Good Monday morning, we are all going to die

I was lazily sipping my Monday-morning coffee, booting up my computer for another fruitless day at the office. I surveyed the news, hoping for something juicy related to men/women relationships to blog about. But instead, I found out that after August, men might be the least of my worries- joining my pantheon of stress will be black holes, killer particles, and the ultimate destruction of the Earth.

Apparently the BIGGEST PARTICLE COLLIDER EVER located underneath Switzerland and France has just been completed, and they will turn it on in August. For those of you not up on your particle physics, a particle collider is a great big vacuum in which they have two beams of particles travelling opposite each other and speed them up until they are going 11,000 times per second around this circular vacuum tube. At determined locations around this circle, they bend the particle streams using electromagnets, crossing them and allowing the particles to crash into each other. They will then take pictures of these collisions using digital cameras that wiegh thousands of tons which take millions of snapshots per minute which amounts to 15 petabytes of data (fyi- that’s alot). They’ll then study these photographs (surely they have an intern to go through all that) to essentially see what happens.

A little boy physicists dream (ooh!! lets make these invisible particles go REALLY REALLY FAST and CRASH them into each other!!), this multibillion dollar device will be a great asset to the field of physics and the study of matter (why does any of this matter, anyway?). One small crash for particles, one giant leap for mankind, that sort of thing. There’s just one small drawback- the possibility of destroying the earth and killing all humanity.

There is a lawsuit hoping to stay the “off” switch of this collider, claiming there is “a significant risk that … operation of the Collider may have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet.” Apparently sometimes this particle crashing process creates mini black holes which can swallow up our planet or lets loose strangelets, a never-before-seen-on-Earth killer particle.

The scientists in charge of the project insist that “sometimes” is a very low number- like one in 50 million. But, as the article states, that’s the same chances given in some lotteries. And people often win lotteries.

“The [collider] is only going to reproduce what nature does every second, what it has been doing for billions of years,” said John Ellis, a British theoretical physicist.

Sure, cuz we know how great we humans have been at reproducing nature in other areas of science. This whole situation kinda reminds me of Doctor Octopus. Maybe instead of a lawsuit, the critics should hire Spiderman to save us all.

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2 Responses

  1. The risk of the Large Hadron Collider is way hilariously over-exaggerated. Mini black holes sound sort of scary, because real black holes are really scary. The kicker here, though, is that the mini black holes are harmless, because they’ll evaporate before they can grow. The sort of stuff done in the LHC is already taking place all over the universe, all the time, and it hasn’t caused the universe any trouble. I haven’t heard the 1 in 50 million estimate for risk anywhere; the actual risk is far less than that.

    Check out:
    http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/03/29/no-the-lhc-wont-destroy-the-earth/
    http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/06/24/breaking-lhc-still-will-not-destroy-the-earth/

    The two guys suing to stop the LHC are wacky conspiracy theorists; they aren’t very familiar at all with the physics involved. The joke here is that the media, in its dedication to “equal time” has reported on the “impending catastrophe” with varying levels of credulity.

  2. Yeah, I’m not really terribly worried about it. It is quite a sensational possibility, however. I guess we’ll find out in August when they turn it on.

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