Particle Collider

Newsflash: The LHC Won’t Punch a Hole in the Earth After All…

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Its official: We’re not going to be blown up, smothered in stranglets, sucked into a black hole or turned into ooze by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). To put any concerns to rest, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) has concluded in another approved safety report that the LHC is harmless and will not hurt us, our planet or the Universe. This new investigation builds on previous findings that the LHC is safe, reiterating what scientists have been telling us for years. Besides, the LHC isn’t doing anything that nature isn’t already doing every second…

I actually thought the LHC safety reports were done and dusted (the original report was actually completed in 2003), but it seems, to be thorough, CERN wanted to re-confirm their previous conclusions that the LHC was safe and ready for use later this year.

The LHC is understandably under intense scrutiny and will be subject to a range of audits from safety to environmental impact. This new report commissioned to investigate whether any of the theoretical particles created in the LHC collision chamber could pose a threat, not only to the cows and sheep in the Swiss countryside, but to the Earth and the Cosmos. Strengthened with experimental and observational research, the new report prepared by a team of physicists at CERN, UC Santa Barbara and the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has covered all the factors from previous safety investigations, and again concluded that the LHC is… safe.

As with any high-energy experiment, scientists and governments are under increased pressure to ensure every step is being taken to safeguard against any catastrophic accident. The LHC, soon to be the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, has seen more criticism than most physics experiments. For one, it is expensive (£2.4 billion or $4.7 billion), so collaborating governments and institutions want to know where their money is going, but second, CERN wants to avoid public misconceptions about what harm the LHC could do. This is epitomised in a recent lawsuit a Hawaiian man filed against CERN, citing the new accelerator might generate a black hole (that the Earth would get sucked into) or create a chain reaction, unleashing exotic “stranglets” on the planet. This is an extreme case of a misconception about what the LHC is capable of, so it seems essential that in-depth studies into LHC safety must be carried out continuously.

Listed is the safety reports perceived LHC threats (with likelihood of occurrence in parentheses):

  • Microscopic black holes (not very likely): Although it would be pretty cool if micro-black holes were generated, the report concludes that this event will be unlikely, although theoretically possible. If a micro-black hole was produced by an LHC collision, it is very likely that it would evaporate very quickly (via Hawking Radiation), making it difficult for any observation attempt. If a micro-black hole was produced but it didn’t evaporate (which isn’t possible, in theory), depending on its charge, it would behave differently. Charged, the micro-black hole could interact with matter and get stopped as it tries to pass through the Earth. Un-charged, the micro-black hole will pass straight through the Earth and into space (as it will be weakly interacting) or simply hang around inside our planet. We know collisions between cosmic rays and the Earth’s atmosphere happen naturally, often at higher energies than the LHC. Therefore, if micro-black holes are possible, the only option would be that they evaporate very quickly.. Besides, even if they were stable, they cannot suck in any matter and grow because they will have minimal gravitational influence over matter. Boring really…
  • Strangelets (practically impossible): This hypothetical “strange matter” (containing up, down and strange quarks) could theoretically change ordinary matter into strange matter in a thousand-millionth of a second. This possibility was raised in 2000 before the opening of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in the US. This collider uses heavier particles than most of the LHC tests and therefore more likely to produce stranglets. In fact some of its experiments are set up to detect this strange matter. No stranglets have been found in eight years; not only that, but the chain reaction theorized (turning the world into a clump of strangeness) has no experimental foundation. Stranglets do not exist, and the LHC will not produce them.
  • Vacuum bubbles (practically impossible): Perhaps the Universe is not in its most stable configuration. Perturbations generated by the LHC could push it into a more stable state (a vacuum bubble), destroying the Universe as we know it. Not very likely. Again, collisions of higher energies happen throughout the cosmos, let alone in our own atmosphere, we’re still here, our Universe is still here (or is it?).
  • Magnetic monopoles (practically impossible): Hypothetical particles with a single magnetic pole, either north or south. If they could exist, they might mess around with protons possibly causing them to spontaneously decay. There is no reason to suspect they can exist, and even if they did, they could not be produced by the LHC as they are too heavy. Again, cosmic rays come to the rescue; as the high energy natural particle hit the atmosphere, their collisional energy is higher than the LHC. No magnetic monopoles, not end of the world.

Is that all there is? Surely there are more new and inventive ways to destroy the planet? Oh well…

So, it looks like we are in the clear for the grand switch on of the LHC! And now, you can have a ring-side seat, watching all the operations at the LHC via the array of webcams CERN has up and running:

Source: CERN


43 Responses

  1. Maxwell says:

    Well thats disappointing.
    I’ll have to cancel my black hole skydiving trip.

  2. H.Claus says:

    The point is that, if they knew what is going to happen, they wouldn’t have to build the LHC in the first place. So all they can give is an educated guess. The only reasoning that helps is that the ideas that something can go wrong are based on the same physics as the studies that say nothing will go wrong. But Fermis paradox still hasn’t been solved : other civilisations are bound to exist, and if they survived up to inter-solar colonisation, then where are they?

  3. Keith says:

    To make the cosmic ray comments a little clearer, the LHC will be producing proton – proton collisions at energies of 10^16 electron volts. On average each square mile of the Earth’s surface receives each year a cosmic ray (i.e. a proton or a heavier nuclei) with an energy in excess of 10^19 electron volts, that’s about one joule. These natural ‘experiments’ are happening all the time but we don’t know when or where. The point of the LHC is that we will know what the incoming particle was and can track and identify the outgoing particles. The LHC is safe (so long as you don’t stand in front of the beam!).

  4. giovanni says:

    i am reminded of my great gran mother , she used to say that eventually man will become too smart than himself and will finish up blowing the wold up. i hope she was wrong.

  5. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Indeed, this ultimate weapon of destruction will guaranty the independency of the Switzerland forever.

  6. Vanamonde says:

    The thang about the cosmic ray argument is while the LHC will not produce that power, it will exceed the luminosity. That is why we built it – it make lots more of these reactions happen and on demand instead of waiting for a stray cosmic ray to happen to hit a detector.

    And as for the evaporating black hole, it seems that the RHIC has verified this. It seems they have created evaporating black holes that last a femtosecond but it is very hard to tell from the CYA PR they put out and I do not have the math to understand the source papers. There are gold on gold nuclei interactions.

    While proton-proton enter actions may not do this, the LHC is planning some lead on lead nuclei action. That should be interesting. Given the higher energy and luminosity, it should be VERY interesting.

    But I am not worried – I am excited to see what they will find!

  7. Maxwell says:

    >Fermis paradox still hasn’t been solved

    Mainly because we only have one example to base it on, and its an imperfect one. The paradox underestimates all the problems involved and takes no account for politics.

    Its like saying an islander in the middle of an ocean should expect to see submarines regularly and interact with their crews.

    What interest would they have in making themselves visible?
    Should we even trust them if they do?

  8. Sili says:

    Of course, once nothing happens the conspiracy theorists are just gonna claim that the LHc isn’t actually running and we’re just faking the results it produces. The money is really going to hide the aliens that feed us the correct values from the public.

    There’s no way to win. Suckers are born every minute.

  9. Jason Leary says:

    To Mr or Ms. H Claus ,

    What does the so-called “Fermi Paradox” have to do with the scenarios pertaining to the Hadron Collider ? The so-called Fermi Paradox” (which isn’t— after all, the very term “paradox” is a misnomer) is a SEPARATE ISSUE !

    No offense, but it sounds like some lateral / equivocal thinking is going on that led to that weird comparison between the so-called Fermi Paradox and the matter of the Hadron Collider . In recent decades where a fast paced mass media has often encouraged a
    fast and loose approach to discourse the ANTI-logical , obscorantist sort of thinking called lateral thinking has become more prevalent .

  10. Gary says:

    If the universe is supposedly doing everyday, what the LHC is intended for, what is the point of the LHC, as I thought it was intended to uncover particles that hadn’t been seen since the big bang? There seems to be a contradiction here, unless the LHC provides a convenient spot to observe the particles.

    And I don’t see a downside to creating a micro black hole. If it happens and then evaporates, cool. If not and we all get sucked in…hey we’ll all get to live a teenage movie goers fantasy…if only for the millionth of a second it takes to crush us into oblivion.

  11. Tyler Durden says:

    “Mainly because we only have one example to base it on, and its an imperfect one. The paradox underestimates all the problems involved and takes no account for politics.”

    Agreed, the Fermi Paradox isn’t a paradox at all, it’s idle conjecture.

  12. Qev says:

    Gary said, “If the universe is supposedly doing everyday, what the LHC is intended for, what is the point of the LHC, as I thought it was intended to uncover particles that hadn’t been seen since the big bang? There seems to be a contradiction here, unless the LHC provides a convenient spot to observe the particles.”

    You’ve answered your own question, there. High-energy cosmic ray collisions happen all the time, but not where we can observe them in any great detail. The LHC is our own controlled-conditions cosmic ray machine. 🙂

  13. Jorge says:

    Indeed, this ultimate weapon of destruction will guaranty the independency of the Switzerland forever.

    Indeed.

    Too bad that most of it is under France, though… 😉

  14. Big Ian says:

    Bearing in mind that nuclear reactions of a higher power but basically the same type happen all the time in the upper atmosphere oooh and the surface of the moon, mars with far more regularity than the LHC will be able to achieve in a month of Sundays. If it were going to destroy us I wouldn’t be typing this!

  15. arnold santamarian says:

    I heard from a friend of a friend who has a friend who works at cern that would postpone the experiment until 2012. 🙂 isn’t the date when. should…kaboom everything?

  16. Aodhhan says:

    The LHC has already been successful in producing a large amount of naysayers and dooms-day proclaimers! I say let it continue to see what else we can gain from it.

  17. alan says:

    Looking at the picture I would more worried about hearing voices from the Borg Collective!

  18. zifferman says:

    I think the human race needs to have most of
    its members sucked down a black hole, for
    the good of the rest ofthe Universe. This news is very disappointing for those of us
    who knows the species needs a good cleansing.

    George Carlin, who just died today, would
    have agreed with me. RIP, George, or at
    least keep givin’ em hell!

  19. hiro says:

    Why didn’t anyone complain about the SSC when it was built? Anyway, I only worry when the energy goes up to 200-400 TeV, 1 PeV or higher.

  20. Scotty says:

    “i am reminded of my great gran mother , she used to say that eventually man will become too smart than himself and will finish up blowing the wold up. i hope she was wrong.”

    And if me grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.

    😉

  21. Frank Glover says:

    “What does the so-called “Fermi Paradox” have to do with the scenarios pertaining to the Hadron Collider ? The so-called Fermi Paradox” (which isn’t— after all, the very term “paradox” is a misnomer) is a SEPARATE ISSUE ! ”

    I think he’s suggesting that there’s a seeming lack of ET civilizations because they destroy themselves with LHC-type experiments before getting into space.

    And while thre’s a non-zero chance that SOME experiment or first use of some other technology we don’t have (yet) causes a suden, unforseen demise of the civilization that tries it, it still doesn’t follow that THIS is one of them…

  22. zifferman says:

    I wish people were smarter than flipping out every time something new and unusual comes along that they don’t understand.

    It’s almost embarassing.

    Stupid talking monkeys. No bananas for you.

  23. Gary says:

    Biggest threat to us is the ignorance of the masses, especially when the smart and evil are able to use it to their advantage.

  24. Vanamonde says:

    Thank you, Jason Leary! Now, I am about tangentle was you can find but I see no relation between Fermi’s paradox and this topic.

    I blame the micropaleoanthropologists who rule the mass media and drive the culture of the commoners.

    Micropaleoanthropology is the study of the great culture significance of the last 15 minutes. Like on CNN, AP, The Dredge Report, FOX “News”, etc. Thank you, Eric Idle for that great word!

  25. Joe Smith says:

    This safety report seems very cursory and dismissive to me. There’s lots of talk here about how these catastrophes are “unlikely,” and I agree in the qualitative respect that they are so. The real question, though, is just how unlikely they are. Even this is probably a large exaggeration of the real probability, but imagine that there’s a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of an earth destroying catastrophe. I think we can all agree that such a probability merits the qualitative description “unlikely.” Now, lets use elementary probability theory to calculate from this the expected value in lives lost from one activation of the LHC. It’s a simple matter to divide 6 billion (rough estimate of # of people) by 10,000,000 to get the expected return of 600 fatalities. Now the 1 in 10,000,000 chance doesn’t seem so rosy, considering that in a real probabilistic sense we can expect each activation to kill 600 people. I think the LHC is a valuable scientific instrument, and I think a sensitive and determined evaluation would probably put the probabilities so far out there that we needn’t concern ourselves, but I think it deserves more serious evaluation than simply “unlikely” or even “highly unlikely.”

    It’s also interesting that you dismiss strangelets for being unobserved, but in the part about black holes we’re very convinced about Hawking radiation, even though it is similarly unobserved.

  26. Disinfo Agent says:

    [quote]This collider uses heavier particles than most of the LHC tests and therefore more likely to produce stranglets. In fact [b]some of its experiments are set up to detect this strange matter[/b]. No stranglets have been found in eight years; not only that, but the chain reaction theorized (turning the world into a clump of strangeness) has no experimental foundation. [b]Stranglets do not exist, and the LHC will not produce them.[/b][/quote]

    Is it me, or is that contradiction in their pocket?

  27. Chuck R. says:

    Can’t they just flip th’sucker on right now? I’m bored.

  28. Zach says:

    So… people think they are going to get swallowed by a blackhole in a month, and it’s completely preventable. Yet they aren’t doing something about it? Lawsuits in Hawii don’t count. Atleast try the continental U.S.

  29. ants says:

    why do some people think this machine can destroy the universe? i can’t comprehend their ignorance. the universe has survived countless supernovae, quasar activity and all kinds of explosive jets of energy so far which involve almost incomprehensible amounts of energy and atom smashing and you’re worried about a few billion protons worth of energy spilling out!

  30. Morrigan says:

    The reason this article from CERN does not use exact calculations is because it is a press release for the general public.
    The people who are going to read it don’t understand strings of numbers and though it might seem to some that this is dumbing things down unfortunately the majority of the general public know little about physics and maths.
    The idea is to keep things simple.
    If you do want a more detailed analysis have a search on the net. Some time back I came across a paper about this which went into great detail about this. Might be an idea also to get in touch with CERN who might be able to send more detailed information than is in the press release.

  31. The mightyy google. says:

    Ä° am the google.

    Now first off, we are all safe.

    Even with the prediction that Nostraudamus had.
    Hes 400 years dead anyway, what would he know?

    (Btw i am ze googleé! if you dont get blown up, eventualy i shall eatz youé!)

    MWAHAHAHAHAHA

    remind me to get milk.

    MWAHAHAHA

  32. Kirsty says:

    From which comments i understand thanks to all the people who’ve put my mind at rest, i was in kittens as i only found out about the experiment yesterday in the newspaper, headlined, “we only have 9 days left to live until the world blows up” . From that moment i was in mental breakdown and wouldn’t leave my families side.
    So thankyou to the people who have given their opinions to what they think of this whole shamble.

  33. Kirsty says:

    Er hello didnt you read the report??

  34. Richard says:

    OK folks, Here is what I think they are up to at CERN, As Einstein postulated, E=M *C2.
    Now the equation is simple and straight forward enough. Energy equals Mass multiplied by the speed of light squared, Thats all it is. So CERN are basically accellerating particles at the speed of light in both directions to cause head on collisions resulting in terminal velocities of speed of light squared, impacts. The results will probably be the creation of energies with mass as they are the product of the equation transposed. Whatever happens i’m sure will be very interesting and of course prove and supercede old theories, about the make up of the universe. This will enable scientists to establish a greater understanding of quantum physics, which will of course lead to a greater understanding and ability to manipulate matter and who knows maybe even time itself.

  35. Piyush says:

    Microscopic Black hole:
    If LHC will generate microscopic black hole then there are three possibilities.
    1. Scientist will able to trap it.
    2. Scientist will not be able to trap it but they can see it.
    If they can not trap it then it will be penetrating through the earth. If there is microscopic black hole in the center of the earth already present then LHC black hole will merge with that black hole. If presently there is no black hole in the center of the earth then?
    This black hole will straight go to the center of the earth and will start eating mass of the earth to generate light and may take years to transform earth in to a star like the sun.
    They can not see the LHC Black hole then after few years some one will find out that the earth is also producing light like the sun.
    The space is a huge bed sheet of time. If LHC will puncture in this bed sheet using protons as stone then the black hole will be the output as a puncture. Scientist assumed the theory of Hawking radiation otherwise LHC will definitely create primordial black hole. Even though Hawking radiation is not a proven principle of physics, how court had given permission to scientist to do this experiment?

  36. Piyush says:

    LHC will not generate a Black hole:

    If suppose we assume that output of the LHC is not a black hole then. Even science don’t know the output that means 33.33% chance of steady black hole, 33.33% chance of unsteady black hole and 33.33% chances of something else.
    Why court have permitted this experiment even though for 33.33%?

  37. Piyush says:

    Output of LHC is unsteady manhole:

    How they will prove that it was unsteady manhole?

  38. Piyush says:

    zero output of LHC:

    If they find out nothing then:

    1)It will prove that there was a unsteady black hole which already penetrate thorough the earth, that science was not able to trap. It will create micro hole in the earth, nobody will be able to notice. It will generate more earthquakes and hurricanes on the earth, no stable weather on the earth. It will increase the gravity of earth. All airplanes need to be redesign. The gravity will increase day by day. We will feel heavy. We will not be able to bare our own weight.
    2) Second chance is : The proton had made a puncture and jumped into another world and Hawking radiation will seal the puncture. (black hole)

  39. Piyush says:

    manhole = black hole in above. I said it manhole intentionally because it may becomes tomorrow’s manhole to enter to another world.

  40. Piyush says:

    Something elase:

    If there are 33.33% chances of producing something else. then what is that?
    If you brake proton then it will brake in to two small element of proton or it will move to the another world or it will convert in to energy.

    Possibility :

    1) Those two element of proton will be electrons
    2) It will convert into energy like e = m* square of C
    m = mass, c = velocity of light, e = energy.
    3) It may convert in to unbearable sound which as exactly the same was generated at the time of Big Bang
    4) Proton will convert in to invisible mass
    5) Proton will drop in to another world from this world. We will not able to see anything
    6) Proton will drop in to another world from this world. We will able to see unsteady blackhole
    7) Proton will drop in to another world from this world. We will able to see steady black hole
    8) Proton will drop in to another world from this world. We will not able to notice steady / unsteady black hole even though it is generated.
    9) Proton will merge in each other and generate big proton.

  41. ants says:

    oh dear, go to school Piyush before you make up crap.

  42. Piyush says:

    ants,
    Do you know chances of 0.001% of black hole means 100% chances of end of you and me and all the planet? There is no mathematics or physics working there. There is a math of yes or know, when even scientist don’t know what will going to happen.
    Everything is on guessing. I also guess. Are you able to guess more then do it. May be that will be true. I am guessing even they will not be able to finish this experiment. Now what? I don’t understand why they spend to much on this experiment. They want to prove that there is no God? After they have received lot of information from Hubble telescope even though they are not ready to accept that there is the supreme power who is governing all this? I am scared that there will be a terrible result of this experiment. This is wastage of energy and money. They find out global warming problems and now they are increasing pollution by this experiment to increase global worming. Science is stupid and scientist are making us stupid.

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