Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« And The Biggestmutherfuckingdo... | Vive La France! »

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kiss Your Ass Hello

posted by on September 9 at 8:38 AM


As a public service, I remind you that tomorrow, September 10, 2008, a bunch of nerds in Switzerland will fire up the Large Hadron Collider, attempting to recreate the origins of the universe by accelerating protons to 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light and then smashing them together.

The chances that their attempt to create the beginning will actually create the end are small, to be sure, but still.. might want to carry an umbrella.

RSS icon Comments


I thought that was a picture of Seattle after President Palin brings on the end of the world...

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | September 9, 2008 8:41 AM

That old lady at the Curiosity Shoppe told them it was cursed - but of course they didn't listen.

Posted by Ziggity | September 9, 2008 8:44 AM

A bang is preferred to a whimper.

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | September 9, 2008 8:46 AM

This will be happening at night our time, when I'm asleep, so even if the world ends, at least I probably won't be aware of it.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | September 9, 2008 8:49 AM

Awesome. But I'll be carrying a white towel.

Posted by Longtime lurker | September 9, 2008 8:50 AM

I thought that tomorrow was only a test, and they wouldn't run it at full power until early next year.

Posted by sockpuppet | September 9, 2008 8:54 AM

It's a shame to see the Stranger indulging in the exact same kind of anti-science fear mongering that we see on Fox News. You publish the sensational part of the story- a few induhviduals think the LHC could destroy the world- without putting any context on the argument, like the fact that the majority of physicists consider it not just extremely unlikely but entirely impossible for the LHC to cause any kind of problem. Way to go.

Posted by Big Sven | September 9, 2008 9:02 AM

All they're doing tomorrow is running a particle beam through the whole thing. They don't start the collisions until October 21st. So, really, you have at least another month to before the world ends. Enjoy it!

Posted by Jane | September 9, 2008 9:02 AM

The picture isn't really accurate. If those wackos are right and the LHC creates a super-heavy particle which falls through the center of the Earth and creates a new black hole, we won't see much of anything after that.

Posted by Greg | September 9, 2008 9:09 AM

I am so excited about this! :-D

I can't wait to be a strangelet. I hear strangelets have their own drama, but I can take it.

Posted by Christin | September 9, 2008 9:10 AM

Sven, I think we're all being 99.99% facetious about the LHC causing the end of the world.

On the other hand, one of the main arguments against the possibility of LHC-created micro-black holes devouring the planet is that Hawking radiation would decay them before they had a chance to. Hawking radiation, though, might not even exist -- it's just a theory, untested and unobservable.

Probably nothing will happen. But I think it's fun to consider the possibilities. If a few people survive, just THINK of the awesome sci-fi movies they'll be able to make!

Posted by Jane | September 9, 2008 9:11 AM

The LHC Safety Assessment Group completed a study in 2003 that dispelled unwarranted fears of universe-gobbling black holes and of other possibly dangerous new forms of matter by the collider, and confirmed that the switch-on will be safe.

The report, 'Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions', published in the Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, proved that if particle collisions at the LHC had the power to destroy the Earth, we would never have been given the chance to worry about the LHC, because regular interactions with more energetic cosmic rays would already have destroyed the Earth.

The Safety Assessment Group wrote, "Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth - and the planet still exists."

(-- stolen from this morning's science section)

Now that the matter's been settled (heh), here's some awesome pics of the LHC from the Boston Globe:

Posted by Just Sayin' | September 9, 2008 9:11 AM

Big Sven - I think Anthony was joking. I know I was... as you rightly point out, only anti-science idiots actually think that these experiments will end the world.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | September 9, 2008 9:11 AM

Well, the good new is that if the world ends tomorrow (or Oct. 21st), then I won't have to stress out over the election.


Posted by Reverse Polarity | September 9, 2008 9:15 AM

Should I make this month's student loan payment or not?

Posted by brian | September 9, 2008 9:15 AM

Just to play devil's advocate some more (again, I don't actually think the world will end, but I also don't think you can rule it out with solid 100% certainty either):

"Any microscopic black holes produced at the LHC are expected to decay by Hawking radiation before they reach the detector walls. If some microscopic black holes were stable, those produced by cosmic rays would be stopped inside the Earth or other astronomical bodies." (J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. 35 115004)

Key words: "expected" and "if."

Bring it, LHC! I've always wanted to see the inside of a black hole!

Posted by Jane | September 9, 2008 9:23 AM

It may all end tomorrow
Or it could go on forever
In which case I'm doomed

Posted by Morrissey | September 9, 2008 9:29 AM

Joke all you want about it, just remember that doing so puts you in about the same league of cleverness as Jay Leno.

Posted by John Butts | September 9, 2008 9:29 AM

This post is misleading, the chances are ZERO. Nothing is going to happen.

Posted by Dave M | September 9, 2008 9:31 AM

Well, in case I don't see you: Good afternoon, good evening and good night!

Posted by Chris in Tampa | September 9, 2008 9:35 AM

Oh wow. Sorry guys, you're absolutely right! I totally got my figures wrong here, and the chances are in fact pretty close to nil that the world will end tomorrow. Stupid, Anthony, stupid!

Sorry for misleading everyone. Hopefully there hasn't been a run on umbrellas.

Gotta go! Leno's on Fox News.

Posted by Anthony Hecht | September 9, 2008 9:35 AM

@ Jane
The idea that micro black hols could be created is "it's just a theory, untested and unobservable", same as Hawking radiation.
In fact, its THE SAME THEORY. They're dependant on each other. One cannot happen without the other.
And, while the theory is currently untested, it is certainly not unobservable. In fact, they've built this amazing device called the LHC to test and observe it.

Posted by Sean | September 9, 2008 9:47 AM

I'm sure the Discovery Institute could come up with some physicists to support the apocalyptic view.

Posted by butterw | September 9, 2008 9:47 AM

What I really want to know is, what is Sarah Palin's stance on the LHC? In fact, I would really love it if some reporter would ask her that live on camera.

Posted by Julie in Chicago | September 9, 2008 9:59 AM

@22, the CREATION of a black hole has nothing to do with Hawking radiation. Hawking radiation is a theorized ELEMENT of a black hole (that is, it's theorized that HR is emitted by black holes). The black hole itself is not created by the existence/presence of Hawking radiation.

They are not dependent on each other at all, and I definitely don't see how you can say you can't have the one without the other. We KNOW there are black holes -- we've observed them. We DON'T know Hawking radiation exists -- we haven't observed it yet! Therefore, how can you say black holes can't exist without Hawking radiation or vice versa?

You are right that the LHC may finally allow scientists to create micro black holes and then watch them dissipate because of Hawking radiation. Should be fascinating! But as of right now, Hawking radiation is still just a theory -- black holes are not!

(AGAIN, for the record, I'm excited about the LHC and think it's going to have an enormous, positive impact on the world of physics. Can't wait to see what happens! But I also don't think "It happens in nature all the time" can be equated with "Therefore, nothing bad can possibly happen if we try to do the same thing ourselves.")

Posted by Jane | September 9, 2008 10:02 AM

Just because nothing's going to happen doesn't mean we can't pretend to be terrified. It's a nice distraction from real fears like the Palin trainwreck and global thermonuclear war.

Posted by Breklor | September 9, 2008 10:04 AM

@18, do you suppose they could aim a tiny black hole AT Jay Leno? I might pay to see that - either tomorrow or in October.

Posted by ReverendZ | September 9, 2008 10:05 AM

Speaking of black holes, do you all remember the old Disney film THE BLACK HOLE? Maximillian Schell. Yvette Mimieux. Robert Forster. Anthony Perksins. Timothy Bottoms. It is amazing, especially the surrealist ending when they go THROUGH the Black Hole. Rent it.

Posted by Bub | September 9, 2008 10:05 AM

Did you see this in the news? This Large Hadron Collider? Did you see it? Could cause the apocolypse? Well, on the plus side I guess we don't have to worry about global warming anymore! *snare hit, applause, satisfied smirk*

Posted by John Butts | September 9, 2008 10:08 AM

On the other hand, this might be a good excuse to have an "End of the World Party" next year and invite all my math and physics nerd friends.

Posted by Greg | September 9, 2008 10:14 AM

The world ending tomorrow is no excuse for not having posted the morning news yet.

Posted by Cat in Chicago | September 9, 2008 10:15 AM

Dear Slog,

I think you're wonderful, funny, informational, and dare-I-say, insightful. But you and your hip, hip writers know nothing about science or physics. Please reserve this material for xkcd.


P.S. Please fix the iPhone browsing. I almost had a seizure typing this comment...

Posted by Igor | September 9, 2008 10:15 AM

Dear Slog,

I think you're wonderful, funny, informational, and dare-I-say, insightful. But you and your hip, hip writers know nothing about science or physics. Please reserve this material for xkcd.


P.S. Please fix the iPhone browsing. I almost had a seizure typing this comment...

Posted by Igor | September 9, 2008 10:17 AM

It's the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine.

Some of you are so didactic. And pedantic.

Posted by PopTart | September 9, 2008 10:29 AM

Actually, the spookiest of the spooky doomsday scenarios presupposed that a stable black hole would take approximately a million years to destroy the Earth. But of course, things would get really ugly a while before that. Kind of like global warming.

Sorry, just not feeling very humorous today. Maybe it's the new polling numbers.

Posted by Big Sven | September 9, 2008 10:32 AM

fuckin' nerds.

Posted by dre | September 9, 2008 10:38 AM

Everything you need to know about the LHC is explained here, in geek-rap form:

Posted by David | September 9, 2008 10:39 AM

dear Igor (is it Eye Gore or EEE Gore?)

please restart your phone or figure out the proper way to use it. works fine for me.

Posted by Dr. Frankenstein (Fronkensteen) | September 9, 2008 10:47 AM

large hardon collider seeks black hole for fun apocalypse times.

Posted by science | September 9, 2008 11:07 AM

The Super Collider Accelerator was to be the world's largest at 87 kilometers. Begun in Texas in 1991 construction ground to halt because of NIMBYism, a large part of which came from Chrisitian fundmentalists who opposed it on the grounds that scientists were trying to prove that God did not create the universe.

Posted by inkweary | September 9, 2008 11:59 AM

An umbrella made of carbon nanotubes!

Posted by treacle | September 9, 2008 4:36 PM

Ugh, this old canard?

The particles being smashed at the LHC are high energy, sure: a beam energy of 7 TeV, times two beams head-on, equals a total energy of 1.4*10^15 eV. There's speculation that, yes, that is indeed enough energy to create microscopic black holes.

However, if the LHC is powerful enough to create microscopic black holes, then microscopic black holes are necessarily harmless. Why? Because if microscopic black holes exist, we're bathed in them already.

Cosmic rays of power 10^14~10^15 eV are trivially common, occurring countless times every day. 10^18 eV cosmic rays are much more rare, since they push up against the GZK limit, but still occur often enough that any given detector will see many per year. 10^20 eV cosmic rays are even rarer than that only 16 such cosmic rays have been recorded by human instruments because, if they travel a long distance, they eventually interact with the tiny bits of hydrogen gas that make up the "vacuum" of space, forcing them to lose energy and scatter.

However, human instruments that detect cosmic rays can only see what's directly pointed at them, so a pretty chart plus a little math — 0.01 events / km^2 / yr (according to the chart) * 510,065,600 km^2 (surface area of Earth) * 1 yr = 5,100,656 events — shows that about 5 million of these hit Earth every year.

Note that I'm using scientific notation here. 10^14 means "10 to the 14th power", or "1 with 14 zeroes after it". 10^15 is 10 times bigger than 10^14, and 10^20 is 100,000 times bigger than 10^15.

If LHC were going to destroy the Earth, it would've already been destroyed this year, millions of times over, by black holes 100,000 times bigger than the ones produced by LHC.

Posted by Chronos | September 9, 2008 8:13 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.