I'm loving the near-apocalyptic sci-fi-esque headlines that are cropping up as the LHC nears it's summer 2008 completion date.
Botanist sues to stop CERN hurling Earth into parallel universe.
Particle Smasher 'not a threat to the Earth'
My grasp of black holes, strangelets and strings is tenuous at best. So while I'm willing to trust the experts on this one, I still frequently wish that I understood the physics better. This comment from QuantumLeap at BoingBoing seems informed and helpful (if somewhat foreboding in it's final line):
First, let me disclaim that I worked for CERN for a few years and now work for a US National Lab, doing research work for an experiment within the LHC (the ATLAS experiment, http://www.atlas.ch )
This mini-black-holes we expect to generate at LHC don't look at all like what most people associate to them. Have a look: http://atlas.ch/events.html
In fact what we see is the Hawking Radiation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawking_radiation) emitted by the evaporating black hole, which should disappear in about 10e-25s. Meaning, if it were traveling at the speed of light it would cover a distance of less that the radius of an hydrogen atom. This is a 8TeV black hole.
And . . . particle collisions way more energetic that that happen every day in our atmosphere, and we're still around...
The danger of strangelet conversion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangelet) is even more exotic since it's not only merely a vague theoretical possibility as it needs matter densities way higher that what you have on earth to be of any concern. A strangelet, if it exists, is even more unstable that a mini-black-hole and so at the speed of light will barely cover more than the distance of a proton radius before disintegrating. Only in a very packed and dense environment (like a neutron star) it would be able to propagate.
Anyway, soon all this debate will be over...
From the virtual LHC center:
LHC is the Large Hadron Collider, an accelerator being built at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. When it is complete in the summer of 2008 it will be the largest and highest energy accelerator in the world. Here are the stats:
* Type of collision: proton-proton
* Center of Mass Energy at Collision: 14 TeV (7 times energy of the Fermilab Tevatron)
* Diameter of Ring: approx 27 km
* Average depth of ring below ground: approx 100 m
* Main particle Detector Systems: ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, ALICE
* Hoping to Discover: Higgs boson, Graviton, Supersymmetric Particle, Extra Dimensions...