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Earth Science

Why the LHC Won't Destroy the World 508

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that'll-ruin-your-day dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Most people are aware of the recent articles contending that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN might destroy the world. While most scientists have no such concerns, a recent preprint released to arxiv systematically dismantles the notion. The gist of the argument is this: Everything that will be created at the LHC is already being created by cosmic rays. If a black hole created by the LHC is interactive enough to destroy the world within the lifetime of the sun, similar black holes are already being created by cosmic rays. Such black holes would be stopped by dense cosmic objects (neutron stars and white dwarfs). A black hole stopped in one of these objects would eventually absorb it. We see sufficiently old neutron stars in the sky, thus any black hole that could be created at the LHC, even if it is stable, would have no effect on the earth on any meaningful timescale."
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Why the LHC Won't Destroy the World

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  • First (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:34AM (#23902513) Journal

    First particle?

  • Fools! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:35AM (#23902541)

    Don't they see that there used to be MORE neutron stars?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:36AM (#23902559)
    According the the Farnsworth Theorem, which has been accepted by the scientific community, the LHC is almost certain to destroy the world. There are consequences to creating a black hole, you know.

    Dr Farnsworth suggests that you collect your most prized possessions and carry them down to the lowest basement you can find. This way you will at lest be among the last survivors on our doomed planet.
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:39AM (#23902597) Homepage

    Even if they did manage to destroy the world, we'd all die so quickly there wouldn't be time to dish out any blame.

    I can imagine the last words in the lab just before we all disappear into a singularity:

    "Oops"

    • by maxume (22995) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:44AM (#23902645)

      Or "I'm hungry" or "This coffee is awful".

    • by oahazmatt (868057) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:48AM (#23902711) Journal

      I can imagine the last words in the lab just before we all disappear into a singularity:

      "Oops"

      I agree. The world will end not with an alien invasion, not with a famine and not with a multi-national nucler war.

      No, the world will end with a scientist uttering "Oh, sweet!"
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        No, the world will end with a scientist uttering "Oh, sweet!"
        So the end of the world will be caused by the invention of aspartame? Darn it the tin foil hat did nothing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sacrilicious (316896)

        No, the world will end with a scientist uttering "Oh, sweet!"
        Reminds me of the aphorism about the most common last words of hillbillies: "Hey Bubba, watch this!"
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hoi Polloi (522990)

        Based on airplane cockpit recorders (the black boxes) the most likely last word will be "SHIT!".

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I have always expected the end of the world to be preceeded by:

        "Good news everyone!"

    • by Kookus (653170) on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:24AM (#23903161) Journal
      Actually, we'd all die relatively slowly and quickly, depending on if you're looking at people falling in after or before you.
      • Re:Hang on a minute (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Thiez (1281866) on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:52AM (#23903505)

        Actually we wouldn't. The black hole would not be any heavier than the earth (the moon would continue to orbit it as if nothing had happened, and the black hole would happily circle around the sun). Since the earth's mass is not that impressive, the black hole would have to be tiny, so the area around it where the gravity would significantly bend the universe would also be quite small, making our painful (but swift) deaths rather unspectacular.

        Yeah I know. 'WOOOOSH!'

        • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday June 23, 2008 @11:14AM (#23903779) Journal

          Exactly, and as minor black holes are used to anchor the Intergalactic superhighways road system in place, I suspect that Arthur Dent is at this moment contemplating the life of a fly somewhere in Kent.

          Are there any marine biologists among us? Have the fish been acting funny lately?

          • by Dmala (752610) on Monday June 23, 2008 @12:17PM (#23904747)
            Are there any marine biologists among us? Have the fish been acting funny lately?

            You know, it's funny. I was at the aquarium yesterday and for the finale of the dolphin show a dolphin did a double backwards somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the 'Star Spangled Banner.'
        • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday June 23, 2008 @12:42PM (#23905153)
          so the area around it where the gravity would significantly bend the universe would also be quite small, making our painful (but swift) deaths rather unspectacular

          I'm sorry, but you're completely forgetting about at least one mitigating factor. There's simply no way the earth can be destroyed, one side effect of which would be my untimely demise. Why? Because I've still got a balance on my Capital One visa card, and they will do anything, including changing the very fabric of space and time, in order to not miss out on that interest money. So, we're safe for a while yet.
    • Re:Hang on a minute (Score:5, Interesting)

      by meringuoid (568297) on Monday June 23, 2008 @11:08AM (#23903699)
      Even if they did manage to destroy the world, we'd all die so quickly there wouldn't be time to dish out any blame.

      Actually, it will take a while. The event horizon of the hole will be small; the interaction cross-section with ordinary matter in the Earth is tiny. So it will orbit the centre of the Earth, absorbing a few atoms on each pass, gradually increasing in mass.

      We'll notice by the time it reaches the mass of, say, a decent-sized mountain. It will cause local tides. Volcanism. Earthquakes. We won't die of spaghettification; we'll die because something awful inside the earth is whipping up the mantle like a blancmange and shredding the whole crust.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:40AM (#23902599)

    While most scientists have no such concerns, a recent preprint released to arxiv systematically dismantles the notion.
    A risky claim to make. If he's wrong it will totally ruin his reputation ;-)
  • by verbalcontract (909922) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:40AM (#23902607)
    This article doesn't take into account accidental resonance cascades that open up portals to bizarre alien.
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:41AM (#23902615)

    Wasn't the actual "danger" in question the creation of stable negative strangelets (which would gobble up regular matter through electrostatic attraction, not through gravity like a black hole) ?

    But still, if there was such a thing, cosmic rays would have created one "naturally" by now.

  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:44AM (#23902643) Homepage Journal

    I wouldn't worry really. If it does destroy the world (which this is saying it won't, because if it could, it would have already happened naturally), then too bad. There isn't anything we can do, and such is life. C'est la vie.

    Oh yeah, and I really have been there, there was an open day a couple of months back, the thing is less then about 15 cm in most places (then you have the various vacuum thingys, etc.). Which is rather big, actually, considering the size of the particles...

  • But but but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:46AM (#23902667)

    "Science is the work of the devil!"

    I believe the saying goes, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story. "Safe" doesn't sell National Geographic, let alone Wired.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:48AM (#23902705) Homepage

    Let me be quite clear that I don't think the LHC is likely to destroy the Earth.

    However, the argument that what the LHC does is equivalent to collisions of cosmic rays with the atmosphere is bogus. The LHC's collisions between two particle streams with equal and opposite momentum could create things that are more or less at rest with respect to the Earth; a cosmic ray hitting the atmosphere carries momentum that will cause any resultant particles to move away from us very quickly.

  • by Framboise (521772) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:49AM (#23902723)
    Interestingly Enrico Fermi did use the same argument while setting on the first nuclear reactor during the Manhattan project around 1940 (that some cosmic rays are anyway much more energetic and bombarding the Earth since ages). And later fission and fusion bomb makers did use the same argument while playing with increasingly powerful toys. Ditto particle physicists for each new and more powerful accelerator. Isn't it time that journalists and other dumb news makers understand?
  • Ha. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kingrames (858416) on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:52AM (#23902775)

    The world will not end when I flip this switch.

    I shall prove this, by ...
    What in the world could that be?!
    *points over there*
    *flips switch*

  • Stopped black hole? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary,address,for,privacy&gmail,com> on Monday June 23, 2008 @09:57AM (#23902853)
    What does it mean that a black hole is "stopped"?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:07AM (#23902949)

      If the black hole has "stopped" it has noticed your presence. At this point, your JuJanta 2000 Peril-Sensitive sunglasses will suddenly go completely black, fully preparing you for the event horizon experience.

      JuJanta also recommends its products for the Event Horizon experience, which properly speaking should never be experienced by anyone whatsoever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jockeys (753885)
      in all seriousness, to "stop" a black hole is to prevent it from any meaningful interstellar travel by attracting it to a large (say, solar) mass. if the black hole and the large mass move towards eachother and collide, they will (theoretically) eventually be entirely black hole, as the black hole will slowly compress all the large mass into itself, breaking the Chandrasekar limit and increasing it's own local gravity.

      astrophysics buffs, please correct this if I'm wrong, I'm only an amateur.
  • My question (Score:5, Funny)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:00AM (#23902883)
    So when does it come online? Just in case something happens, I need the day off to do what I always wanted to do: Spend it with a beautiful woman in bed--who am I kidding? I'm posting on slashdot. I'll be playing GTA IV. :P
  • by Danathar (267989) on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:06AM (#23902945) Journal

    So each being equally small in probability the two ways the LHC will get us is either by

    1. Black Holes (like the article says)

    or

    2. Instantaneous conversion of all stuff on earth into exotic matter.

    Personally #2 sounds more fun.

  • by mcelrath (8027) on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:15AM (#23903047) Homepage
    See also the Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions [arxiv.org] which also appeared today, and is a more non-technical summary of the safety review.
  • Why Is It (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phoenixwade (997892) on Monday June 23, 2008 @10:37AM (#23903329)

    Why is it that physicists on and in favor of this project (and those that are following this story) are even remotely surprised by the "Create a black hole, and destroy the world" rhetoric?

    We've heard all the sensational "Black holes are the ultimate destructive force" commentary from Astronomers for decades seen all the cool Black hole animations, etceteras, ad nausium.

    In my opinion, all the sensationalism surrounding the Black holes to start with was a ploy for funding. Now that same story line shows it's dark side, and people seemed surprised at the outcry and at overly dramatic fear of the LHC.

    I'm not saying that sensationalizing science is a bad thing per se, just that people shouldn't be surprised when it bites them on the ass.

  • Worst case scenario? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chord.wav (599850) on Monday June 23, 2008 @11:14AM (#23903777) Journal

    So, what is the worst case scenario, and, would I notice it?

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Monday June 23, 2008 @11:20AM (#23903853)
    Given that it's thought this can create weak stable black holes, couldn't they be used to generate power? I was tought in physics that when a big object 'enters' a black hole, it ejects a narrow stream of energy through the back of the black hole. If you couple this with Hawking radiation (or if what I'm talking about IS hawking radiation), couldn't you use black holes as a powersource? Something with the ability to convert 100% (eventually) of mass to energy must have huge power generation potential.

    Please don't tell me what I'm thinking of is a ZPM, damn stargate Deus Ex machina devices...
  • Bottom line (Score:4, Informative)

    by foobarbaz (21227) on Monday June 23, 2008 @11:46AM (#23904303)
    The bottom line:
    • Energy of maximum LHC collision: 14 TeV
    • Energy of "Oh My God Particle" cosmic ray that hit the sky over Utah in 1991: 300,000,000 TeV
    Sources:

  • In comparison (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Applekid (993327) on Monday June 23, 2008 @11:54AM (#23904427)

    All things told, I'd rather die by act of science than by act of war.

  • Hellboy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by no1home (1271260) on Monday June 23, 2008 @12:12PM (#23904671)

    Let's put it this way:

    We KNOW enough about the math, even with all the estimations and incomplete theories, to be able to say that, on the extreme outside chance the LHC does make a mini black hole, the mini black hole will evaporate/destroy itself in a time frame measured in tiny fractions of a second. It cannot destroy the Earth, let alone the solar system or the galaxy.

    On the other hand, know nothing of the possibilities of interdimensional travel. Therefore, we are safer considering, and maybe preparing for, the possibility of Hellboy landing in the lab. And he ain't such a bad guy, really.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Monday June 23, 2008 @02:37PM (#23907015)

    Why are we finding no extraterrestrial civilizations?

    They all get to this step in technological advancement and "Black Hole" themselves?

    Maybe a significant portion of existing black holes are not the results of collapsed stars, but rather previous Hadron-like mistakes of monumental proportions?

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