Monday, April 09, 2007

The Big Bang Boo Boo and the End of the World

Remember the story about the world's largest supercollider that they are building in Switzerland? The one that may help us understand the mystery of the Big Bang?

But has some scientists worried it could create tiny black holes that could gobble up our planet?

According to one scenario tiny black holes could be produced which hopefully would decay into what is known as Hawking radiation (the tinier the black hole, the faster it evaporates). If these black holes fail to decay, however, the consequences could be disastrous.

And how even the guy who developed the software for the project now has his doubts?

This physical realm is unknown, and dangerous phenomena might arise…Any physicist will tell you that there is no way to prove that generated black holes will decay. The consequences of being mistaken are unfathomable.

But other project scientists said that couldn't happen because they're sure the black holes would have to be much larger than that for them to drop through the floor, head straight for the molten core of our planet, and start making us disappear...

So isn't it reassuring to discover that some of those project scientists don't know what they're doing?

A £2 billion project to answer some of the biggest mysteries of the universe has been delayed by months after scientists building it made basic errors in their mathematical calculations....

The mistakes led to an explosion deep in the tunnel at the Cern particle accelerator complex near Geneva in Switzerland. It lifted a 20-ton magnet off its mountings, filling a tunnel with helium gas and forcing an evacuation.

I'm glad to see the scientists are embarrassed.

“We are dumb-founded that we missed some very simple balance of forces. Not only was it missed in the engineering design but also in the four engineering reviews carried out between 1998 and 2002 before launching the construction of the magnets.”

I just hope they don't miss anything else. But I'm not optimistic. Because now it's not just a risky scientific project. It's a race...

Coincidentally, Fermilab stands to gain most from delays at Cern. Its researchers also operate a rival but less powerful particle accelerator, the Tevatron.
Fermilab staff are pushing the Tevatron to ever-higher energies hoping that they might find the Higgs boson before the LHC switches on.

Uh oh. Add crazy capitalism and blind competition to bad science and an uncertain outcome, and anything could happen.

But it is a fascinating situation isn't it?

If we don't conduct tests like the one in Switzerland we may not be able to understand some of the greatest mysteries of our universe....the particles and forces that created us.

But if we do carry them out, without knowing more about the other bits of the puzzle, we could unleash forces that destroy us.

Wouldn't that be a cosmic joke?

I wonder if there are any others out there floating around in space? Civilizations that came so close to answering the ultimate question. Only to fail....catastrophically.

So my advice to those scientists is don't rush things. Take your time....a lot of time. Recheck your calculations. Open the safety question to scientific debate.

Because some things you can afford to be wrong about.

And some things you can't...


  1. WHAT! I be having my tea and all of a sudden the walls and floor start disappearing, I'm thinking flashback, before I can say,"Did too much L.S..... Zap! We're all gone. What a lovely ending.Bye-Bye!

  2. Don't worry, if we start building scientific equipment that can do serious damage to the planet, God just blows the stuff up.

  3. Anonymous11:03 AM

    I just hope to live long enough to point and laugh. Hopefully with a long scraggly white beard, and a stick for poking the damn goodfernuthin kids.

    And missing a goodly number of teeth too, while I'm at it.


    vive le fin!

  4. Anonymous2:31 AM

    I read about this in popular science quite some time ago. Apparently it is quite unlikely that the black holes could become big enough to eat, but if it does, it will grow and grow until it eats our entire solar system! Guess I don't have to worry about biting the bullet?

  5. Anonymous10:04 AM

    While I'm not too keen on being sucked into an infinitely dense point, I gotta say -- of all the ways to go -- that's on my list of the funniest. :)

  6. Anonymous4:51 PM

    I love it, for all we like to call ourselves intelligent, I’ll bet it’s our own stupidity that does us in.

    It’s all speculation, and it sounds a little like bragging to me.

  7. Hi Harbinger! It sure would be a strange way to go...although it probably would be fairly fast. I actually had a dream about it. I was flying a plane and had nowhere to land...

    Hi Feynman...I'm afraid you may be right...just this once. What if the key to the mystery of the universe was....booby trapped?

    Hi Jay !! yeah that's what I told those about taking let's say.... sixty years to make sure your calculations are right...That way I can have a good life and exit this earth...before it disappears! :)

    Hi Rashid! yeah I've been following the story for a while. It's an incredible complex...if you look un CERN supercollider under google images you can see what I mean.I have huge faith in science...on the other hand when you've got such a massive toy you better make sure you know how it works. And no you won't have to bite the bullet, just fly down the hole with the rest of us :)

    Hi Mark!! Oh yeah sure...ha ha ha...just wait until we're all standing on a planet the size of a basket ball...see how funny you find it then ;)

    Hey Bruce! Actually perhaps the most interesting part of the experiment is that it could give us some clues about the so-called dark matter that we know space is full of, but no mathematical theory can yet properly explain.
    It's just that the collider is so extraordinarily powerful it's the closest we've ever come to mimicking some of the forces of the universe...and since we can't predict what might happen...because we're missing too many other pieces of the puzzle...we should be extra careful just in case....

  8. Anonymous1:00 PM

    I’ve been waiting for years for that thing to get finished, it could give us immense knowledge or a hell of a lot more questions as these things often do. But I really think the idea that we can build a machine that could create a black hole big enough to swallow us up might be a little far-fetched, comical, even. Then again, I’ve been wrong before, poof!

    Kind of makes you look all those little black holes sprinkled across the galaxy and wonder if someone has tried it before.