CERN’s LHC, mBH & GLAST SNAFU?
Physicists at Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) had a safety meeting to discus the possibility that their experiment planned for 10th October might accidentally create black holes, at a rate of 1 per second. If created it isn’t sure what these micro-black holes will do. Some say the black-holes should be unstable due to their small size, and should disappear due to emitting Hawking-radiation. Also they could fly off into space at the speed of light. However others fear that due to the design of the collider, as two opposing beams with the same speed, the black-holes will have lower velocity and could be caught by the earth’s gravity. Another concern was that the gamma rays emitted by unstable black holes could start of chain reactions leading to similar effect to a nuclear bomb destroying the facility.
An inelastic collision, at low speeds and high temperatures it is unlikely to create exotic particles for long.
Under standard theories, such an energy to produce a micro black hole is orders of magnitude greater than that which can be produced on Earth in particle accelerators such as the large hadron collider (LHC) (maximum about 1.15 × 106 GeV). However the multiple dimensions postulated in string theory mean is it possible that the gravity can be many orders of magnitude stronger at smaller distances (when particles are thrown together by very high energies).
Others have questioned the basic assumptions of the CERN program in quantum gravity, questioning the existence of Hawking radiation, it is only the quantum assumptions which lead to a crisis at the Planck mass. Using classical general relativity, a black hole could in principle be arbitrarily small. So, it remains a possibility that a stable micro black hole could be created at the large hadron collider, or that they are created in nature by high-energy impacts, only to zip through earth at nearly the speed of light.
It’s very unfortunate that there are already experiments planned to investigate the properties of these micro-black holes. The GLAST satellite launched on 11th June, after calibration it was due to be gathering data by mid-August, and subsequently renamed after Enrico Fermi. Measurements should be able to prove or reject the Hawking Radiation theory. This should be critical for determining the safety of the Large Hadron Collider as discussed above.
Hawking Radiation should be detectable using GLAST/Fermi telescope, here a black hole takes in matter and spews gamma radiation into the galaxy.
In July, the Large Hadron Collider Safety Assessment Group (LSAG) was writing that the current safety arguments are not valid proof of safety. Micro black holes might be created by the Large Hadron Collider, they might not evaporate, they might grow quickly and we have not been damaged by cosmic rays because cosmic rays pass harmlessly through Earth. CERN doesn’t publicise this information and also tells the public that a new safety report has been completed, and was finally published in September 2008 Review of the safety of LHC collisions. The report makes the conclusion that if Hawking radiation is not going to be omitted, it is estimated that any micro-black holes caught by the earth’s gravity will take around 1 billion years to become accreted.
A legal complaint before US Federal Court in Hawaii demanded 4 months to review this safety report and a permanent injunction if safety can not be assured to within reasonable industry standards. The united state’s department of energy (DOE) asked for summary dismissal of the case, a similar case was raised in the European court of human rights, citing the rights of citizens in the 27 member states to exist, was eventually dismissed. Similar complaints have been made against large particle accelerators by the same people previously, I think they are doing a great service in challenging the science behind the safety of these massive programs. Obviously these accelerators will also carry a degree of unknown risk by there very nature, it’s possible that one day such an experiment can destroy the earth, but no one will be left to blame the scientists responsible. No were in the universe are the same conditions of nature re-created as in the extremely cold particle accelerator were matter is focused accelerated and collided repeatedly.
Any concerns over the safety could be dismissed by waiting for the results of the GLAST/Fermi satellite’s investigation of Hawking radiation. The standard model has so much experimental evidence against it, can we really use it to design experiments which could potentially destroy the earth, and should we be paying so much (8 billion dollars) to fund the particle physics gravy train?
The detector chamber for the large hadron collider, protons will smash into each other here with the possibility of creating the missing Higgs Boson, which might explain why gravity is weaker than other forces.
Wikipedia article on Safety of LHC
CERN courier article The case for mini black holes
Adam D. Helfer, “Do black holes radiate?” arXiv:gr-qc/0304042
Basic Concepts in Relativity and Early Quantum Theory, R. Resnick; Physics Parts I & II, Haliday and Resnick, 1966, Chapter 9, Conservation of Linear Momentum
Review of the safety of LHC collisions
Scientists receive death threats
The Large Hadron Collider: how the press demeans science
Interest in this story continues today, Monday 8th September, I believe there is good media representation at CERN, the BBC’s most read story today is one trivialising the criticisms Why the fascination with the end of the world? the comments are particularly worth reading for the spectrum of responses.
Others have been coming forward to say the money could be better spent on research into global warming. It was reported yesterday that former government science advisor, Sir David King, was saying money should be spent on climate change research rather than particle physics at CERN (the British contribution was 500 Million pounds, the largest amount for single item science project).
There are people who have serious concerns about the LHC – these concerns should be addressed seriously, not trivialised by association with crank groups from the past.
Brendan Carton, Galway, Ireland
As I understand it the world as we know it has already ended and we are now bits of binary code in a computer program.
Peter Baines, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, UK
The psychology of eschatology is interesting, but so too is that of the conservative who mocks predictions of catastrophe in order to argue that no large-scale disaster is possible. The Black Death was said by some to mark the end of the world; it wasn’t. But it was rather serious. We do need to be prepared for extreme events.
Mr Henderson, London, UK
According to Stephen Hawkings the chance that the the LHC has enough energy to create micro-black holes is less than 1%, as reported by the BBC’s Today programme, Hawkings would be happy to be wrong, if the Hawking radiation is observed he would be highly likely to receive a Nobel Prize.
Prince Charles is yet to make any comment.