CERN and LCH Black Holes: Part Three
For those following this story, the concerns expressed by a number of scientists over the Large Hadron Collider are more complex (make that far more complex) then earlier descriptions provided here. With thanks to JTankers in previous comment threads, I went and gave a listen to an interview with Nuclear Physicist Walter Wagner. (Parts one, two, three and four.) A number of facts about this scenario are quite different from my original perceptions, and we’ll try to sort some of those facts out here.
NOTE: None of the parties involved on either side are saying that this disastrous scenario will happen, simply that it’s possible that it might and more study may be required. The events described below are only what would happen if a worst case scenario played out.
We Won’t Know Right Away: After the experiment fires, even in the event that the worst case scenario unfolds, there will not be a sudden plop resulting in a black hole squatting in some chamber in the accelerator tunnel. Nor will there be any War Games style computer alarm going off saying “Black Hole Detected! Run for your lives!” Any number of microscopic black holes (MBHs) would be created, and they would be travelling at a very high speed. Since the MBHs are about the size of a neutrino, they pass through almost all matter, dancing between the individual atoms, without slowing down. The scientists would have only a fraction of a second to detect them and then they would go winging out of the chamber, even through the Earth itself, and out into space.
The One That Didn’t Get Away: Any MBHs which have escape velocity (something in the range of 250,000 mph or more) will zip off into space and hopefully become Somebody Else’s Problem. (SEP) However, one or more may be traveling a bit slower than that and would be captured into “orbit” by the Earth’s gravity. It would swing around and begin looping out through space and back through the Earth, through buildings… even through YOU with no harm caused an nobody noticing. (Remember the neutrinos?) Every once in a while the MBH would interact with a particle and absorb it, slowly increasing its mass and shortening its orbit until it eventually was orbiting entirely inside the planet.
Couldn’t We Detect It Zinging Around?: No. We’ve been looking for evidence of a neutrino (any neutrino) interacting randomly with any particle for decades. The results have been, to say the least, disappointing. Our chances of finding a specific MBH swinging around through the Earth would be effectively zilch.
When The End Comes, It Comes Fast: Hopefully Dr. Wagner and his associates aren’t the type to enjoy saying, “I told you so” because they won’t have much time to do it. The MBH will take some time to build up enough mass through these random collisions until it can do any serious damage. Estimates range from as little as five years or less up to a millenium. We just don’t know. But when it does reach a size where it can start quickly “eating” mass, it will begin carving out the center of the planet like a melon ball spoon. Dr. Wagner notes that we won’t have much notice… “possibly a couple of earthquakes” but by then the formerly microscopic but now full-fledged black hole will be consuming matter at a horrific rate, followed by the collapse of the planet down into a single black hole the size of a golf ball. And that, as they say, would be that.
We recently launched the GLAST Telescope which, among other missions, will search for evidence of Hawkings Radiation. This is one of the elements of the discussion arguing for the safety of the LCH experiments. Proof of Hawkings Radiation (which is still purely theoretical) would indicate the any MBHs produced during the experiment would “evaporate” away without doing any damage. Some opponents of the project would like to at least wait until the GLAST research is completed before attempting the LCH collisions.
We’ll have more on this subject during the week as we interview some of the principal scientists involved in the debate. Those interviews will be found at Mid Stream Radio.
e-mail the author: email@example.com