LHC Dangerous?

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Should it be fired?

No
29
8%
Yes
326
92%
 
Total votes: 355

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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Kirbycurse » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:05 am UTC

While you are right about it not producing as much energy as the energies occurring naturally, we still need to worry about the butterfly effect. In the words of Douglas Adams, as soon as we figure out what the universe is for and why it works, it will immediately cease to exist and be replaced with something even more inexplicable. So for every problem we solve, it will create twenty more.
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Skiclub » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:09 am UTC

Kirbycurse wrote: ... for every problem we solve, it will create twenty more.


Perhaps, but for every problem we solve the amount we understand overall goes up and the amount we don't understand overall goes down.
Last edited by Skiclub on Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:14 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Durandal » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:11 am UTC

.
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:25 am UTC

Let's put it this way: Explain to me how human power generators, etc, can affect a constant of nature and thus destroy the entire universe? The SWISS? Seriously. Back it up with science; a one line quote from Pop Sci that offers no real explanation doesn't count.
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Kirbycurse » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:28 am UTC

Man, this is turning into philosophy. How about we switch to a different bit, and then continue on from there. http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=18164
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Skiclub » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:35 am UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:Let's put it this way: Explain to me how human power generators, etc, can affect a constant of nature and thus destroy the entire universe? The SWISS? Seriously. Back it up with science; a one line quote from Pop Sci that offers no real explanation doesn't count.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_vacuum

It's theoretically possible to destroy the universe if you concentrate enough energy on one place (if we are in a false vacuum).

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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby ++$_ » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:13 am UTC

It's theoretically possible to destroy the universe if you concentrate enough energy on one place (if we are in a false vacuum).
But this still ignores the point that cosmic rays are already doing this on a larger scale. So this isn't even a theoretical danger of the LHC.

The only real danger is that the tunnel will collapse.

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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Gelsamel » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:15 am UTC

Pretty sure there is already a thread on this.
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby chaosspawn » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:42 am UTC

If this could end reality as we know it, then it would have to be producing something unique which has never happened before (otherwise that should have ended everything). Since the point of the LHC is to replicate things which already occur, I fail to see how it is an more likely to cause the EotU "End of the Universe" any more than comsic ray interactions are. The butterfly effect is also applied incorrectly, I mean if that could lead up to the EotU, then NOT doing so might just as well cause it.
Also a Douglas Adams quote is hardly scientific proof.

Overall, this sounds to me like ridiculous cries along the lines of "the sky is falling". Incidentally I am reminded of the sensationalist stuff about the Manhattan project. There was something about how scientists thought there was a chance that nuclear bomb could ignite the entire atmosphere and thus end all life on earth.
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby EdgarJPublius » Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:26 am UTC

haven't we already had this thread here

I will reiterate my reply.

EdgarJPublius wrote:My generic response to all Earth Destruction claims, hypothesis or other predictions: The International Earth Destruction Advisory Board.

Specific to predictions regarding LHC and other 'High Energy' supercollider projects: The day the Quantum Vacuum Collapsed
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Zak McKracken » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:36 am UTC

I don't know this magazine "PopSci" but if it's anything like other "popular scientific magazines" they will pick up everything that sounds exciting in any way and print it big.
I used to read a german magazine of that sorts while at school ("P.M."). Found it really good and scientifically enlightening. Until I started to study and started to see how wrong these people got it. Like, completely wrong. Only you can't see unless you have the proper background.

The article you were citing only states that the universe might be destroyed. With no further explanation that is a statement made to make everyone insecure who doesn't know better. But since they offer no further explanation we can conclude that the author either didn't understand it himself or hasn't got any good reasons for the point. This means, one way or another, the theory has not been thoroughly checked by the author. To publish something like the this without doublechecking the source (or understanding the message!) says something about the nature of the article (maybe the magazine?) . So if I were concerned by this warning, I'd try and check some serious, reliable sources. If this quantum vacuum thing was really a concern, there must be some scientists upset about it and publishing technical details and numbers. Please also mind that not every person who can spell "Bose Einstein-Condensate" is a scientist!

Lately, I've read a news post that someone wanted to head an office building using the body heat of passengers from the nearby train station ... the article kept using the weirdest wording to make it sound as if they might be putting people in a heat water cycle, just to sound interesting. Really, they just wanted to draw the fresh air for the building from the station hall instead of the roof of the building, because inside it's one or two degrees warmer because of the passengers' body heat. But that sounds too boring.

From a technical point of view: There are billions of stars in this universe. In these stars all of the elements were created. All of them. There was for billions of years and still is a volume larger than the solar sistem filled with elementary particles crashing and colliding, a weird mixture of pretty much every atom that has ever existed (and there's no reason to believe that the "artificial" unstable elements were not in there somewhere, each atom for its given lifespan). Now, inside a volume infinitely smaller someone wants to collide an easily countable amount of selected particles for a few milliseconds (or less?) ... what do you think are the odds of ever getting any effect that hasn't happened an uncountable amount of times already? Zero.


Have a nice day,

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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Robin S » Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:18 am UTC

As others have already indicated, this is pure sensationalism and has no real scientific basis.
Kirbycurse wrote:if the experiment goes just a tiny bit wrong, then the act of shooting these protons together at SUCH high speeds may start a decaying of the vacuum state of the universe, making everything go STRAIGHT to the center of the universe, and crash together, leaving nothing. At least we'd find out if the universe even had a center.
The universe doesn't have a centre; even if it did, going "straight" to it would break the speed of light; and "decaying the vacuum state" doesn't even make sense as a concept. The definitions you quote leave a lot out (it is a popular science magazine, after all) and are therefore potentially misleading.

I am confused by one point, though. If scientists consider it possible that micro black holes may form in the LHC, despite the energy densities being of a level which occurs naturally, how come we don't see micro black holes forming spontaneously elsewhere? As far as I'm aware, the highest-energy naturally-occurring particles ever observed fall at least seven orders of magnitude short of becoming black holes.

Skiclub wrote:Perhaps, but for every problem we solve the amount we understand overall goes up and the amount we don't understand overall goes down.
Only in as far as an infinite quantity can go down.
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Dobblesworth » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:31 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:
Skiclub wrote:Perhaps, but for every problem we solve the amount we understand overall goes up and the amount we don't understand overall goes down.
Only in as far as an infinite quantity can go down.

The way I see it, is that for each explanation we encounter for phenomena and events in science/maths, we open up several other new questions, that our prior level of understanding/technology did not notice. For all groundbreaking developments, there will always be something cropping up that we currently cannot explain, causing to ask further questions of science and the universe.

What we gain through switching on that giant doughnut underneath the Alps, might be like unlocking a giant door into a hallway, with 10+ other locked doors branching off it.

____

On the topic of the LHC itself, I do remember hearing in physics lessons about a year ago and how there's apparently a smidgeon of a chance that it could create a black hole and vapourise Earth in the click of a finger.
As a result of this, one thing we considered would be for CERN to announce to the world 24hrs beforehand that they were switching it on, so everyone could go get hammered, resolve any unfinished lifelong desires or just reconnect with family, in the event that the LHC really does wipe us all out.

I'm personally of the opinion that we aren't all doomed. It seems to be one of those theories conceived by a few mathematicians/physicists around the world, which is described as doomsday science fact in tabloid media and, apparently, this article in Pop(ular) Sci(ence) magazine [I think it's an American one].

The UK New Scientist issue this week (http://www.newscientist.com/contents/issue/2642.html) seems to be carrying something similar, suggesting that the LHC will create a 'Year Zero' and the possibility of time travel. I don't have access to the full thing, only the online preview and a mini-article from the UK 'Metro' tabloid newspaper handed out for free on public transport services. It gives a mention of this effect and how it's been ripped out of NS, but I am unsure whether this is a definitive summary or half-truths and manipulation/misinterpretation of the theory.

So that's my thoughts on how we might be all doomed, how science and discovery seems to work and how tabloid media hacks might not all be carrying a PhD from MIT.

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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Feb 09, 2008 8:37 am UTC

viewtopic.php?f=18&t=11690

is the search function really that difficult to use?
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Re: Large Hadron Collider and possibly the end of the world...

Postby Adalwolf » Sat Feb 09, 2008 8:44 am UTC

edit:

no
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby BlackSails » Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:24 pm UTC

I can imagine, some scientists presses the big red button that turns the LHC on for the first time. A few seconds later, he causes a vacuum transition, and nucleates a bubble of expanding lower energy vacuum, leaving inside, an enetirely new universe, with different physical laws.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Nebulae » Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:41 pm UTC

Imagine how happy the physicists would be if they had to figure everything out again.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Swordfish » Mon Feb 11, 2008 5:53 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:I can imagine, some scientists presses the big red button that turns the LHC on for the first time. A few seconds later, he causes a vacuum transition, and nucleates a bubble of expanding lower energy vacuum, leaving inside, an enetirely new universe, with different physical laws.


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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby BlackSails » Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:28 am UTC

Swordfish wrote:
BlackSails wrote:I can imagine, some scientists presses the big red button that turns the LHC on for the first time. A few seconds later, he causes a vacuum transition, and nucleates a bubble of expanding lower energy vacuum, leaving inside, an enetirely new universe, with different physical laws.


What makes you so sure that that's not what happened with this universe?


I never said it didnt. In fact, if there were some way to survive the universe explosion, such an event could make for a nice experimental test of the anthropic principle.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby roundedge » Mon Feb 11, 2008 8:36 pm UTC

Alright, let's do some science.
At the LHC they are colliding protons at a combined energy of 14 TeV.
given that E=mc2, and the schwarzchild radius of a black hole is 2Gm/c2, then the schwarzchild radius of a micro blackhole created in the LHC should be ~2GE/c4

1 teraelectron volt = 1.60217646 × 10-7 joules
gravitational constant = 6.67300 × 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2
c = 299 792 458 m / s
without even calculating this yet, we can all see this radius is going to be freaking tiny, nevertheless, we pull out the TI-83. (well, its batteries are dead, so I'm doing this partially by hand)
I get a value of ~3.7 x 10-50 m

compare this to the plank length: ~1.6 × 10−35 m

I don't think we know of anything small enough to even actually fully be inside the radius of this thing (I suppose pointlike particles, electrons and the like, but we are at the scale of quantum fuzziness here). I can't even imagine the logistics of something falling into a black hole smaller than it. But that aside, it's easy to see that the cross section of interaction is going to be magnificently small, smaller than a neutrino I suspect; since gravitational effects will be excruciatingly tiny unless it actually hits something, and this thing is small enough to pass through the empty space inside a proton.

Anyone else care to make some additional analyses, now that we have a concrete number.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Eps » Mon Feb 11, 2008 11:46 pm UTC

Oh, God, not this shit again. Sensationalist, ignorant idiots said all this about the collider I work on, and guess what: none of it happened, although crackpots still believe us to engage in shooting down UFOs with particle beams (wtf). :roll:

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby McCaber » Tue Feb 12, 2008 2:38 am UTC

All I can say on this:

Let's fire that bitch up and learn some SCIENCE!
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby RedWolf » Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:29 am UTC


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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Poochy » Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:56 am UTC

I've got an idea: What about temporarily diverting some funds from the LHC project to try and fix the problem of scientific illiteracy?

I'm really sick of this sensationalist crackpot junk that always ends up blown completely out of proportion all over the popular media. I can't honestly say that I believe it's completely impossible for the LHC to produce a major disaster. But at the very most, it's improbable. Yet, people keep exaggerating these possibilities the same way they exaggerate the probability of other screwball apocalypse theories. It's even the same thing with crackpot UFO theories. Why? Apparently, it sells newspapers and magazines and garners ratings for TV "news" programs.

In science, even if something is calculated at a probability of, say, 22,079,460,347:1 against (to pull a number out of thin air), the scientists technically should still be saying that it "could" happen. Saying that something "could" happen does not mean it is LIKELY to happen, unless maybe if you happen to have an Infinite Improbability Drive. Secondly, in response specifically to the "paper" the original post linked to, numbers you pulled out of thin air are not valid for calculations. (Yes, I pulled a number out of nowhere myself a couple sentences earlier. But note that I'm not making any calculations or coming to any conclusions based on the number I made up.) Saying crap like "it has been estimated" or "our calculations show" or "we estimate" counts as pulling numbers out of thin air unless you cite where and how you got those numbers. Similarly, in science, you can't validly say that something will certainly follow something else without so much as theoretical evidence. For that matter, when writing a scientific paper, good scientists shouldn't even speculate about the color of their socks without looking at their ankles, to steal half a line from Intuitor. In addition, the full text cites stuff like "the 'challenger effect' when the NASA had predicted risk for a crash of 1/100.000" (p.28). I point you to the availability heuristic. Single cherry-picked anecdotes that are loosely related to the subject matter at best does not constitute valid data. I also find several other things suspicious, even overlooking the poor translation job. First of all, this is a completely anonymous paper - as if the person(s) who wrote it didn't want to stake their reputations on it, and/or didn't want to receive criticism from peer review. Secondly, it cites a suspicious number of dubious sources that has not been subjected to peer review, such as others within the same "forum" (confirmation bias, anyone?) and even an "e-mail exchange" between two people. Not to mention all the exclamations, platitudes, and emotional appeals (see p.11 of the full text for plenty of examples), which reeks of unprofessionalism and a lack of scientific rigor. Finally, if you look on the Risk Evaluation Forum's page, there's a newer version in which the author(s) suddenly make a bunch of corrections and come up with a risk far lesser than their old version's estimate. Plus the section index says the old version is "maintained here because of popularity". My BS sensors are going wild, and this strikes me as more of a thinly-veiled editorial that the author(s) are trying to pass off as a scientific paper. In any case, I conclude that the "paper" is a bunch of trash.

There's a fine, fine line between caution and hand-waving freakoutery. Some concerns over LHC fall in the former category, but most of the popular stuff seems to be in the latter.
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby 22/7 » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:43 pm UTC

Poochy wrote:In science, even if something is calculated at a probability of, say, 22,079,460,347:1 against (to pull a number out of thin air), the scientists technically should still be saying that it "could" happen. Saying that something "could" happen does not mean it is LIKELY to happen, unless maybe if you happen to have an Infinite Improbability Drive.
While what you've said is technically true, you're missing the point here. When you're dealing with safety concerns, you take the probability that a given problem will occur and multiply that probability by a factor that indicates the severity of the problem. If I remember correctly, human death is usually given a 10 on that scale. Then you set a threshold for how high the composite number can be allowed to be. The number assigned to destroying the world is probably big enough that any chane of it happening is too big a chance.
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby skeptical scientist » Sat Mar 29, 2008 6:22 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
Poochy wrote:In science, even if something is calculated at a probability of, say, 22,079,460,347:1 against (to pull a number out of thin air), the scientists technically should still be saying that it "could" happen. Saying that something "could" happen does not mean it is LIKELY to happen, unless maybe if you happen to have an Infinite Improbability Drive.
While what you've said is technically true, you're missing the point here. When you're dealing with safety concerns, you take the probability that a given problem will occur and multiply that probability by a factor that indicates the severity of the problem. If I remember correctly, human death is usually given a 10 on that scale. Then you set a threshold for how high the composite number can be allowed to be. The number assigned to destroying the world is probably big enough that any chane of it happening is too big a chance.

There are many things that could destroy most/all human life on earth. We could get hit by an asteroid the size of Mars. The magnetic poles could reverse themselves. A hypernova could unleash a massive gamma ray burst head on at us. A software bug misidentifying a flock of Norwegian geese as a missile launch could unleash a nuclear salvo starting World War 3 (somewhat less likely since the demise of the Soviet Union, but still possible). When the odds of something bad happening are minute compared to the other things that could destroy all human life, it's time to stop worrying about them.

If a single human life is given a 10, then all human life is between 10^10 and 10^20, depending on whether you want to count potential future generations, and how optimistic you are about the future of the human race. If multiplying by this factor raises the odds to something meaningful, we should be worried; if not, then not. Since cosmic ray interactions routinely occur at higher energies than the LHC is capable of, we should be completely unworried.
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Poochy » Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:30 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:While what you've said is technically true, you're missing the point here. When you're dealing with safety concerns, you take the probability that a given problem will occur and multiply that probability by a factor that indicates the severity of the problem. If I remember correctly, human death is usually given a 10 on that scale. Then you set a threshold for how high the composite number can be allowed to be. The number assigned to destroying the world is probably big enough that any chane of it happening is too big a chance.
True, but that wasn't the point of my rant. Lemme put it this way:

Scientist: "According to my calculations, there is only a probability of 22,079,460,347:1 against that this will blow up the world. So I have to say it could happen, unlikely as it may be."
Media: "This could blow up the universe! Everybody you know will die! AAAH! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! PANIC! DANGER! JEOPARDY! DOUBLE JEOPARDY! FINAL JEOPARDY!" *conspicuous absence of any accurate portrayal of the true likelihood*

Yes, the severity of a potential problem occurring should be taken into consideration. But my complaint is that the sensationalistic media always takes the original odds and blows them way out of proportion. Multiplying the odds of a problem happening by its severity rating to calculate the importance of preventing that problem is perfectly reasonable. Multiplying the true odds of the problem occurring by its severity rating, then acting like THAT is the true probability so it can be multiplied by its severity rating again and cause needless hand-waving freakoutery, is nowhere near reasonable.
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby idobox » Wed Apr 02, 2008 9:35 pm UTC

You all should be feared to death by the tremendous gravitational drag of 10- a lotkg black hole.

Seriously, we need to fire it. Because we will most certainly find no Higgs Boson, and because we will discover strange behaviors no current model can predict. That is what I love with fundamental science: observation almost always bust models, and each time we think we're about to know all of it, we discover we know about nothing.
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby ian » Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:28 am UTC

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby JTankers » Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:35 pm UTC

CERNs web site states that we have not been destroyed by effects of cosmic rays and micro black holes will evaporate.

However, cosmic rays travel too fast to be captured by Earths gravity, and Hawking Radiation is disputed and contradicts Einsteins highly successful relativity theory. Collider particles smash head on like a car collision and can be captured by Earths gravity, and relativity predicts micro black holes will not decay (Hawking called Einstein doubly wrong, yet it is Einstein who is repeatedly found to have been correct in his theories). There is currently no reasonable proof of LHC safety, LSAG (LHC Safety Assessment Group) has been trying for months to prove safety without success. I hold the minority opinion that it may not be possible because it may in fact not be safe.

Cosmic Rays from the legal complaint.

any such novel particle created in nature by cosmic ray impacts would be left with a velocity at nearly the speed of light, relative to earth. At such speeds, . . . , is believed by most theorists to simply pass harmlessly through our planet with nary an impact, safely exiting on the other side. . . . Conversely, any such novel particle that might be created at the LHC would be at slow speed relative to earth, a goodly percentage would then be captured by earths gravity, and could possibly grow larger [accrete matter] with disastrous consequences of the earth turning into a large black hole.

Professor Dr. Otto E. Roessler estimates 50 months Earth accretion time from a single micro black hole captured by Earth's gravity
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If this thing is so safe, why aren't CERN scientists allowed to express any personal fears they might have about this Collider?

Alleged in the legal action: Chief Scientific Officer, Mr. Engelen passed an internal memorandum to workers at CERN, asking them, regardless of personal opinion, to affirm in all interviews that there were no risks involved in the experiments, changing the previous assertion of minimal risk.

(Statisticians generally consider minimal risk as 1-10%).

JTankers

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wst
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby wst » Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:48 pm UTC

What happens if you put a CD in the LHC? Will we get mini-LHC's to cook food with? Would it be any good for shooting paper rifle targets on Mars?

Unless the LHC accidentally causes Switzerlands power stations to simultaneously explode, we'll be fine.

Imagine the feeling of power you'd have being the person to press the 'On/Off' button for the first time. Butterflies in your stomach much? (What if I accidentally destroy a passenger jet near to Hawaii? Or destroy the Earth?)
Anything I said pre-2014 that you want to quote me on, just run it past me to check I still agree with myself.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Blubb3r3ng3l » Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:38 pm UTC

so I misinterpreted that as a joke...

like 'fired' as in you fire an employee, as in, don't power it up.

Take one off of the 'no'
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Yakk
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Yakk » Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:55 pm UTC

22/7 wrote:
Poochy wrote:In science, even if something is calculated at a probability of, say, 22,079,460,347:1 against (to pull a number out of thin air), the scientists technically should still be saying that it "could" happen. Saying that something "could" happen does not mean it is LIKELY to happen, unless maybe if you happen to have an Infinite Improbability Drive.
While what you've said is technically true, you're missing the point here. When you're dealing with safety concerns, you take the probability that a given problem will occur and multiply that probability by a factor that indicates the severity of the problem. If I remember correctly, human death is usually given a 10 on that scale. Then you set a threshold for how high the composite number can be allowed to be. The number assigned to destroying the world is probably big enough that any chane of it happening is too big a chance.


Under current physics models, your existence has a vanishingly small, yet finite, chance of destroying the earth right now.

If you have the courage to follow through with your hyperbole, then you should proceed to cease to exist.

Or did you intend your hyperbole to interfere only with OTHER people?

In short, I do not think that you understand how big numbers like 22,079,460,347 are, or how ridiculous the requirement of "any chance is too much" really is when your model of the universe can predict extremely unlikely possibilities and assign them probabilities.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby miles01110 » Sun Apr 06, 2008 8:54 pm UTC

JTankers wrote:If this thing is so safe, why aren't CERN scientists allowed to express any personal fears they might have about this Collider?


Because if they had any, they wouldn't work there. Most scientists/people are smart enough to not work on something that they think is dangerous.

Alleged in the legal action: Chief Scientific Officer, Mr. Engelen passed an internal memorandum to workers at CERN, asking them, regardless of personal opinion, to affirm in all interviews that there were no risks involved in the experiments, changing the previous assertion of minimal risk.


That's funny, I didn't get that memo. Neither did the head of ATLAS endcap alignment. Neither did the head of ATLAS Muon. I think you're full of shit.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby Hawknc » Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:11 am UTC

miles01110 wrote:
JTankers wrote:If this thing is so safe, why aren't CERN scientists allowed to express any personal fears they might have about this Collider?


Because if they had any, they wouldn't work there. Most scientists/people are smart enough to not work on something that they think is dangerous.

In addition to that, if they're under contract to an organisation (either as an employee or under some form of research contract) then those organisations very rarely appreciate non-sanctioned representatives speaking on their behalf.
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby JTankers » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:31 am UTC

[Edit]

Which would more wise, conduct a full and independent adversarial safety study first, or just turn it on now and see what happens?
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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby trip11 » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:41 am UTC

There has been a lot of talk everywhere about the possibility of a black hole (or other more exotic item) created by the LHC which could destroy the earth/universe. I'm a grad student working at CERN now, let me give my $0.02 on the matter. The standard response by CERN claims that cosmic rays hit the earth, sun, moon, etc all the time and that these have much more energy than the particles we will accelerate in the LHC. Therefore, since the earth, sun, moon, etc are still in existence, we don't need to worry about turning on the LHC.

Critics argue that there are flaws in this statement, that the cosmic rays will produce particles that are subtly different than those created by the LHC. More specifically, objects created by cosmic ray collisions will have a much higher velocity with respect to the earth than those created by cosmic rays. These critics then state that the 'proof' by those at CERN are no longer valid proofs and that there still exists the possibility of the LHC destroying the world.

However I believe this is a misunderstanding between the two parties. As Terry Pratchett wrote in “The Science of Discworld”, scientists often tell 'lies to children'. Or in other words, the explanation that a physicist will give to the press is a very simplified version of the true explanation. The newspaper doesn't really care about the details of quantum mechanics or nuclear physics. They just want to know that the physicist thought about it, and is sure they won't destroy the world. Then when someone else reads this simplified explanation, they may find it doesn't cover all possibilities and they might, for instance, file a lawsuit in Hawaii. The more cynical among you may argue that the physics community told these lies even to themselves until lately. However, it is the case that the story of cosmic rays is much more complicated and rigorous than just 'they hit the earth all the time'. I spent an afternoon doing some rough calculations on this topic and I thought I would share them.

First, the physics community believes that the earth will not be destroyed by black holes because of Hawking radiation. In other words black holes radiate energy and loose mass until they 'evaporate'. Big black holes created in supernovas have so much mass they will take trillions of years to evaporate. Small black holes created in collisions with cosmic rays or an accelerator have very very little mass and will evaporate VERY quickly. Long before they ever have a chance to absorb even one single proton. (As an aside, let me mention that we are not sure that black holes will even be created by the LHC. They are only predicted by some fairly exotic theories which require more than 3 spacial dimensions) The problem is that Hawking radiation has never been directly observed. If it happens that Hawking is wrong (along with large parts of quantum mechanics), maybe black holes can live long enough to start absorbing matter. The purpose of the cosmic ray argument is to provide indirect proof that if micro black holes can be created, then the black holes must evaporate very quickly or else the earth would already be gone.

Now for the advanced argument. There are two main unknowns when it comes to how quickly a black hole will evaporate (if at all). The first is how much it radiates. If the radiation is 0, then it will never loose mass. If it is very high (bright), then it will loose mass very quickly. The second main parameter is the cross section of a black hole. This means, as a black hole passes through matter, how likely is it that it will absorb matter. If the cross section is 0, then the black hole will fly through everything without ever absorbing a single proton. In this case it could never gain any mass (this is unrealistic of course). If the cross section is very high, then it will absorb lots of the matter that it passes by and gain mass very quickly. Of course we expect the cross section to grow as the black hole becomes heavier and larger.

Currently scientist believe that a small black hole radiates very brightly and has a very small cross section. But what if we are wrong? It can be shown that for any combination of cross section and radiation amount, that either: the earth won't be destroyed by a black hole, or certain objects in the universe such as neutron stars and white dwarf stars will be destroyed by them fairly quickly. Since we can see many neutron stars and white dwarf stars which are quite old, we can be confident that no matter what the cross section of a black hole is and no matter how fast (if at all) a black hole radiates energy, the LHC will not destroy the earth with a black hole. Similar arguments also can follow for other more exotic 'universe destroying' particles.


A very tiny bit of math if you're curious. A neutron star has the mass of a sun compressed into a 20km radius. The escape velocity for a neutron star is ~0.3*c. Assuming a 20TeV proton as a cosmic ray, you need ~50,000 protons to be absorbed to slow it below escape velocity. The number of particles a black hole will absorb on one trip through a neutron star is (if I crunch my numbers correctly, please feel free to correct me) ~150,000,000 times more than it will encounter on on a trip through the earth. This is independent (to first order at least) of the cross section and radiation rates. So on one 45 minute trip through the earth a black hole will accumulate no more than 0.00033 protons (or else the black holes will get stuck inside of the neutron star). That's more than 8 days to absorb a single proton in the earth. To suck in the same 50,000 protons it will take more than a thousand years! There are other arguments. If black holes cross section is little lower so they can escape a neutron star (an perhaps will take 5,000 years to absorb 50,000 protons on the earth) then they should be able to travel that same several thousand light years away from the neutron star without decaying. Then these slow moving black holes will be occasionally hitting the sun, earth, and so on. Now you are in the same situation as the LHC. Producing slow moving black holes. The hardest part of these calculations is looking up the various numbers. Then there is also the case that a the sun will destroy the earth in a few billion years as it runs through it's life cycle. Any black holes that take more than that amount of time to destroy the earth are basically meaningless. Anyone want to calculate how long it will take for our black hole to suck in 1 kg of matter if it takes 1000 years to absorb the first 50,000 protons? It will be a LONG time. Sorry for such an epic long post. If anyone is still reading, I'd appreciate comments and corrections to my figures. I can also show a lot more of my work if people are really interested.

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Re:

Postby paralian » Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:17 pm UTC

If it goes wrong, and we all die, then nobody can complain can they?

Swordfish wrote:It wouldn't be the first time we built something that could kill us all.

I agree. I would say that it was worse back then, because nobody knew if someone would be stupid enough to actually blow up the world.

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Re: Re:

Postby Vaniver » Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:37 pm UTC

paralian wrote:I agree. I would say that it was worse back then, because nobody knew if someone would be stupid enough to actually blow up the world.
I think he's referring to the speculation that detonating an atomic bomb could ignite the entire atmosphere, killing everything- which was obviously wrong because nitrogen burning is endothermic.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

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Re: LHC Dangerous?

Postby wst » Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:57 pm UTC

JTankers wrote:If this experiment is so safe, why arent CERN scientists allowed to express any personal fears they might have about this Collider?

Alleged in the legal action: Chief Scientific Officer, Mr. Engelen passed an internal memorandum to workers at CERN

Which would more wise, conduct a full and independent adversarial safety study first, or just turn it on now and see what happens?

1) You've asked that before. Answer is above.
2) That has been refuted above.
3) Turn it on. The only way to totally assess the danger is to simulate it on a computer. Simulations are mathematical models. We do not have the data from the LHC to simulate its effects properly, so it cannot really be simulated (also, chaos is really a problem for simulation). The science behind the construction of the LHC must have resulted in 'safe' results, or the LHC wouldn't have been built. I don't think the scientists behind the LHC, any of them, wish to destroy the world (and themselves).

I want to know who told the media that the LHC 'could produce a mini-black hole'. If it was CERN, they should have anticipated such scare-mongering.

What would happen if you put your hand into the LHC as a target for the particles? Any injury from the particle hitting your DNA, maybe?
Anything I said pre-2014 that you want to quote me on, just run it past me to check I still agree with myself.


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