Sunday, 7 September 2008

Large Hadron Collider Rap

Just LOVED this, physics geek that I am.

"Alpinekat" (Kate McAlpine) is a science writer at the CERN experiment in Europe, which will turn on the largest particle accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider, on Sept 10th. There are some who say it will cause the end of the world, because of the potential to create "mini-black holes". Black holes are normally formed by the gravitational collapse of a massive star, but it is possible that the conditions at the time of the Big Bang could have created extremely small black holes. Steven Hawking postulated that such holes would evaporate by the emission of radiation, called "Hawking Radiation", a result of a virtual particle-anti particle pair being produced at the black hole's event horizon. Some physicists now believe that Hawking radiation may be a flawed concept and that a mini black hole created by the LHC would not evaporate, but could cause a cataclysmic disaster and swallow up the earth.

So .. just in case they are right, enjoy Kate's rap while you can.


Reggie said...

And if it annihilates the world and Mankind is that s'posed to be a BAD thing???

James Jr said...

We are not doom merchants but we believe CERN might be.

The safety opposition argues that CERN is minimizing the danger and misrepresenting the facts.

Several papers recent papers all conclude that Hawking Radiation is fundamentally flawed conjecture, micro black holes will not evaporate!

A common argument is that cosmic rays prove safety, they do not. If cosmic rays create stable neutral micro black holes, all will travel through Earth.

If micro black holes are created by head-on collisions in particle colliders some percentage will travel too slowly to escape Earth's gravity.

The safety opposition includes senior Physics PHD Dr. Rainer Plaga who refutes CERNs conclusions of safety.

The opposition includes visiting professor of Physics Dr. Otto Rossler who is famous for inventing Chaos Theory's Rossler attractor and founder of Endophysics. Dr Rossler theorizes that Hawking Radiation is not possible, micro black holes would grow exponentially over decades or centuries and CERN's cosmic ray arguments are flawed including failure to account for super fluidity of neutron stars.

Former cosmic ray researcher, California math champion and Nuclear Safety Officer Walter L. Wagner discovered flaws with CERN's safety arguments and prompted CERN to write a new safety report.

The opposition argues that the Large Hadron Collider may be safe, it may be disastrous. Like launching shuttles in freezing weather, we should not launch until the safety or danger can be accurately calculated. Currently it can not.


Iain said...

Hi, James Jr,

Sorry if my "doom merchants" comment offended you. It was prompted by reading reports in the paper that some senior CERN scientists have apparently received death threats over this issue. That sort of thing doesn't do much to raise credibility.

However, I have altered the text to something that hopefully is less inflammatory.

Thanks for the link, which I shall read with interest, and of course I shall endeavour to read both sides of the argument.

This reminds me of the situation during the development of the atomic bomb; there was a fear that the intense heat of the explosion could trigger a run-away fusion reaction with the nitrogen in the atmosphere, and hence burn up the atmosphere. Calculations had to be performed to be certain that this could not happen. I imagine similar calculations had to be performed concerning the black holes risk that you mention - and I guess there are always going to be those who are going to maintain that the calculations haven't been done properly.

For example at

physicist Luboš Motl argues that the formation of a black hole would require energies 10^15 times greater than can be produced by the LHC. That sounds quite compelling to me. However, I had better leave it at that as one of the comments recommends killing Motl as well ...

James Jr said...

I will be interested impression of the other side of the story.

I think an honest evaluation at a minimum is that safety is unknown, similar to the situation before the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger in Freezing weather.

Mother nature lives by her own rules, we can only try to understand what those rules are.


Iain said...

For James Jr.

I think the very detailed study at:

should answer most of your concerns. In the first section of the paper they note that cosmic rays very likely produce charged black holes that would be stopped in the earth and wouldn't become neutral except in the context of Hawking radiation.

They also analyse the unlikely scenario where a stable neutral black hole was produced & conclude that it would not have a macroscopic effect on a timescale of the lifetime of the solar system.

It looks like a pretty reasonable and thorough scientific study.

I hope this goes some way towards alleviating your fears.

JTankers said...

I read CERN's safety reports and I also read Dr. Rainer Plaga's rebuttal and Dr. Otto Rössler's rebuttal.

Sir Martin Rees probably stated it best in his book "Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century?".

From Wikipedia:

The premise of the book is that the Earth and human survival are in far greater danger from the potential effects of modern technology than is commonly realized, and that the 21st century may be a critical moment in history when humanity's fate is decided. Rees discusses a range of existential risks confronting humanity, and controversially estimates that the probability of extinction before 2100 AD is around 50 per cent, based on the possibility of malign or accidental release of destructive technology.

Iain said...


Thanks for getting back to me (I presume you are the same person as "James Jr").

I don't think citing Martin Rees does a great deal to enhance the credibility of your position. Rees, as his article in the Daily Telegraph below shows, appears to be a strong advocate of the LHC and is looking forward to what it is going to tell us. There is no mention in the article that he thinks it's going to make a black hole that will destroy the earth.

I'm aware, looking at reviews that Rees's book mentions high energy physics experiments going wrong as one possible disaster scenario, but since I haven't read the book, I don't know if that includes the situation that concerns you. But the Telegraph article would seem to indicate that he is not concerned about black holes in the LHC.

Iain said...

For James Jr:

Have you read this?

BHOPAL, India - A teenage girl in central India killed herself on Wednesday after being traumatized by media reports that a "Big Bang" experiment in Europe could bring about the end of the world, her father said.

The 16-year old girl from the state of Madhya Pradesh drank pesticide and was rushed to the hospital but later died, police said.

Her father, identified on local television as Biharilal, said that his daughter, Chayya, killed herself after watching doomsday predictions made on Indian news programs.

Rest of story at:

When, as I am 99.999% confident, it is shown that Professor Hawking was right, I hope you will remember the story of this tragic end to a young life as a result of the media attention that your campaign has generated.