November is when they’re going to “flip” the switch at CERN.
A lot of scientists are saying that they’re “pretty sure” there won’t be a chain reaction at the atomic level (that would wipe us all out), but who knows for sure? I bet there’s going to be a LOT of interest building up just days before the big event. (How crazy it seems to take such a chance just because a few people want to know more answers about the creation of the universe, so they risk ruining it and us in their quest.)
Of course, if I’m wrong I’ll apologize the next day…
Seriously though, I have no cite, but I seem to recall an angry letter in a science magazine a few months ago (Discover possibly?) from one of the scientist who had been interviewed and said he was “pretty sure” we wouldn’t all die. He emphasized that he had been joking, and that nothing would happen.
That’s my pet theory of why we have not detected any extraterrestrial civilizations. All of them, at some point or another, said “What happens if we smash two protons together really fast?” And then, BOOM!
Seriously though, the level of doubt regarding the safety of the experiment has been greatly exaggerated in the media. Everything we know about physics says the chance of a planet-destroying accident is zero. Of course, something we don’t know could prove our undoing - but you could say the same thing about any experiment.
If I read the LHC site correctly they’re dealing with energies of 14TeV which works out to 1.6x10[sup]-7[/sup]J. If that was completely converted to mass it would be a blackhole of 2.48x10[sup]-23[/sup]kg.
I think that works out to an evaporation time on the order of 10[sup]-74[/sup] seconds if I did the math right…
Let’s assume that the LHC will even produce a black hole when two particles collide. Well, the most energy the two particles can have is 14 TeV. That in turn means that the most massive black hole those particles could make is the mass equivalent of the energy (i.e. m=E/c[sup]2[/sup] which works out to roughly 10[sup]-23[/sup]kg.
Current theory says that black holes radiate and so can “evaporate”, winking out of existence. Like anything with black holes the amount of time that it takes to evaporate depends greatly on the starting mass of the black hole.
Assuming my numbers are right, a black hole of 10[sup]-23[/sup]kg (leaving aside the potential for that to actually occur) would last 10[sup]-74[/sup] seconds before winking out of existence.
So even if they do pop into existence, they’ll barely have time to thrash their tails around and figure out what the whooshing sound is before they’re gone.
There would, however, be some very clear indications to the scientists watching the results that a black hole had been created (for instance, black holes are allowed to violate most of the subatomic conservation laws), so such an event would still be hugely interesting to the fundamental physics community, even without an Earth-shattering kaboom. I can’t say strongly enough just how cool creation of black holes in this collider would be. And even if we don’t get black holes, we’ll still learn a ton from this collider: That’s well up into the energy range where, if nothing interesting happens, that will in itself be a very interesting result.
Didn’t see this before. If the models which predict the creation of black holes are correct, then we’ve been seriously misestimating the values, and indeed the significance, of the Planck scales. But no matter which model you use, it’s recognized that the formulae for determining a black hole’s lifespan make some assumptions which badly break down at these kinds of masses. So one should take with a huge grain of salt figures like the 10[sup]-74[/sup] s Grey posted: It doesn’t really have any significance beyond “really, really, really short”.