Saturday, March 29, 2008

Death Is Nigh

The flip side of my view, when in the absence of my science major roommates to explain everything to me, that the world is amazing and magical, is that, also in the absence of my science major roommates, the world always seems on the brink of cataclysmic doom.

I don't even know what a "strangelet" is, but apparently we might be creating one and it will consume the earth. Or possibly just a minuscule black hole, which will grow and swallow the universe (we're expecting the latter to simply "evaporate" in a puff of radiation).

I found this through what Bean calls a frivolous law suit. Well, who will be laughing when the whole earth is converted to "strange matter"? Presumably not Bean (or anyone else)!


Anonymous said...

Don't worry. This is all VASTLY unlikely. Did you know that before the first atomic bomb test, scientists were worried that it would start a chain nuclear reaction with the earth, that would convert the earth into one giant atomic bomb and destroy all life? Nothing like that happened.

I'd also like to point out that these people obviously aren't as up with the science as they say, because we've already created small black wholes, in much less secure environments. They're never large enough or consume enough matter to sustain themselves. The amount of matter needed for a sustainable black whole just isn't present here. A super-collider it really just the world's largest magnet, so there's no way something that stupidly catastrophic could happen unless absolutely everything went wrong at the exact same time.

Andrew Eppig said...

I'm not your roommates, but perhaps you'll trust me as a fellow Carleton science major (physics/math, '02). Plus, I work at CERN.

There are a couple of problems with the doomsday scenario:

1) The energies we will be creating (14 TeV) pale in comparison to cosmic rays ( hitting our atmosphere all the time (including Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays:

2) Micro black holes wouldn't destroy the world. Black holes don't really suck things to them. Black holes just don't let things that have crossed their event horizons to escape. A tiny black hole has a tiny event horizon, so the odds of anything being sucked into it are similarly tiny. While black holes, like all objects with mass, do attract matter gravitationally, the attraction is proportional to the mass of the black hole. So a tiny black hole can't suck much into its event horizon either.

Particle accelerators have legitimate safety concerns (e.g. how does one stop the beam safely in event of an emergency?), but the scientists involved in these are very aware of the problems and quite safe. If there were ever an accident, funding that is already hard to get would dry up.