Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider: Is it safe?

A controversial experiment is planned to take place tomorrow that may signal THE END of the Earth. But could experiments like the controversial Large Hadron Collider (LHC) already have taken place? TheBigRetort investigates...and discovers that someone may have got the 'maths' wrong.

The LHC Safety Study Group studied the safety of the forthcoming experiment in 2003. It concluded that the planned experiments—there are a number of them--presented no danger.

The group focused on two phenomena, namely the possible production of microscopic black holes, the sort that suck you in and blow you out and create additional dimensions of space, which way is up?- and also postulated other exotic phenomena - the possible production of ‘strangelets', hypothetical pieces of matter. The LHC will reproduce, in the laboratory and under controlled conditions, collisions at centre-of-mass energies less than those reached in the atmosphere by some of the cosmic rays that have been bombarding the Earth for billions of years.

The ‘stability’ of these astronomical bodies indicates that such collisions cannot be dangerous.

The study also considered other hypothetical objects, vacuum bubbles, magnetic monopoles, and found ‘no associated risks’. Indeed, if anything like a microscopic black hole is produced at the LHC then it is expected to decay before it reaches the detector walls.

In the case of strangelets, their production in heavy-ion collisions will also present no danger.

In fact the LHC experiment is nothing new as far as nature is itself concerned. The energy created inside the accelerator is still far below those created in the Universe.

High-energy cosmic rays have bombarded the earth since its creation.

The LHC accelerator is designed to collide pairs of protons and pairs of lead nuclei. But their combined energies will still be far below those of the highest-energy cosmic-ray collisions that are observed regularly on Earth.

The LHC is designed to collide two counter-rotating beams of protons or heavy ions. When the LHC attains its design collision rate, it will produce about a billion proton-proton collisions per second in each of the major detectors. It will produce the equivalent of 116 days of collisions. So if the experiment where to run in this time frame, and they have got their sums wrong, life as we know it could all be over - in four months.

Fortunately nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth already – and the planet still exists.

It has also conducted the same experiment on the Sun about one billion times – and the Sun still exists. Moreover, our Milky Way galaxy contains countless stars with sizes similar to our Sun, and there are countless similar galaxies in the visible Universe. Cosmic rays have been hitting all these stars at rates similar to collisions with our own Sun. This means that Nature has already completed what the LHC sets out to do tomorrow - only more cheaply. But there is one slight fly in the ointment that the safety experts seemed to have missed, and it's cosmic. i

What we see of our solar system and the Milky Way Galaxy, plus the galaxies beyond is already history.In other words, if Nature,or some 'thing' else, has created a similar experiment, then we may not yet see the catastrophic results painted on to the backdrop of our night skies. In fact,the nearest star system at Alpha Centauri lies some 4. 2 light years away. In other words, if a black hole sucked it up yesterday we would not witness its disappearance until after the 2012 Olympics. A sobering thought.