense to me. Otherwise I can envision black holes ever growing and consuming the whole universe...there is no evidence of this in astronomy.

So in the case of the tiny little subatomic particle derived black holes generated by CERN at the Large Hadron Collider, it seems very unlikely that a sustained black hole can possibly be produced. It will lose its mass to radiation faster than it can collect mass do to its gravitational pull.