Talking About LHC Safety

By Sean Carroll | September 20, 2008 4:37 pm

In the latest Science Saturday at Bloggingheads, Jennifer and I zip from the breathtakingly topical — the Large Hadron Collider, what it’s good for, and why you shouldn’t be scared of it — to the profoundly eternal — calculus, and why people are scared of it.

I’ve finally settled on a proper response to questions about whether the LHC will destroy the world. (After the initial response, I mean.) It comes in two parts.

Part One: To an inquisitive person who is asking in good faith, who has heard a bit about disaster scenarios involving black holes swallowing the Earth, and wants to know why we’re so sanguine about the possibility of global cataclysm. Sure, we can explain that it’s really unlikely you would even make a black hole, and even if you do, that all of physics as we understand it predicts that such a black hole would evaporate away, and that this has been carefully studied.

But the better, and punchier, response is simply: there’s nothing the LHC will do that the Universe hasn’t previously done many times over. This is, of course, the conclusion of the recent paper by Giddings and Mangano. It’s long been understood that the energies attained by high-energy cosmic rays are vastly larger than those created by the LHC; the collisions at CERN aren’t the most energetic in the universe, they’re just the most energetic ones created by human beings, that’s all. But the alarmist brigade, desperate for continued relevance, came up with a loophole: what if black holes are created, but ones from cosmic rays simply escape the Earth’s gravity, while those created at the LHC sit around and eat us up? What G&M show is that, even if that were possible, cosmic rays bumping into to white dwarfs and neutron stars would have created black holes that did get stuck, and would have eaten them up. But the fact is, we see plenty of white dwarfs and neutron stars in the sky; so that’s not a danger. It has nothing to do with any arrogant presumption that we understand physics at high energies, or the evolution of microscopic black holes; it’s simply that there is no scenario in which such black holes are created without having other observable effects. (See a nice write-up of this by Michael Peskin in the new APS online review magazine, entitled simply Physics.)

Part Two: Experience reveals that, even if you carefully explain why there is no allowed scenario in which black holes swallow the Earth, some stubborn folks will still say “But you can never be perfectly sure! So why take the risk?” For them, it makes sense to switch from science and turn to an analogy. (Experience also reveals that people would rather nitpick at the ways in which the analogy is imprecise, rather than addressing its point; but we soldier on.)

So imagine that you go home to cook dinner — you boil some water, drop in some pasta, and pull a jar of tomato sauce from the fridge. But wait! Are you sure you want to open that jar? After all, if you ask any hyper-careful science-type of person, they will tell you that they can’t be absolutely sure that this innocent-looking sauce doesn’t actually host a virulent mutated pathogen. It’s possible — not very likely, but possible — that when you open that jar, a deadly virus will kill you dead, and proceed to eliminate all human life over the course of the next two weeks.

What is the chance of this happening? Very, very small. But not strictly, absolutely zero. And, we must admit, the consequences of being wrong are very bad indeed. And frankly, how much enjoyment are you going to get from that jar of tomato sauce, anyway? The only logical and moral choice would be to forgo the sauce entirely, and just enjoy your pasta plain.

Except this is nuts, of course. Even if the consequences of an action would be truly cataclysmic, sometimes the chances of it happening are so low that we have to take the risk. Or, more accurately, we choose to take the risk, because science never proves anything beyond any possible doubt, and we can’t help but take such improbable risks all the time. Maybe there is a fleet of invisible alien spaceships hovering over head, testing our commitment to unlocking the secrets of the universe, and they will destroy the Earth with their alien death-lasers if we don’t turn on the LHC. There’s a chance!

And that’s a chance I don’t want to take.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science, Science and Society
  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B. ?

    But are black holes the only danger to consider? Are “strangelets” even worth considering and worrying about? They sound like a sort of vampire matter. The Wikipedia articleindicates some relevance to real theory, and that Ed Witten was involved with the “strange matter hypothesis” – that larger complexes with strange quarks could exist. The article says that if the strangelet idea was true, neutron starts would have already been “converted” by now. But evidence shows neutron stars are likely to have “normal” (relatively speaking) composition, so I suppose there won’t be a problem.

    In any case, the LHC still hasn’t done actual proton collisions yet, true? Hence we still don’t know directly what that will do … Maybe “quantum suicide” will save us even if something does go wrong, look it up.

  • http://freiddy.blogspot.com Freiddie

    The real danger is that LHC might turn into a helium-bomb (as in helium spilling out and destroying magnets…). It’s far far more likely than black holes or strangelets.

  • TimG

    Neil, the people at Cern have created a nice page that addresses black holes, strangelets and all sorts of other worries. You can read it here.

    That page is actually a summary of a 15-page report, available in PDF form here.

    But let me cut to the chase. No, there’s nothing to worry about from black holes, strangelets, or any other doomsday scenarios.

  • Thomas

    Brilliant.

  • Harold

    Ditto, Thomas.

  • http://chetsnicker.com chet snicker

    i say bravo! it was most heartening when ms. ouellette expressed with such verve and force the critical importance of science & mathematics in our modern world.

    yours truly,
    c.v. snicker

  • KenF

    Yeah, but if that pathogen would kill the whole world instantly, and you had the only jar of pasta sauce on earth that might contain that pathogen, you might choose not to open the jar.

  • Sam Gralla

    Good one on the aliens at the end

  • Aramael

    This is exactly why I always make pasta sauce from scratch. You can’t be too careful.

  • James

    Once I took a not-so-old jar of supermarket pasta sauce out of the fridge, unscrewed to lid, and heard a big pop. I looked around the kitchen and there was sauce everywhere, on the cabinets, the dishwasher, everything. I think it had fermented and built up pressure. To this day, I wish I never opened that jar.

  • Sili

    And of course while you ponder the jar of sauce the pot will overjheat and when you rush to take it off you’ll burn your hand so badly you’ll end up with gangrene and have to have it amputated.

    Better not to cook at all. And don’t get me started on eating!

  • http://kentbeatty.com Kent Beatty

    Your Science Saturday at Bloggingheads.tv was Great!

    The last huge sea change in our world was associated with CERN – Tim Berners-Lee who connected hypertext with the internet to form the World Wide Web – worked at CERN as he developed the then new and very foreign concept of the WWW. Perhaps the LHC at CERN will begin another sea change into something rich and strange.

  • TimG

    KenF wrote:

    Yeah, but if that pathogen would kill the whole world instantly, and you had the only jar of pasta sauce on earth that might contain that pathogen, you might choose not to open the jar.

    Ken, you’re totally missing the point. There’s no basis for thinking your jar of pasta or any other would destroy the world, just like there’s no basis for thinking the LHC will destroy the world. Do you give up eating pasta sauce because someone can think of some totally unrealistic scenario in which pasta destroys the world, with no evidence to back it up? Of course not.

    Eating a different jar of pasta isn’t an option — the risks are the same (that is, equally non-existent) for whichever jar of pasta you open. Likewise, it’s not like some different particle accelerator would be safer. People would invent the same ludicrous scenarios for any of them (in fact, people have voiced similar concerns for previous experiments like RHIC). So, do you give up doing high energy physics research just because people can dream up nonsensical doomsday scenarios that are contradicted by theory and by empirical observations?

    Science cannot prove with 100% certainty that any action won’t destroy the world. And yet I suspect you aren’t about to give up performing actions.

  • Thor

    This was good. But I think people choose to believe the doomsday scenario, and there’s not much anyone can do about that. Best to ignore those who keep pushing it. My Mom asked me about this – she’s the inquisitive person who asks in good faith, and she was convinced and went about with what she normally does.

    The skeptics have one more argument going for them, and this is the question that even I would like answered. Many websites, including the Discovery and History Channel programs on the LHC keep repeating that the LHC is going to recreate particles ‘that the Universe has never seen’ since after the original Big Bang that created this universe. I cant immediately point to links here, but there’s plenty of talk to that effect. Which leads to the question, is it true that particles are going to appear for the first time since the Bang? If not what ARE they trying to say? The cosmic ray argument – as true as it is – doesnt seem to work for skeptics that believe that the ‘Second Big Bang’ is going to occur soon.

  • Thor

    Seems others have asked and addressed the same question I had:

    Simple Wikipedia searches tell us that cosmic energies a million times more powerful than the LHC have been observed regularly.

    http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2008/07/recreating-big-bang.html

    Its ridiculous that the media keeps spouting the same nonsense over and over and over again.

    Sean, while you cite facts here, the media spreads its own version with snazzy animations and sound effects – they wouldn’t put so much effort into it if it weren’t true, would they?.

    You need to point to media articles like those mentioned in the link above (BBC, CNN) and call them on it. Even the History Channel program oft mentioned here (the one broadcast just before the LHC was ‘turned on’) was titled ‘The Next Big Bang’ – can’t blame people for being misled. But then again, its even harder to explain to the lay person why so much money and infrastructure goes into reproducing something thats been observed in space many times before. Its easier to justify it by saying Man’s recreating the Big bang.

  • amphiox

    I would add that it seems to me that the scenario of an advanced alien civilization observing us, with an ethical code such that we would be judged non-sentient if we do not turn on the LHC, and thus not entitled to being protected from their version of paving over our solar system, just as we might pave over an anthill, but set aside protected land for the Spotted Owl, is, on the balance, more probable than the generation of a earth destroying black hole or strangelet by the LHC!

  • http://whenindoubtdo.blogspot.com/ Eugene

    I rather have those evil alien death lasers than the LHC swallowing us up with miniblackholes though.

    Seems more cool.

  • Ron

    So let me get this straight, since I am one of those people who do not have “genius” before my name.
    You don’t know, good or bad, what will happen, then why do it
    The last time you guys got together on a grand scale it was called the Manhattan Project, lost a couple cities in Japan, and started the cold war complete with backyard bomb shelters and fallout shelters.
    So what do you guys think, whatever you discover will be used for the good of mankind, or will some gov’t or group use the knowledge to dominate, use, or destroy mankind, maybe instead of a few cities missing we might have a few sections of this planet missing. But that is O.K. at least we will know what happened at the big bang
    Ron
    P.S I hear you are looking for the “GOD Particle”, would that make you GOD-LIKE
    if you find it

  • http://www.dorianallworthy.com daisyrose

    Oh No – No but Great – If the Physics guys cant work at finding the – big bang oracle – Let them work in Finance!!!???

  • steve from brisbane

    The thing that bothers me about this is that the Mangano Giddings work was done and published just as the LHC was being finished. It seems to me that Sean should at least concede that the critics of the original safety reviews (including me) at least had enough of a point that CERN considered they had to answer it. The criticism was therefore not completely nutty, yet the comments of most physicists now makes it sound as if there is quite a lot of resentment that that non physicists should have had the temerity to suggest that this should be looked at.

  • none of the above

    “steve from brisbane on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 6:49 am” writes:
    “…it seems to me that Sean should at least concede that the critics of the original safety reviews (including me) at least had enough of a point that CERN considered they had to answer it. The criticism was therefore not completely nutty…”

    Well no, the criticism WAS completely nutty. It was obviously wrong nonsense by people who had no idea what they were talking about, as was evident to anyone who took the time and effort
    to read it carefully. I note incidentally that that doesn’t include you; twice now on blogs that I was reading you tried to advertise Plaga’s wrong “calculation”. Both times I wrote a reply pointing you to the paper of Mangano and Giddings that showed the error in Plaga’s calculation [most recenlty in the comments section of Mark’s post “Calling a Crackpot a Crackpot”], and even telling you the one [1] specific paragraph you should read to see why Plaga was wrong. What was your reply? [included here for other readers’ convenience]:

    “Steve from brisbane on Sep 9th, 2008 at 6:40 pm
    None of the above: it was not easy for a lay person to follow that paragraph. You might spent all day reading papers with maths and physics terminology at a university level discussed in them: most of the world doesn’t.”

    One paragraph! You have the time to write on multiple blogs advertising the Plaga paper, but couldn’t spare the time and effort to bother to carefully read *one paragraph* to understand whether the paper you’re using to scare people is fatally flawed or not [and it’s not even a particularly maths-heavy paragraph!].

    Furthermore, the recent criticism of LHC safety appears to be malicious, or at best self-serving, in timing and intent. The LHC has been planned for 20 years, and under construction for 10. There was a thorough safety review in 2003 by distinguished senior physicists from across Europe, following a similar study that had been undertaken to assess RHIC safety before it turned on in 1999, done by a panel of distinguished american physicists. We didn’t hear anything from Rossler and Plaga in 2003, nor in 2004, nor in 2005, nor in 2006, nor in 2007, then suddenly this year, with turn-on scheduled in a few months, they launch this emergency internet campaign to prevent the imminent turn on of the LHC, or at least delay it while they have public “conferences” on the safety, and perhaps a little publicity about how some of the CERN budget could be better spent on projects that they deem more worthwhile…. For a better researched [than I have attempted] take on the motivations of those involved you might want to look at:
    http://onscreen-scientist.com/?p=34

    What they used to justify this was obvious nonsense. In a perfect world CERN could have just ignored them as crackpots. In the real world with them raising an internet campaign, ably abetted by people such as yourself who were happy to advertise their views without troubling yourself too much whether they were actually correct, CERN had no choice but to do yet another study, to lay to rest the vivid fears that you had so successfully whipped up in the minds of at least a portion of the public. They didn’t do this because the “critics had enough of a point” [they don’t have any valid point at all, hence Mark’s post “calling a crackpot a crackpot”]; CERN did this because those mounting the internet campaign had succeeded in causing real fear [however groundless] and distress among at least a portion of the population. There’s no reason for people to live in groundless fear, and it has an adverse effect on both public life, and the willingness of the public to support research, and appreciate the research they do support. So CERN, at considerable sacrifice to the scientists involved, did yet another, even longer report, with of course the same conclusions [it’s not like the laws of physics have changed in the last five years…].

    So let us sum up what this internet campaign of fear has accomplished:
    [1] Needlessly and groundlessly frightened a segment of the population that lacks the informational resources to realize that it’s all total nonsense.
    [2] Wasted man-years of time of some of the most distinguished and productive physicists on the planet, trying to repond to those fears with factual reports and public outreach.
    [3] Tied up CERN legal services in two frivolous lawsuits, at least one of which involves an individual who has apparently had a long and colourful track record in the american court system. [legal services normally handles the drafting of bilateral agreements with organizations and countries to promote the access of scientists woldwide to CERN, among other things]
    [4] Wasted the time and money of the Americal Physical Society, who felt compelled to file an
    “amicus curiae” brief in the lawsuit in Hawaii, to point out that it’s nonsense.
    [5] Tied up outreach efforts of both the CERN press and publications offices, and a fraction of the scientific staff, who spend their time dealing with misinformation, concerns, and hate mail, instead of being able to spread scientific understanding.
    [6] Burdened CERN with extra costs for augmented security, in view of the physical threats to both CERN and the scientists that work there. Every Swiss Franc spent on better security at CERN is one less that is available, for example, to bring young scientist to CERN, from say the third world, or for that matter the antipodes.
    [7] Subjected european and american physicists to physical threats, including death threats.

    In view of this let me just try to be be perfectly certain that I understand the content of your comment. My colleagues, people that I like, respect, and admire, have had their life and work disrupted by an internet fear campaign that you have abetted, and are in some cases receiving death threats because of it. And you think that Sean owes you an apology for outing you as a clueless alarmist?

  • Aaron Sheldon

    You can also use an anthropic principle to argue that the LHC will not created an Earth ending black hole. Simply: if the laws of physics were such that the energies at he LHC were sufficient to create a black hole that could cause a natural disaster, then galactic, even solar processes would have created so many of these black holes that solar systems and planets would not be stable, let alone life bearing.

  • Ron

    I don’t believe you will end the world by accident, its the intentional use of the new
    technology/science that I fear might.
    So, let me try it again, can you assure my children and grand children that this new science will not be used in a future weapon that will make the atomic bomb look like a toy

    Ron

    P.S. You just disregarded my question, to get to Steve from brisbane and after a long tirade you call him a clueless alarmist. Nice, it shows a lot of class
    maybe you just don’t care who controls, or uses the new science that results from the LHC.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B. ?

    BTW folks, if I can remind you again why we really have nothing to worry about for sure: if quantum multiverse theory is true, then no matter how tiny a chance any of us has of surviving whatever the LHC does (as long as it’s conditioned on quantum probability), the surviving branch-versions of us will be aware and able to say “look, here we are” – but the ones that died can’t. Hence their would-be experiences don’t count, at least according to the “quantum suicide” and “quantum immortality” ideas, and your “expectation” is to live however improbable. But it only works out desirably if the result *kills* you, otherwise you might be miserable in a messed-up world (like we have now for other reasons …)

    I was at a cute lecture at J-Lab today about this, referencing work of offbeat modal realist and multiversitarian Max Tegmark: Accelerator Seminar What a blast, I did the explaining of “quantum suicide” for the assembled to their great entertainment and perplexity.

  • Sad

    5,284…5,285….

  • steve from brisbane

    Noneoftheabove: I told you before, but you seemingly don’t believe me: a lay person reading the Mangano/Giddings rebuttal of Plaga’s suggestion could not even clearly understand that one paragraph. Mark in that previous threat had enough grace to put their main point in simple english; then I understood it.

    Plaga may well be completely wrong, but his paper did not read to me like it had the tone of a “nutter,” and a quick Google indicated he was widely published within his astrophysics field. (My gut feeling was always to be dubious of Rossler.) If such a person suggests that there may be a previously unconsidered danger, then I for one don’t have a problem with “publicising” this, along with the fact that Mangano disagreed, but I couldn’t follow their explanation.

    Similarly, if the Mangano/Giddings paper on neutron stars had been done 2 or more years ago, it would have gone a hell of a long way to preventing the legal action in the first place. It’s been a good few years now that a couple of sites were pointing out that there may be a difference between black holes created “naturally” above our heads and one made in the LHC.

    A large part of the problem has been the way the likes of you have reacted to the public questioning.

  • none of the above

    steve from brisbane on Sep 22nd, 2008 at 9:53 pm writes:

    “if the Mangano/Giddings paper on neutron stars had been done 2 or more years ago, it would have gone a hell of a long way to preventing the legal action in the first place.”
    >> Really? So now that it’s appeared you are confident that the lawsuits will be dropped?
    Please let us know when these lawsuits are withdrawn [with prejudice].

    “If such a person suggests that there may be a previously unconsidered danger, then I for one don’t have a problem with “publicising” this”
    >> I’m sure that the people whose lives have been disrupted, and in some cases threatened, as a result of this publicity will be touched to hear of your concern.

  • Mark Hedges

    It’s interesting that there are some things in the Bible that encourage people not to claim they know when the end of the world is. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” I think it may be a reaction to powerlessness to claim knowledge of The End and cry out about it to self-justify, and to have the feeling that one is saving humanity since one was powerless to save one’s self or stop whatever injuries torment the memory.

    But even if a matter-consuming strangelet or other earth-endangering disaster should occur, if “the abomination that causes devastation stands where it should not,” i.e. outside of the middle of neutron stars where it would stay contained, the Bible again urges us to have faith that God will bail us out again, because he loves us, because we’re his pet project of sorts. An ancient, star-travelling 350-mile wide cube with an intelligence connected to God across time and through other dimensions will come down, suck up the strangelet or the black hole and then settle on the “new earth” (Mars?) where we will go to visit it and go into it, through gateways to the myriad worlds beyond. So yeah, I think the mob of luddites claiming Christianity are idiots, and they haven’t even read the book in the first place. (And for atheists – what are you afraid of from some words in a book – that you will be judged, or that you will then be unable to avoid judging yourself?)

    One question I have is about the “cosmic ray” defense, which doesn’t make sense to me.

    The idea, as I take it, is that high-energy cosmic rays occasionally hit a proton in the right way to send it flying off with a high velocity and mass energy, and it might collide with a nearby proton.

    But the LHC collides two protons with high velocity and mass energy.

    What are the odds that two cosmic rays strike two protons right next to each other, instead of passing through, and that both protons then collide instead of going off in different directions? I’d wager they’re pretty slim, and that it doesn’t happen as often as the calculated probabilities of high-energy cosmic ray collisions in nature, if at all.

    What’s the comparison of energies, between a cosmic-ray propelled proton plus a relatively stationary proton, and between two high energy protons going in opposite directions?

    Isn’t there something like the square effect that is multiplied (exponentially?) by the near-light velocities of both protons, and their relativity with each other?

    Once a drunk girl passed out in her jeep Cherokee and hit me head on. We were each only going about 30 miles an hour, but goddammit, that was a hell of a crash. We’re lucky (blessed?) that neither of us was hurt.

    I would think, that from proton A’s perspective, proton B is even higher energy, because proton A is moving so fast that proton B’s time path is accellerated, which at the point of collision would be translated to more energy? Plus the additive effect from the reverse perspective of proton B, so the mass energies combined of both moving protons would be much higher than if one were stationary relative to the reference frame.

    It’s hard to wrap my brain around that stuff (I ended up in philosophy) but there’s something there that’s nagging at me.

    If anyone in the S.F. Bay Area wants to be in my video documentary about LHC, send me email, hedges [-at) scriptdolphin.org. Be the voice of reason or the voice of paranoia. I just want to make an interesting documentary.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B. ?

    Mark Hedges, the physics issue to calculate is indeed as you are working towards appreciating: what is the collision energy of protons etc. in their center of momentum frame (where they are seen to have equal speed)? I assume that those comparing cosmic ray events to LHC collisions know to make the appropriate relativistic transformation and did so. I am still not so sure the cosmic ray defense is definitive, since we have “how often” questions I suppose, as well as that cosmic rays hit all kinds of nuclei and so do their collision products.

    So we have to think, of comparing that with proton-proton, as well as other ions that may be collided in the future. But all in all I still don’t think there’s much danger, and as some have noted nothing much we do is risk free (and look at the continuing balance of nuclear weapons, etc.) And like I said, MW gives you an out if there’s any chance of surviving (and BTW “quantum suicide” is an actual observable consequence of MW for the person trying the experiment: He or she will always find, “Hey, I’m still alive” even after 99.999… % chance of any quantum-based chance of not surviving – but outsiders don’t have any empirical basis at all! To all of their versions, the suicide escapee is just the one guy in a trillion etc. that made it through. Weird, and potentially a problem for coherent operational meaning of MW theory.

  • Mark Hedges

    I realized I confused “cosmic rays” with thinking that they were high-energy gamma rays or something. Right – they’re high-velocity protons.

    But what is the likelihood that two cosmic rays traveling in exact opposite directions at high speeds would collide in nature? Also probably very small.

    Someone who wishes to remain out of the controversy wrote to me:

    > I can answer your second set of questions rather easily.
    > What you are talking about is called the “center-of-mass
    > energy” E_CM of the collision, which is twice the beam
    > energy in a proton collider–e.g., up to 14 TeV for the
    > LHC. Actually you should use the E_CM for the colliding
    > quarks and gluons inside the respective protons, which
    > comes to around 3 TeV at the outside.
    >
    > For a proton hitting a stationary proton, E_CM is only the
    > square root of twice the proton mass times the beam
    > energy, or E_CM = sqrt(2*M_p*E_p), which comes to only
    > 0.115 TeV in the case of the LHC. But cosmic rays have far
    > greater energies, at least at the top of the atmosphere,
    > so you should probably double or triple this number.
    > Still, as you observe, it falls far short of what happens
    > in head-on collisions.

    So what does that mean? That the cosmic ray defense is bogus?

    MW is pretty weird. But I have thought recently, say, when I boil water for a cup of tea, I see flames come out of the stove. If you are standing there, you see flames come out of the stove. But all anyone can say is that the flame is an increase of probability of combustion of the fuel. Beyond the fact that we each see different photons coming from the flame, can anyone say that we see the same flame? Our individual acts of observing the sum total of quantum events in the flame may manifest different specific patterns of combustion for each of us — but at a macro level the flame is pretty much the same, so there’s no actual need for the universes to branch. If it’s pretty much the same, the branches might grow back together. I’m not sure that you necessarily have to have the entire universe branching. Maybe it’s a more local phenomena. Probability branching on Earth doesn’t really affect the solar system or the galaxy. And if the galaxy were to branch through some cataclysmic super-black-hole or something, it wouldn’t really affect other galaxies. And so on.

    Who wants to be in my video documentary? Be paranoid, be reasonable, be crazy, be sane – I just want to make an interesting video series.

  • http://dknyc.net Derek

    A common reply to the “there’s nothing the LHC will do that the Universe hasn’t previously done many times over” argument is that the LHC will be causing hundreds of millions of high-energy collisions per second at energies above most natural cosmic rays (Wikipedia calls cosmic rays above 1010 eV “very rare”).

    Even if each collision only carries the most remote probability of destroying the planet, perhaps through some means we haven’t even dreamed of, one that doesn’t exist on a scale revealed in our astronomical observations, are we not still putting ourselves at risk?

    To say it another way, isn’t it possible every few centuries a natural high-energy cosmic ray causes an Earth-sized planet somewhere to wink out of existence by creating a kablamo-minus that triggers a weridlet chain reaction? Surely we could have missed such events if their scale/frequency was not easily observable? Isn’t it possible we are increasing this risk by greatly increasing the frequency of such high-energy collisions on Earth?

    Mind you I don’t subscribe to this idea, but it’s come up when I played the “if the LHC could destroy Earth, the Universe would have done it by now” card.

  • Interested

    Update

    Wagner’s case dismissed –
    This is the decision of the US court . Sep 26, 2008 Friday

    http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/Sections/NEWS/PDFs/080926_LHCDecision.pdf I have taken parts from this link and rearranged the order for the point form as below –

    <<>> http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/09/26/1457536.aspx
    LHC shut down to spring 2009 –
    <>

    Case dismissed on procedural point –

    <<>>
    <<>>
    <<>>
    <<>>

    Disagreement among scientists about possible ramifications-complex debate

    <<>>

    Environmental-

    <<>>
    <<>>

    If you wish to email me I can take the time to go through the judgment with you. I am a CA attorney. I have not read the 26 pages decision in detail but can go through with you if you wish.

  • Pingback: LHC suit dismissed. Also: sun rises « Peculiar Velocity()

  • Pingback: Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ja mini-mustat aukot « uniVersI/O()

  • Pingback: Worst Predictions of the Year | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine()

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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