Monday, June 30, 2008

Will The Atom Smasher Win The Lottery?

In Switzerland the most powerful atom-smasher ever built is due to be switched on in August.

The Large Hadron Collider could make discoveries such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space or the wormhole that contains all the socks that go missing in the wash.
Some critics fear it could exceed physicists' wildest wet dreams and will it create a black hole that could swallow Earth or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump.

It has taken a generation to build the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle collider, called the largest science experiment in history.

It consists of a ring of super cooled magnets 17 miles in circumference, buried 330 feet below the French-Swiss border and has cost $5.8 billion so far .

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN say the fears are 'ridiculous'.
"Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on but everyone outside of our safe 330 foot deep bunker may be turned inside out," said project leader Lyn Evans.

David Francis, a physicist on the collider's huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets.

"If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here," he said as he took a swig from his hip flask.

The machine, which has been called the largest scientific experiment in history, isn't expected to begin test runs until August, and ramping up to full power could take months.


But once it is working, it is expected to produce some startling findings.

Scientists plan to hunt for signs of the invisible "dark matter" and "dark energy" that make up more than 96 percent of the universe, and hope to glimpse the elusive Higgs boson, a so-far undiscovered particle thought to give matter its mass, and other really interesting and fascinating stuff.

The collider could find evidence of extra dimensions, a boon for superstring theory, which holds that quarks, the particles that make up atoms, are infinitesimal vibrating strings.


The theory could resolve many of physics' unanswered questions like the buttered cat paradox.

If bread always lands on the buttered side and cats always land on their feet what would a buttered cat do?


Physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million about the same as winning some lotteries.

That's long odds or is it ? considering someone always wins the lottery, either a pedophile or some old geezer in God's waiting room.


A CERN team this month issued a report concluding that there is "no conceivable danger" of a cataclysmic event.

Walter L. Wagner, a physicist, lawyer, reality TV star and critic of the LHC filed a lawsuit in March seeking to block its startup, alleging that there was "a significant risk that operation of the Collider may have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet," and the CERN report "has several major flaws."
CERN scientists say the LHC may produce micro black holes, subatomic versions of cosmic black holes , collapsed stars whose gravity fields are so powerful that they can suck in planets and other stars. But they would likely be traveling so fast they would pass harmlessly through the earth and may only just destroy a few 3rd world countries, nothing serious like the end of the world.

Well this reporter will sleep soundly knowing that according to scientists the world will be safe, I suppose playing with magnets looking for dark matter or unicorns or whatever beats getting a real job.


1 comment:

JTankers said...

The "1 in 50 million odds of catastrophe" theorized by physicist Martin Rees was based on the prior assumption that micro black holes could not be created as quoted in the 1999 RHIC Safety Report.

Now that scientists theorize that micro black holes might be created, the odds could be very high, possibly as high as losing a coin flip three times in a row.

Three disputed assumptions: Micro Black holes are created or not, decay or not, grow slowly or not.

"theoretical implications even if it turns out that microscopic black holes may hang around longer than most scientists think"

Basic arguments:

Hawking Radiation is disputed as "no compelling theoretical case for or against radiation by black holes" and cosmic rays striking Earth do not prove safety because if stable neutral micro black holes were created, they would travel through Earth and exit at relativistic speeds.

CERN has presented a credible and detailed new safety report with arguments for safety based on Neutron stars and cosmic rays. And while I am very thankful for the creation of this important report, I can not ignore what CERN's SPC Committee writes in their validation report:

"A powerful argument applicable also to higher energies is formulated making reference to observed neutron stars, but this argument relies on properties of cosmic rays and neutrinos that, while highly plausible, do require confirmation, as can be expected in the coming years."

A balanced encyclopedia article, Safety of the Large Hadron Collider
Safety arguments in more detail:
Legal Defense: