March 30, 2010

"After 16 years and $10 billion — and a long morning of electrical groaning and sweating — there was joy..."

Scientists jubilate over whatever it is the Hadron collider did.
Following two false starts due to electrical failures, protons whipped to more than 99 percent of the speed of light and to energy levels of 3.5 trillion electron volts apiece around a 17-mile underground magnetic racetrack outside of Geneva a little after 1 p.m. local time. They crashed together inside apartment-building sized detectors designed to capture every evanescent flash and fragment from microscopic fireballs thought to hold insights into the beginning of the world.
I'm just relieved we weren't swallowed by a black hole.

40 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

If Mort was awake, he'd say you were racist.


wv = spith= what Barney Frank claims the Tea party did.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I'm just relieved we weren't swallowed by a black hole.

I'm going to just leave that one alone.

SteveR said...

For a minute I thought that was Nancy Pelosi's description of how they got HCR passed. Electrical groaning works even better than $750,000 sent to a district.

garage mahal said...

After 16 years and $10 billion — and a long morning of electrical groaning and sweating — there was joy

Sounds like a night out for the RNC .

JAL said...

Funny you should mention that. Hubby just mused yesterday about what ever happened to .......

We were in Switzerland recently and didn't even think to ask if we were traipsing over part of it somewhere.

The sky didn't fall! Hooray!

virgil xenophon said...

Don't laugh, folks. The collider still isn't working at max grunt yet and the black-hole scenario is STILL a VERY DISTINCT possibility. People should research the more informed critics in the scientific community. Such worries are being expressed by some VERY competent people in the particle physics community.

Fred4Pres said...

The Swiss engineers and scientists were delighted with the secondary benefit when they found out the super collider cooks various wursts to absolute crispy perfection! Yum.

So far so good on the black hole thing!

Original Mike said...

Don't laugh, folks. The collider still isn't working at max grunt yet and the black-hole scenario is STILL a VERY DISTINCT possibility.

No, it isn't.

Beth said...

"outside of Geneva" - I'd have thought it would be in Ingolstadt.

Kev said...

(the other kev)

In Fred Pohl's Gateway, people who fall into a black hole suffer from gravitational time dilation, effectively frozen in the moment that they enter. If the physical theory is still valid, how would you know if the black hole had happened?

bagoh20 said...

"I'm just relieved we weren't swallowed by a black hole. "

Are you absolutely sure?

Meade said...

The relief spread to bleary gatherings of particle physicists all around the world, who have collectively staked the future of their profession on the idea that the new collider will eventually reveal new secrets of the universe, like the identity of the dark matter that shapes the visible cosmos and the strange particle known as the “Higgs,” which is thought to imbue other particles with mass.

"They call me MR. Higgs!"

Mark said...

I'm just relieved we weren't swallowed by a black hole.

Who says we weren't?

Paddy O. said...

All I know is that yesterday it was a warm 80 degree day here, perfectly blue skies. Today it is overcast and chilly.

I blame the Hadron Collider for ridding this region of the sun.

rhhardin said...

The NYT had a World Ends story in the can as well.

That edition would also run all their advance obits.

Paul Zrimsek said...

A little case of vortex envy, perhaps?

jimspice said...

FoxNews, in January of last year, suggested "Scientists Not So Sure 'Doomsday Machine' Won't Destroy World." Of course the scientists quoted said no such thing.

Theo Boehm said...

Intelligence does seem like an evolutionary dead end.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cedarford said...

CERN's collider is now at 25% power. When they get to 50% power is where they hope to get the beginning of the discoveries that other colliders lacked the power to do.
It's new science, so lots of tweaking and mods were needed after initial testing for debugging.
Now it is working as designed.

Michael McNeil said...

people who fall into a black hole suffer from gravitational time dilation, effectively frozen in the moment that they enter. If the physical theory is still valid, how would you know if the black hole had happened?

That's for a very large black hole — such as the giant one at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy (mass: 2 million times that of the Sun) — so big that the gravitational gradiant near the event horizon is gentle. A vastly smaller (approximately atom sized) mini-black hole, which is all the LHC would be capable of creating (if it is, which it's not), were it to enter your body, would tear you apart as it grows from the inside out. Yes, your individual atoms would apparently remain frozen at the mini-black hole's event horizon, but that wouldn't help you as a macroscopic human being very much.

Michael McNeil said...

Besides, that “frozen at the event horizon” stuff is merely how outside observers would see it — you doing the falling into a (super-sized) black hole would not be so frozen — you'd actually experience falling into the interior of the black hole, and what you'd see and experience there nobody knows (since from the outside one can never see into it).

William said...

Such an event would be the mother of all Black Swans. I used to watch the Discovery Channel during the interminable commercial breaks on the Cartoon Network. No more. This kind of thing is too worrisome. Life and Road Runner cartoons teach us that those things than can go wrong will go wrong.....If this experiment rips the time space continuum and ends all existence, I think someone owes the Pope an apology for his suppression of Galileo.

Tibore said...

No, a singularity is NOT, repeat NOT a possibility. Nothing can exist below the Planck length, yet that's exactly the biggest singularity that could be generated at the energy levels the LHC creates. At that size, if the current model of physics was wrong and a black hole could be generated, this supposed "black hole" would be dwarfed by the nucleus of a single helium atom. And I mean dwarfed; it would literally be 24 orders of magnitude smaller. At that size, the supposed black hole would have trouble consuming a single proton, nevermind the earth. And given that the LHC collides protons, given that any resultant "black hole" would inherit the proton's charges, and given that the event horizon for such a tiny singularity would be hideously small, the electromagnetic forces would predominate over gravity and keep the singularity from getting close enough to any other protons to suck them in. Hell, it'd probably capture a couple of electrons and turn into the weirdest, strangest helium atom doppleganger ever imagined.

And let's not forget that you'd also have to presume that Hawking radiation wouldn't dissipate the singularity in practically no time flat. A black hole with the mass of two protons would decay in 1x10^-84 seconds. This would be another violation of physics, since Planck time is 1x10^-43 seconds, and no time interval shorter than that can exist. So a blink of an eye would be an eternity compared to the supposed lifespan of this supposed "black hole".

And on top of all of that, even if the physicists were wrong, even if the black hole got created, even if it didn't dissipate in a 10^-84th of a second, even if it somehow overcame electromagnetic repulsion of all the other protons in the earth, and even if it started accruing mass, a singularity with a Schwarzschild radius that small would take trillions of years to grow, let alone suck in the mass of the earth. Remember: We know the mass, and that gives us all the other quantities we need to calculate that rate. If the Doomsday scenario were actually viable, it would take 3 trillion years to consume a single kilogram. 3,000,000,000,000 years. As a comparison, the universe is around 13 to 14 billion years old. So even if physics was wrong and if the black hole were possible and started sucking up matter at the center of the earth, no one would notice until 3x10^12 years into the future. And that's to suck in a single kilogram. The rate wouldn't accelerate from linear until the singularity were far, far more massive.

And notice how many "ifs" it takes to get to that point. The physics fail at the energies produced, long before any of that comes into play. They fail due to the lack of energies to create something that can actually exist in both a meaningful size and for a meaningful duration of time.

More info:
http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/05/the_lhc_black_holes_and_you.php
http://startswithabang.com/?p=878
http://startswithabang.com/?p=1130
http://startswithabang.com/?p=1277
http://skepticalteacher.wordpress.com/2009/05/23/lhc-lunacy-doomsday-scenarios/

Michael McNeil said...

Right. But not only that, cosmic rays impact the Earth and the Earth's atmosphere with energies far beyond what the LHC can produce. If such a black hole could be created that would somehow consume the Earth, it would already have been generated many times over the 4.6 billion year history of the Earth — and this planet (or any other planet) would no longer exist. The planet does exist, ergo it's not possible to make such a black hole in the energies that the LHC (and cosmic rays) deal in.

This is similar to the reasoning by which the Manhattan Project scientists knew quite well (contrary to some folks' doomsday scenarios) that the first atomic bomb to be tested would not ignite the Earth's atmosphere, consuming all life on the planet — and it did not. Wha'd'ya know.

Cedarford said...

Correction - the collider is at 50% power. Each 3.5 trillion electron volt beam collides at 7 trillion EV energy, which is half of the max power of this impressive machine - and going to 14 Tev requires more physics testing and mods. That is planned for 2013.

But most scientists think 7 Tev should be enough to bring forth all sorts of new discoveries.

Most of these discoveries have nothing to do with the "black hole oolies" that have existed in common knowledge for 3 decades and more, that several posters seem fixated on discussing.

Items they hope to get? If there are more than 4 dimensions to the universe to experimentally prove certain math theories. Seeing if they can find the Higgs boson, the particle they believe was created at the Big Bang that gave mass to the universe. The nature of the primordial singularity that became the universe. Perhaps even data that points to characteristics that can foster theory and math that delves into it's creation.

Why the universe isn't 50% antimatter. If alternate universes exist. The nature of space time, why the universe clustered.

The nature of dark matter.
Why dark energy has become more powerful with time, and if it will tear the universe apart far sooner than death of the universe from other causes is predicted.

Some religious people even hope for some sign of God or a superior intelligence in further understanding Origin.

Compared to all that, recounting the decades-long discussions of black holes are fairly tame.

Tibore said...

"Right. But not only that, cosmic rays impact the Earth and the Earth's atmosphere with energies far beyond what the LHC can produce."

This is most definitely true, but I also thought one of the fallouts of the lesser energy from the LHC collisions also meant that any possible singularity created wouldn't have the energy to escape the Earth, and therefore if they got created, they could be gravitationally trapped. I thought that was the argument [end playing devils advocate here].

james said...

http://cms.web.cern.ch/cms/News/e-commentary/cms-e-commentary10.htm for a view from a control room.

Smilin' Jack said...

...I also thought one of the fallouts of the lesser energy from the LHC collisions also meant that any possible singularity created wouldn't have the energy to escape the Earth, and therefore if they got created, they could be gravitationally trapped. I thought that was the argument [end playing devils advocate here].

No, the argument is that a black hole produced by the collision of a cosmic ray and a stationary particle on Earth would travel at nearly the velocty of the original cosmic ray (conservation of momentum) and thus escape Earth's gravity in a fraction of a second. A black hole produced in the LHC (impossible, but just for the sake of argument...) would result from a collision of two protons travelling at equal velocities in opposite directions. Thus it would have zero net momentum and velocity and consequently would be trapped in Earth's gravity.

Michael McNeil said...

And why wouldn't two cosmic rays from time to time approach each other from opposite directions in space, then impact together near Earth in exactly the same way as protons from the LHC, thus producing the same low-velocity result?

AJ Lynch said...

I see most of us regulars know we are not smart enough to get in the middle of this thread.

Smilin' Jack said...

And why wouldn't two cosmic rays from time to time approach each other from opposite directions in space, then impact together near Earth in exactly the same way as protons from the LHC, thus producing the same low-velocity result?

Cosmic rays of that energy are very rare and travel at the speed of light. The likelihood of two such rays meeting at the same place and time near Earth is essentially zero.

Michael McNeil said...

I agree the probability is low, but almost zero isn't exactly zero, cosmic rays aren't rare, there's a lot of square and cubic meters above the Earth's atmosphere where it could occur, and 4.6 billion years of time for it to happen.

Opus One Media said...

Whew...all that said in two long sentences...who writes their stuff? NASA?

Tibore said...

" A black hole produced in the LHC (impossible, but just for the sake of argument...) would result from a collision of two protons travelling at equal velocities in opposite directions."

Ah. I'm beginning to remember the arguments from last year now. Ok.

I recall on one of the forums I play on that a physicist from Europe responded to that argument. I really need to go find that link. He said something to the effect that really, the LHC isn't producing anything more than an average of protons meeting with equal and opposite momenta, so there will indeed be collisions involving protons with momentum outside that distribution. That means that the fraction of collisions involving those protons would produce products that do have escape velocity. Yes, even in the LHC, so even if (that phrase is going to get worn out before the day is done) singularities are produced and don't immediately evaporate, some fragment of those singularities would escape the planet anyway. And turning that around, if you looked at the distribution of momenta from cosmic ray collisions with atmospheric protons, there would be a very tiny but again nonzero number of cases where singularities would be created with insufficient momentum to escape the earth. Someone would have to map out the distribution mathematically to put a figure on that amount, but again, it's not zero. I recall him writing that it's possible to map out that distribution in principle, but he didn't feel like doing the math at that time. What he said makes sense; I really have got to find that forum link again, just to make sure I'm remembering it correctly. I like reading that guy because I have a very weak physics background, and he explains things very well. On another topic, his was the only non-math explanation of relativity that made sense to me.

But anyway, that was playing devil's advocate. That same physicist discussed the erroneous characterization of any gravitational "resonances" produced by the LHC; he refused to call them "black holes", since he felt the term implied a degree of stability that could not exist for them. As noted elsewhere, Hawking radiation would dissipate any singularities created in a literal fraction of an instant (defining "instant" as the Planck interval of time). They wouldn't have time to exist and suck in matter.

AllenS said...

Would it be possible for this thing to provide something really good for society. Like getting information from the prisoners at Gitmo?

Smilin' Jack said...

...there's a lot of square and cubic meters above the Earth's atmosphere where it could occur, and 4.6 billion years of time for it to happen.

Not nearly enough. That's why even the nuts who worry about the LHC don't worry about cosmic rays.

That means that the fraction of collisions involving those protons would produce products that do have escape velocity.

Those aren't the ones you worry about.

...if you looked at the distribution of momenta from cosmic ray collisions with atmospheric protons, there would be a very tiny but again nonzero number of cases where singularities would be created with insufficient momentum to escape the earth.

No. Since the atmospheric proton has negligible momentum, the resulting singularity would carry the momentum of the incident cosmic ray, which would give it a velocity nearly that of light, and it would depart from Earth in a fraction of a second.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm just relieved we weren't swallowed by a black hole.

I think it's too early to make such an assessment. The spending portion of HCR doesn't kick in until 2013.

Oh, wait, that's a different thread.

Cedarford said...

"AllenS said...
Would it be possible for this thing to provide something really good for society. Like getting information from the prisoners at Gitmo?"

There's always one in a crowd.

"What good is Hubble? How's all that scientific junk and thingies we spend money on any use whatsoever in important things like how to stop my dog from farting."

Methadras said...

This project is attributable to nothing more than EU government patronage to a science that most people don't give a shit about. While I'm whole heartily fascinated by particle physics, I do have to say that 16 years and $10 billion is a complete waste of money for something that most people will never see, never see the fruits of the labor from it, could care less, much less worry about. You won't be able to device anything of meaning outside of building a larger picture for a unifying field theory, until something else comes along. But looking for Higgs which even Stephen Hawkings says this thing won't find won't accomplish anything of any meaning or not outside of the hallowed halls of academic science.

Great, you found the Higgs. Now what? Even if you use LHC to create new forms of matter or even new elements, you can't use them since their half-lives render them effectively useless. As to the doom of black hole death by this, the simple answer is, even if a black hole were to be created by the LHC, it wouldn't last very long and if it did, it would effectively get plugged up by a proton and die.