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, Singapore...you 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.


6 comments:

Hasanuddin said...

Good article, though I do not agree with your ending. Just because a black-hole continuously eats, does not mean that local dynamics will allow it to continuously eat. One thing that your article did not mention is that the supermassive black-hole at the heart of our galaxy is also in the most densely packed portion of our galaxy, yet it is not gobbling up local material, nor is it giving off huge bursts of radiation. The answers to explain these phenomena are not conclusively known. Yet, proponents of LHC claim to know enough about black-hole dynamics to say that it will be safe?

Is there a possibility that LHC can create black-hole material? The answer is definitely yes. There are a number of papers that have printed on this subject. The first papers came out about ten years ago. There are even preexisting organizations fighting for a postponement of this project so that new concerns can be addressed, as well as the ones that have already defined, can be addressed: risk-evaluation-forum.org, LHCdefence.org, and LifeBoat. Papers that support this conclusion are listed on the first two sites…and there was also an article written in Nature, CERN to spew black holes, October 2, 2001.

If LHC is “successful” in generating man’s first synthetic black-hole material, is there a plan to reverse any black-hole material formed? No. The current hope by proponents of LHC is that nothing will happen that is dangerous. Is this caviler wishful thinking or equation-based prudence? Depends on who you ask—do CERN scientists have a vested interest in having the public lulled into a false sense of safety what hidden agendas to the persons asking important safety concerns have? CERN wishes to protect its $6,800,000,000 European tax-dollar investment, those asking the questions only wish to protect their families, friends, and environment.

Is there a model that suggests that LHC black-hole creations will not safely disappear? Yes, there is a new model that is being advanced that suggests that the basis of the safety assurance arguments is flawed. Debate is fierce of the Scientific American blog being used to advance discussion: http://science-community.sciam.com/blog/Hasanuddins-Blog/300005039 All are welcome, though it is advised to read the model before entering in discussion.

LHC is slated to start up this May. That is only a few more days to take action…assuming they are successful on their first try. Chances are they will not be “successful” on the first try. But as they perfect their machine’s calibrations and increase the injection of bundle size, chances increase. There is still hope that public concern could derail the project and allow for all possible safety risks fully explored.

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Fermi08 said...

It's great to see well written blogs address this issue.

The level of concern that the LHC has generated in recent days is surprising, and I'm glad to see that very public physicists such as Michio Kaku are taking the time to address mis perceptions about the risks involved.

Link to his recent interview on the subject:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=rk8Vr00EBHA

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