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We're Still Here!!

As you probably heard, they switched on the Large Hadron Collider yesterday deep in the ground under the France-Switzerland border, and notwithstanding some predictions, no black hole was created, and the universe, as far as we can tell, continues to exist. [The Telegraph lists 10 other days when the world was supposed to end but didn't here]
In a slightly more serious vein, check out the absolutely stunning photos of the LHC posted here. It looks like something out of a wild sci-fi fantasy movie . . . just what you'd want the world's largest machine to look like.

rbj:
They only ran the particle beam one way. The real test comes when they've got beams colliding. Not that I'm worried.
9.11.2008 1:17pm
Cripister (mail) (www):
Yep. A single proton flying around the tube is no threat. When they start crashing into each other- that's when the fun starts.
9.11.2008 1:18pm
bellisaurius (mail):
There wasn't much reason to think the world was going to end right away. Any black holes that may or may not form (assuming the theory that they evaporate much more quickly when that small is incorrect) would have a tough time interacting with surounding matter, much less attracting it due to their size and almost complete lack of gravitational pull. In an OMG scenario, the thing would stick around for a while and catch a particle here and there, eventually getting big enough to start causing problems.
9.11.2008 1:22pm
neurodoc:
Phew, that's a relief, now we can all laugh and say we were never afraid for even a moment.

...Oh, the danger isn't behind us yet? Would the prudent thing to do at this point be to buy more life insurance? From a AAA company, of course.
9.11.2008 1:25pm
Kevin R (mail):
The danger isn't past yet, of course. Just to keep yourself updated, you might try this site:

http://hasthelhcdestroyedtheearth.com/
9.11.2008 1:26pm
CJColucci:
We can breathe easy now, there's no pfzzzzfhdt!........
9.11.2008 1:27pm
neurodoc:
In an OMG scenario, the thing would stick around for a while and catch a particle here and there, eventually getting big enough to start causing problems.
What sort of time frame are we talking about? Before or after November 4th? Does FEMA have a plan to address those problems?
9.11.2008 1:28pm
guest890:
Fortunately, someone has set up a website designed to keep track of this important issue:

http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/
9.11.2008 1:28pm
Cornellian (mail):
I'm cool with it. If we're going to go, there are far less cool ways to do it.
9.11.2008 1:30pm
Mad Max:
In an OMG scenario, the thing would stick around for a while and catch a particle here and there, eventually getting big enough to start causing problems.

So it might be decades, or even centuries, before the black holes devour the Earth? I feel so much better now! =)
9.11.2008 1:31pm
theobromophile (www):
Beautiful pictures. I just wish they came with captions.

neurodoc - only if your beneficiary would survive the black hole. If you have one of those "will be a sci-fi superhero when the Earth is in danger and the human race is about to end" types in your family, you might want to do that.
9.11.2008 1:32pm
Mad Max:
This is the answer to the Fermi Paradox! Civilizations only last until they can destroy their home planet with a supercollider, so they never achieve interstellar travel!
9.11.2008 1:32pm
Mark Field (mail):
Actually, it's only in THIS universe that the world wasn't destroyed. In an infinite number of other universes, the Earth was destroyed. Of course, in most of those other universes they didn't appreciate our good fortune because Hugh Everett never existed.
9.11.2008 1:33pm
rarango (mail):
Those photos were absolutely awesome. Thanks for posting them and second theo's comment about captions.
9.11.2008 1:34pm
tommears (mail):
I can think of at least three non-disasters that the Telegraph list omits.

There was also widespread hysteria about the 1910 return of Haley's Comet. Cyanogen gas in the comet's tail was supposed to poison the atmosphere. http://www.ianridpath.com/halley/halley11.htm

Who can forget Y2K. And what about Edward Teller's speculation that the atomic bomb tests would ignite the atmosphere.
9.11.2008 1:37pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Actually, if small black holes endure, the Earth may already have a collection of them, in very low orbits that seldom if ever extend outside the surface. The rates at which they could gobble particles would be so low that a planet could harbor them for billions of years without much effect.

If such a small black hole passed through your body, you might get a brief sting, like an insect bite, as the gravity well disrupted a few cells. Consider that a possibility if you are out somewhere and get some bites from something you can't see.
9.11.2008 2:11pm
one of many:
I dunno, this feels a lot like Tuesday to me, are you sure time hasn't reversed and instead we are going backwards towards the beginning of time?
9.11.2008 2:37pm
theobromophile (www):
Jon Roland, are you saying that we're dense?
9.11.2008 2:39pm
Ed Unneland (mail):
U. S. scientists could have been doing a lot of this science already had the Superconducting Supercollider been completed in Texas. How much would it cost to start up construction once again?
9.11.2008 2:42pm
Dave N (mail):
I guess this means we have to muddle forward towards the elections in Novembr. And "One of Many", I certainly hope not, I really do want the campaigns to actually END.
9.11.2008 2:43pm
Sigivald (mail):
tommears: Well, Teller (with Konopinski and Marvin) also proved that atmospheric ignition was impossible (PDF) before they got anywhere near setting off the bomb, so no worries there.
9.11.2008 2:46pm
NR:
How do we know the Earth has not already been destroyed and we are not already dead, having been sucked into a black hole and squashed into a singularity, only to find ourselves still living and breathing in some parallel universe following a massive quantum shift in space-time? I mean, for all we know, "our" memories and the world around us could be entirely different today than they were yesterday in some other dimension. My theory can't be disproved by any egg-head scientist and therefore deserves serious attention.
9.11.2008 3:27pm
Hoosier:
NR--The gravitational pull of the singularity is so powerful that it bends time back on itself. Since we constantly travel forward in time, and since there is not escape velocity, we are simply moving endlessly though a time loop with no hope of escape.

In other words, you already wrote that!
9.11.2008 3:34pm
Hoosier:
Ed Unneland
U. S. scientists could have been doing a lot of this science already had the Superconducting Supercollider been completed in Texas. How much would it cost to start up construction once again?


Do you want mine? I haven't used it since my third child was born; Mrs.Hoosier doesn't want the older kids "playing with it." So it's out in the garage. You can have it if you can carry it away. Do you have a pickup?
9.11.2008 3:36pm
many worlds:

Actually, it's only in THIS universe that the world wasn't destroyed. In an infinite number of other universes, the Earth was destroyed. Of course, in most of those other universes they didn't appreciate our good fortune because Hugh Everett never existed.


Beat me to it. Of course we are still here (or at least I am), since we are immortal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_suicide
9.11.2008 3:42pm
one of many:
"Since we constantly travel forward in time"

I'm not up on the latest cosmology but isn't it still held that part of the universe traveled through the other time dimension (up instead of forwards) for 4-6 picoseconds of the first 15 picoseconds of existence? See, that's why no one trusts cosmologists, always changing their story.
9.11.2008 3:43pm
Stolidus:
See, everyone got it backwards. What really happened is that the universe was created yesterday. Prove me wrong!
9.11.2008 4:00pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I have to discount the atomic disaster on different grounds. The concern was secret, unlike so many other potential disasters.
9.11.2008 4:16pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
how long before the conspiracies about the LHC begin that is really just the long lost lot of the stargate movie
9.11.2008 4:31pm
Pat C (mail):
Mad Max,
I agree it explains the Fermi Paradox.

Also it answers the question, "If time travel is possible, why don't we see time travelers from the future?"
9.11.2008 4:36pm
karl newman:
Yes. Europe has the LHC and we are still debating evolution teaching in schools. Where will we (the US) be in 20-30 years, assuming the LHC doesn't create a black whole?
9.11.2008 4:38pm
karl newman:
I meant hole...
9.11.2008 4:40pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
"...and the universe, as far as we can tell, continues to exist."

I blog, therefore I am.
9.11.2008 4:55pm
Milhouse (www):

Oct 3 1533 - Michael Stifel, a German associate of Martin Luther, urged his small band of followers to sell all their property after becoming convinced by his mathematical study of the Bible that the end of the world was approaching.

I've long been puzzled by this sort of thing, and maybe someone can explain it. Supposing you thought the world was about to end, why would you sell your property? What good would the money do you, in the Next World?
9.11.2008 5:03pm
Mad Max:
Europe has the LHC and we are still debating evolution teaching in schools.

Number of US Nobel Prizes in Physics since 1993 (the year we canceled the SSC): 18

Number of European (excluding Russia) Nobel Prizes in Physics since 1993: 9

In Chemistry since 1993, US 19, Europe 9.

Yup, we are clearly living in the Republic of Gilead here.
9.11.2008 5:12pm
MadHatChemist:
I am disappointed! All that money and those wacky mad scientists couldn't even destroy ONE planet!

I want my money back...
9.11.2008 5:13pm
Hoosier:
Stolidus:
See, everyone got it backwards. What really happened is that the universe was created yesterday. Prove me wrong!


If the world was created yesterday, is my '94 Pontiac actually a new car? What are the insurance ramifications of this? Is it still under warranty?

Milhouse

Simple to explain: World ends. Jesus comes back. You don't have any stuff. Jesus is fooled into thinking you are poor. You go right to Heaven.

I mean, I've never actually heard of this Stifel guy. But that's what I plan on doing.
9.11.2008 5:13pm
karl newman:
Yup, we are clearly living in the Republic of Gilead here.

I guess you are suggesting there is no lag time. Science education suffers and then boom, we should see Nobel Prizes fall off? If five year olds (today) get a crappy education, we should see a drop off in say 40-50 years. Prizes are awarded after the fact, not when the discovery is made. Also, how many winners were born and educated in the US. With our weakened ability to attract the best and the brightest, we will see a great drop off in our ability to make new discovery in all aspects of science and thus our economy will falter.
9.11.2008 5:27pm
David Gillies (mail):
Here's what I don't get: we've got a CMS energy of 14 TeV, which via the Einstein relation is about 2.5 10^-23 kg. Assuming (almost) all of that energy goes into a micro black hole, it will have a Schwarzschild radius of 2 G m/c^2 ~ 4 10^-50 m, which is less than the Planck length. A black hole the size of an atomic nucleus has a mass of around a billion tons, but we're nowhere near that. Such a small body, even if it does not decay promptly via Hawking radiation, will have a minuscule interaction cross-section with ordinary baryonic matter, so it will be no more impeded by its surroundings than a neutrino. Since it is vanishingly unlikely that it will be created at rest, it will have some momentum relative to the CMS. Earth's escape velocity (and that of the Solar System, for that matter) is negligible compared to the speeds at which the protons are colliding, so the micro black hole will almost certainly be beyond the orbit of the moon ten seconds after it is created. Or am I missing something?
9.11.2008 5:37pm
wfjag:
Don't worry Karl. We can get Nobels for guys who made below average grades in their 2 fluff undergrad "science" classes, don't know the difference between 20 inches and 20 feet, but, who can be the talking heads for slide shows with really cool, computer generated special effects (taken from a sci fi movie).

And, if we can get a Nobel Prize for Chiropractic started, we're sure to dominate the category for a long time. All the research money spent for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is sure to pay off.
9.11.2008 5:47pm
Dr. Duh:
That's exactly what I was thinking.
9.11.2008 5:49pm
Waldensian (mail):

we are simply moving endlessly though a time loop with no hope of escape.

Sounds like my marriage. Or maybe this election.
9.11.2008 5:49pm
johnw:
David Gillies -

You should have divided by pi*r^2. Then it works.
9.11.2008 5:55pm
Kevin Lynch (mail):
Or am I missing something?

No. And Yes :-)


The models that predict the LHC might produce black holes have a Planck mass of around a TeV, not the 10^18 TeV you might predict in a 4D spacetime. In these models, spacetime has more than 4 dimensions, with the extra dimensions either "wrapped up" and small, or large (like the normal three) but with a peculiar behavior of the strength of gravity in the extra dimensions. In those models, if your probes are "low energy" compared to the dimension of the higher dimensions, you can't see them; if "high energy", then the behavior of your probes changes as they "explore" the higher dimensions.

This description is almost readable :-)
9.11.2008 6:11pm
MadHatChemist:
...just as long as they don't devide by zero...
9.11.2008 6:27pm
Dick King:
David Gilles, the black hole would have negligible momentum, because the builders of the LHC work very hard to make sure that the colliding beams have equal and opposite momenta so the rest frame of the collision is close to the rest frame of the apparatus.

Any momentum in the reaction products would result in kinetic energy in these products -- and that's wasted energy that could have gone into Higgs particles.

-dk
9.11.2008 6:31pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
theobromophile (www):

Jon Roland, are you saying that we're dense?


Not dense enough to make collision with a subatomic black hole likely. The technical term is "cross-section", a measure of the probability of collision of a unit mass of material, its apparent area as seen by the particle. However, the gravity well can exchange energy with particles it passes, perturbing them.

Keep in mind that there are ten trillion particles in each colliding beam, with only a chance of about one collision per run. Subatomic black holes would actually be less likely to collide with anything, depending on their cross-section, because a proton-antiproton pair attract one another.

So it's okay to make long-term plans.
9.11.2008 6:37pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Ed Unneland:

U. S. scientists could have been doing a lot of this science already had the Superconducting Supercollider been completed in Texas. How much would it cost to start up construction once again?


More than before, because most of the land taken for it has been resold, and some of it developed. Bad move IMHO.

However, the delay might have been worth it in one sense, because the technology of high-temperature semiconductors has advanced far enough to enable us to soon build the next one for a lot less.
9.11.2008 6:41pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Hoosier:

Since we constantly travel forward in time

No, that is an illusion. We are not "traveling" in the sense physicists use the term. Our subjective point of view seems to be moving forward in time, actually at the equivalent of the speed of light, along a time axis that is "imaginary" (square root of a negative number kind of imaginary). The illusion is produced by the asymmetry of the number of quantum states in each direction, with more in the forward direction than in the backward. That enables us to have a memory of the past and not of the future, because each "present" state has only one "past" state but many "future" states. The asymmetry seems to be connected to the Universe expanding in the forward direction, so that if it were to stop expanding, and start contracting, from the viewpoint of an observer in the contracting Universe the forward direction of time would be away from the opposite (crunch) point toward the expansion "equator".

I hope all this is clear. There will be a test on Monday. If there is a Monday.
9.11.2008 6:52pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
David Gillies:

the micro black hole will almost certainly be beyond the orbit of the moon ten seconds after it is created. Or am I missing something?

No, you are essentially correct. But even if the black hole was created with nearly rest velocity, it would just fall toward the center of the Earth and go into an orbit that would keep it inside the Earth, doing no significant harm. See my earlier posts.

For your next exercise, calculate the orbital period of the hypothetical created-at-rest black hole. (Don't just guess at it being about 90 minutes -- that's too easy.)
9.11.2008 7:02pm
CB55 (mail):
Getting dressed for work as my wife tuned in at CNN. We both watched it on TV. I expected it since the last NYC and OKC attacks. I had written Janet Reno and several senators long years ago, but got no reply.
9.11.2008 8:09pm
Fub:
Hoosier wrote at 9.11.2008 4:13pm:
If the world was created yesterday, is my '94 Pontiac actually a new car? What are the insurance ramifications of this? Is it still under warranty?
Premiums go up and warranty is void. Those black holes do nasty work on windshields. And if one gets into the crank case, you might as well just shut 'er down and start a complete rebuild.
9.11.2008 9:11pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
The reason why we can be essentially 100% confident (as close as it's possible to be) that the world isn't about to end (at least for that reason) is not because physical theory holds that mini-black holes quickly evaporate or any other such rationalization. Theory can be wrong or there might exist qualifiers down in the fine details that alter the expected outcome.

No, the basic reason why we know it ain't about to happen is because the experiment is already observably being performed millions of times per day (every day during the entire 4.6 billion year lifetime of the Earth) as energetic cosmic rays impact the atmosphere and surface of this planet (and every other planet in the cosmos) with far more energy than the supercollider can possibly convey. The Earth (and at least hundreds of other planet's we've detected) is still here, ergo Q.E.D.

This principle is closely analogous to that which Manhattan Project physicists used to determine that setting off the first atomic bomb would similarly not destroy the Earth.

While on the subject of black holes (mini- or no) that might not consume their victim for extremely extended periods of time, folks might be interested in this stellar-mass black hole (enormously larger than the postulated microscopic ones in the context we've been discussing), observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, which has apparently been feeding on its companion star for 7-1/2 billion years — and still isn't finished with it yet.
9.11.2008 10:03pm
LM (mail):
It's bad enough that as usual others (Mark Field, NR) already said (roughly) what I was going to. But adding insult to injury, for all I know, until today the latest comments posted were the first to appear.
9.11.2008 11:11pm
SenatorX (mail):
They only ran the particle beam one way. The real test comes when they've got beams colliding.

Exactly and yet this post and other headlines all around the world went with the same "See nothing happened all the chicken littles were wrong" meme. I'm still not sure why there is such a disconnect between the headlines and the actual story/worry. I mean was anyone worried about a blowup during the one way test runs?
9.11.2008 11:46pm
one of many:
I hope all this is clear. There will be a test on Monday. If there is a Monday.


There was a test on Monday, why won't you tell us later? I will have plans for last weekend, I guess now I'll have had to give them up to study. Next time can you give us less warning before the tests?
9.12.2008 12:47am
one of many:
erg, after the tests since it would pointless to warn us before the tests.
9.12.2008 12:48am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Fear not. Come Monday you will not get eaten up by a black hole-- not one from the LHC anyway. The LHD accelerates protons to energies of 7 TeV, which means a collision energy of 14 TeV. But cosmic rays have energies up to 100 million TeV, and they have been raining down on the earth since the beginning of the solar system. If there were a problem, then surely a black hole would have gobbled up the earth by now. On the other hand, if the LHC collider somehow produced a stable and neutral (not carrying an electrical charge) black hole, that could be a problem. Read the details here.
9.12.2008 1:24am
Hoosier:
Jon Roland

Well DUH! Everyone know THAT!

But seriously folks: I will have to look it up tomorrow, but their is a school of thought among certain weighty cosmologists ( or "cosmetologists." Can't recall) that postulates the scenario I mentioned. It sounded just crappy to me. I would not mind terribly if the world ended now, but I don't want to get stuck going around and around in a time loop. That would be too much like my job.
9.12.2008 1:30am
Hoosier:
A. Zarkov--'Stable and neutral'. Isn't that a good description of . . .

SWITZERLAND!

OH MY GOD! IT'S A TRAP!!!!
9.12.2008 1:32am
Mhoram:
Who allowed all of the physics geek (David Gillies) on the law blog? We went to law school because math is hard. In fact, I am a math atheist.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/99706190@N00/1869299/

What I really want to know is if the LHC is a liberal or conservative conspiracy? And was there any judicial activism involved?
9.12.2008 2:06pm
one of many:
hard to say exactly Mhoram, shutting down the Texas accelerator was an action taken by right-wingers in response to left-wing conspriators, so was that a liberal or a conservative conspiracy? It could be argued that the exisstence of CERN itself as an extra-national entity is an example of judicial activism but it is difficult to use those terms outside the US, when you talk about a country like France which writes a new constitution every time it rains, judicial activism just doesn't apply.
9.12.2008 2:33pm
Mark Field (mail):
The LHC is neither liberal nor conservative, or perhaps it's both, until we observe it.
9.12.2008 2:43pm
justaguy (mail):
While I will agree with the original post that the picures look like something out of a sci-fi movie- it is really too bad that it doesn't do anything like equipment in a sci-fi movie. All it does is toss around a few particles at great cost- part of the reason we abandoned such useless expensive pieces of equipment here. But the particle scientists can spend huge amounts of $ just to add a few more specimans to the particle zoo.
9.12.2008 4:16pm
one of many:
But the particle scientists can spend huge amounts of $ just to add a few more specimans to the particle zoo.


Ouch, I just realized LHC is all about finding some Higgs bozo who will reveal to physicists all sorts of things about the nature of the universe, but what if no one thought to check the phone book for this Higgs bozo before building the LHC? That would really make theoretical physicists look bad, wouldn't it?
9.12.2008 4:50pm