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


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Maxwell
Member
Maxwell
June 21, 2008 8:40 PM

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

H.Claus
Guest
H.Claus
June 21, 2008 11:50 PM

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?

ESA Exile
Member
ESA Exile
June 22, 2008 12:53 AM

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!).

giovanni
Guest
giovanni
June 22, 2008 3:50 AM

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.

Hans-Peter Dollhopf
Member
Hans-Peter Dollhopf
June 22, 2008 6:40 AM

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

Vanamonde
Guest
Vanamonde
June 22, 2008 7:44 AM
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… Read more »
Maxwell
Member
Maxwell
June 22, 2008 7:54 AM

>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?

Sili
Member
Sili
June 22, 2008 8:32 AM

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.

Jason Leary
Guest
Jason Leary
June 22, 2008 8:50 AM

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 .

gwhitton
Member
gwhitton
June 22, 2008 12:52 PM

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.

Tyler Durden
Guest
Tyler Durden
June 22, 2008 12:59 PM

“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.

Qev
Member
Qev
June 22, 2008 1:21 PM

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. smile

Jorge
Guest
June 22, 2008 6:02 PM

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… wink

big ian
Member
big ian
June 23, 2008 3:05 AM

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!

arnold santamarian
Guest
arnold santamarian
June 23, 2008 5:04 AM

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

Aodhhan
Member
Aodhhan
June 23, 2008 5:15 AM

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.

alan
Guest
alan
June 23, 2008 5:41 AM

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

zifferman
Guest
zifferman
June 23, 2008 7:47 AM

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!

hiro
Guest
hiro
June 23, 2008 9:20 AM

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.

Scotty
Guest
Scotty
June 23, 2008 12:43 PM

“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.

wink

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