New atom-smasher could fill gaps in scientific knowledge -- or open a black hole

Michelangelo L. Mangano, a respected particle physicist who helped discover the top quark in 1995, now spends most days trying to convince people that his new machine won’t destroy the world.

“If it were just crackpots, we could wave them away,” the physicist said in an interview at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym, CERN. “But some are real physicists.”

What the critics are in such a lather about is the $8-billion Large Hadron Collider, a massive assemblage of iron, steel and superconducting wire 300 feet underground in a 17-mile-long circular tunnel on the Franco-Swiss border.

The most complex piece of scientific equipment ever built, the collider will send particles crashing into each other at just a wink shy of the speed of light, generating energies more powerful than the sun.,1,1378901.story?page=1

What a fascinating article! :slight_smile: It makes me regret not taking a course in physics, way back when. The article does a good job explaining the function and theory behind the new atom-smasher in terms even i could understand. I’ve always wondered what the hoopla over the Higgs boson was all about, and now I have some kind of idea.

But the article does raise the spectre of a science-induced catastrophe - not just the threat of a black hole, but also the possible creation of strange matter (its explained in the article). How much of a threat is required to rule out the operation of this new machine? Most industrialized nations require pharmaceutical companies to show that their drugs are safe - permission to sell is not granted until safety is assured. Should physics research be regulated by government? Is the common good advanced by allowing the Large Hadron Collider to run?

By smashing protons and lead ions together at energies reaching 14 trillion electron volts, the Large Hadron Collider will dwarf the world’s other atom-smashers, including the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s mighty Tevatron in Batavia, Ill.

But that energy, Mangano hastened to add, would be concentrated in a space thinner than a human hair. Any black hole would be so tiny that it wouldn’t be able to get its teeth around a bit of local chevre cheese, let alone the world.

Cosmic rays have more energy than 1400 GeV.

Hawking radiation might evaporate black holes before they large enough.

I am trying not to think about it. It is suppose to be either finished and tried this summer or in 2009

There is a scientist who is very concerned.

Walter F. Wagner and his colleague Luis Sancho have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to stop work on the Large Hadron Collider, a gigantic atom smasher on the Franco-Swiss border that’s set to start operations in May.

I go with Dr. Stephen Hawking. When he panics- I will. Until then, business as usual.

I’ve been reading about this but I don’t know enough about physics to know if I should worry or not. The media has a history of using scare tactics to sell papers, which makes it very difficult to know when to take reports like this seriously.

I think that it is Catholic teaching that God has determined the time to end the world, and man cannot change it. I think it follows that man’s actions cannot end all life, which a growing black hole would.

At the time of the development of the H-bomb there was a similar concern that one might start a chain reaction that would detonate the oceans. According to Robert Jungk [Brighter than a Thousand Suns] the final decision was made by Professor Gregory Breit working out his calculations on mechanical calculators in the back rooms of the Yale Physics Lab.

A couple of videos on the LHC and the search for the Higgs:

This is something else. There is a new Techo-thriller out by Douglas Preston called “Blasphemy”. Premise is the same. Bunch of scientist make a machine to simulate conditions at the start of the universe, and people worry it could create a black hole that could destroy the Earth. Irrelevant I know, just my two cents. :twocents:

This type of theme reflects a similar concern as has arisen with the lhc.

"Should physics research be regulated by government?"
It *is *regulated by the government. Where do you think these guys get the money to build this sort of toy? They pooled the contents of their piggy banks, maybe? No, the money comes from government grants. Governments are the only corporations with enough money and interest in pure science to fund large projects. Businesses want to see a much more immediate usefulness to the products of the research than this sort of thing can generate.


However, the US Congress killed the SSC project in Texas: “On October 27, 1993, when the SSC project was 20% finished, two billion dollars had already been spent, and 14.7 miles of the 54 mile oval tunnel to house the machine was already dug, the Congress of the United States voted to terminate the project. Fifteen thousand physicists, engineers, technicians, contractors, and support workers, the vanguard of the most important project in particle physics, found themselves unemployed, in many cases unemployable in their chosen professions.”

Well, I guess that is the ultimate in regulation.

I remember being disappointed when the SSC was cancelled (but then I wasn’t worried about black hole forming!)

It was only after returning to the rural Midwest I realized how much public resentment there is about government funding of basic research.

I don’t know why these physicists are bothering. From what I can gather from the article, Higgs bosons are created every single time anything from McDonald’s collides with my stomach.

Well, you do eat God particles in Mass right?

Because of your youth, I will assume you have insufficient maturity to understand why this is offensive.

The problem is the observation of the particles. In addition to the link from wikipedia:
there is a nice video on Mr. Higgs. It features some great scientists dancing with the cernettes:

I do apologize for that remark. I am just stressed out after reading several entries on The Oil Drum today.

We are all subject to those excesses that often follow being stressed. I’m going to go out today and operate heavy machinery (a hobby, not my occupation). I find it wonderfully clears the mind, not to mention that my petroleum consumption expended in doing so will save petroleum consumption far into the future, provide wildlife habitat and add (albeit in a small way) to the world food and timber supplies. In any event, there’s nothing you can do today about whatever doleful thing you read in “The Oil Drum”. It’s a nice day. “The Oil Drum” and similar things will still be there tomorrow.

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