Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's The End Of The World

It's the end of the world as we know it.....

and we did it ourselves.

See you on the flip side. 

Goodbye cruel world.

By Alan Boyle
Science editor
updated 5:03 p.m. 

Will the Large Hadron Collider destroy the world, or help the world?
As the atom-smasher at Europe's CERN research center is readied for its official startup near Geneva on Wednesday, researchers might wish that the general public was captivated by the quest for the Higgs boson, the search for supersymmetric particles and even the evidence for extra dimensions.
But if the feedback so far is any guide, the real headline-grabber is the claim that the world's most powerful particle-smasher could create microscopic black holes that some fear would gobble up the plane

The black-hole scenario is even getting its day in court: Critics of the project have called for the suspension of work on the European collider until the scenario receives a more thorough safety review, filing separate legal challenges in U.S. federal court and the European Court of Human Rights.
The strange case of the planet-eating black hole serves as just one example showing how grand scientific projects can lead to a collision between science fiction and science fact. The hubbub also has led some to question why billions of dollars are being spent on a physics experiment so removed from everyday life.
Why do it?
Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City College of New York, acknowledged that people often ask about the practical applications of particle physics. Even if physicists figure out how a particle called the Higgs boson creates the property of mass in the universe, how will that improve life on Earth?
"Sometimes the public says, 'What's in it for Numero Uno? Am I going to get better television reception? Am I going to get better Internet reception?' Well, in some sense, yeah," he said. "All the wonders of quantum physics were learned basically from looking at atom-smasher technology."
LHC by the numbers
Cost: $6 billion to $10 billion
Years in the making: 14
Top energy: 14 trillion electron volts
Peak power consumption: 120 megawatts
Number of collaborators: More than 10,000

Cost: $6 billion to $10 billion
Why the wide range of estimates?
Europe’s CERN research organization says it’s investing $6 billion. Adding the value of other contributions since 1994, including the detectors, boosts the total to as much as $10 billion. To some extent, it depends on who’s doing the counting and what the currency rates are.

Sources: CERN, Symmetry magazine
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Kaku noted that past discoveries from the world of particle physics ushered in many of the innovations we enjoy today, ranging from satellite communications and handheld media players to medical PET scanners (which put antimatter to practical use).
"But let me let you in on a secret: We physicists are not driven to do this because of better color television," he added. "That's a spin-off. We do this because we want to understand our role and our place in the universe."
About those black holes ...
The black holes that may (or may not) be generated by the Large Hadron Collider would have theoretical rather than practical applications.
If the collider's detectors turn up evidence of black holes, that would suggest that gravity is stronger on a subatomic scale than it is on the distance scales scientists have been able to measure so far. That, in turn, would support the weird idea that we live in a 10- or 11-dimensional universe, with some of the dimensions rolled up so tightly that they can't be perceived.

Some theorists say the idea would explain why gravity is so much weaker than the universe's other fundamental forces — for example, why a simple magnet can match the entire Earth's gravitational force pulling on a paper clip. These theorists suggest that much of the gravitational field is "leaking out" into the extra dimensions.
"It will be extremely exciting if the LHC did produce black holes," CERN theoretical physicist John Ellis said.  "OK, so some people are going to say, 'Black holes? Those big things eating up stars?' No. These are microscopic, tiny little black holes.  And they’re extremely unstable.  They would disappear almost as soon as they were produced."
Not everyone is convinced that the black holes would disappear. "It doesn't have to be that way," said Walter Wagner, a former radiation safety officer with a law degree who is one of the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit. Despite a series of reassuring scientific studies, Wagner and others insist that the black holes might not fizzle out, and they fear that the mini-singularities produced by the Large Hadron Collider will fall to the center of the earth, grow larger and swallow more and more of Earth's matter


Art said...

And the atom bomb would ignite the atmosphere...
And vaccinating your child causes Autism...
And stem cell research kills babies...
And dancing causes rain...

Check Google for a good graphic today.

I, for one, am glad that there is a place for theoretical research. It's worth a black hole or two.


Anonymous said...

And you call ME paranoid?????

Where's Football Girl when I need her?