Earth will not be gobbled up by black hole during big bang experiment, reassure scientists

September 10, 2008 at 6:05 pm | Posted in America, news, science, USA, World | Leave a comment
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The Earth is not at risk of being sucked into a black hole, a safety report into the world’s most powerful particle physics experiment has found.
Scientists at Europe’s CERN lab plan to use the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to smash highly-energised protons together at super-fast speeds to produce miniature versions of the Big Bang.
The collisions will create temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the sun.
The Large Hadron Collider straddles the French and Swiss borders. Scientists hope it will reveal what happened to particles moments after the big bang
The machine will be operated undergound in a 27km long tunnel near Geneva and detectors will trace and analyse the particles that emerge from the collisions.
Physicists hope it will help answer profound questions such as ‘What is the origin of mass?’ and ‘What is 96 per cent of the universe made up of?’
But some critics fear the collider could create microscopic black holes that could swell and end up eating the whole world.
However, the safety review from the European Organization for Nuclear Research said there was no ‘conceivable danger’ of this.
Black holes drag in matter from their surroundings. Some critics fear the collider could create a miniature black hole that could swell and swallow the Earth
Although the researchers admitted the collider will achieve energy levels no other man made technology has created before, they said natural cosmic-ray collisions had already created higher energies with no ill effects.
‘Nature has already generated on Earth as many collisions as about a million LHC experiments – and the planet still exists,’ they said.
The review panel added that astronomical black holes are much heavier than anything that could be produced in the collider.
They said even if the well-established properties of gravity were disproved and microscopic black holes were created – these particles would disintegrate immediately giving them no time to draw in outside matter.
The strange world of strangelets

The report also addressed concerns raised in 2000 that the machine could produce hypothetical particles called strangelets. These strange particles could turn nuclei in ordinary atoms into strange matter – destroying the Earth in a doomsday scenario.
In 2003, Dr Adrian Kent, from the University of Cambridge, argued that scientists had not adequately calculated the strangelets risk.
But the team led by theoretical physicist John Ellis said previous experiments had failed to produce these strangelets, and the heat produced by the collider would make their creation even less likely.
They concluded: ‘There is no basis for any concerns about the consequences of new particles or forms of matter that could possibly be produced by the LHC.’
The new document is an update of the analysis carried out in 2003 into the safety of the collider by an independent team of scientists.
The LHC was due to switch on in November 2007 but the start-up has been postponed several times. The first delay occurred after an accident in March 2007 when one of the 9,300 magnets exploded during testing and the facility was evacuated.
Further delays occurred after plaintiffs requested an injunction against the LHC’s switch-on from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii over safety fears.

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