So tomorrow the smart guys over at CERN are going to fire up the Large Hadron Collider, which is the biggest particle accelerator ever built. There are some really cool experiments they can run with the kind of beam energy it produces, but there’s a huge hubbub right now because tomorrow morning (September 10) they’re going to “turn it on”. And some people think it’s going to create a black hole that will destroy the planet.
Of course, these are people who not only don’t know the facts, but aren’t terribly well-versed in science. The facts include such tidbits as:
- The LHC has already been “turned on” and in fact has been undergoing testing for a few months now.
- Tomorrow’s run will be at around 7% of its full operational level.
- The Tevatron at Fermilab has been running at energies far higher than that for years, with no observed planet-destroying black hole activity.
- Even if a black hole was produced (an occurrence whose likelihood makes the lottery look like a good bet) it would be so small it would almost instantly evaporate in a burst of Hawking radiation.
- Even if it didn’t evaporate– which would require Stephen Hawking, the smartest man alive, to be wrong– it would be so miniscule that its event horizon wouldn’t be more than an atom’s width.
- And with an event horizon like that, it most certainly wouldn’t be able to destroy the planet.
And the science:
But hey, sensationalism is much more fun, so there are people making death threats against the scientists, and of course a flurry of lawsuits intended to shut down the whole experiment. It’s laughable, really, but I suppose it underscores the fact that in general people are pretty ignorant of science. Or at least high-energy particle physics.
Had I been planning ahead, I would’ve arranged an End of the World party last weekend or something. That would’ve been fun.
In the meantime, someone thoughtfully created a web site that will tell us the current status of the LHC’s planet-busting mission. It’s hosted at www.hasthelhcdestroyedtheearth.com and currently says
So if the earth is indeed destroyed, remember to check the web site to confirm it.