A random sampling of the stupid.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


So, those wacky scientists are at it again, trying to destroy the world. The NYTimes reports:

"The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act."

This black hole business has been going around for awhile. The second somebody mentions black hole, people picture an interstellar vacuum cleaner which sucks up everything all the time.
For example, if our sun turned into a black hole, it would suck the Earth in and we'd all be dead, right?

Well, putting aside the process of the sun going nova (which actually would destroy the Earth), actually it wouldn't matter at all. A body's gravity is determined by it's mass, so if our sun were a black hole, we'd really be fine.

The tiny black holes which the LHC will produce will have the mass of a few protons, and will evaporate through Hawking radiation rather quickly. A black hole with the mass of a few protons has the same gravity as that many protons. Otherwise known as none.

As for the stranglets they mention, I admit I don't know anything about this. But, as the times mentions, we can look at cosmic ray interactions. The LHC will produce collisions at a bit over 1 TeV; that's 10^12 eV. Cosmic rays of this energy and higher impact the Earths atmosphere regularly.

So yeah, I'm not too worried about the LHC destroying the world. Except perhaps, the world of ignorance.


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