This illustration depicts the creation and almost instant evaporation of a tiny black hole in one of the instruments of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator. Some theories say the collider should be able to produce such tiny black holes, which would have been created en masse in the Big Bang. But such black holes would last only a tiny fraction of a second, leaving Earth unscathed. [Joao Pequenao/ATLAS/CERN]
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to recreate some of the conditions in the Big Bang. But some have been concerned that the giant particle accelerator could do the job too well — that it could create a hazard to our entire planet.
WHEELER: This is an issue-slash-hysteria that raged over the question of whether the Large Hadron Collider, by piling so much together, could make a small black hole, and would it get loose and eat the Earth. As far as I know, the answer’s no.
Craig Wheeler is an astronomer at the University of Texas who’s studied the physics of black holes for decades. But he’s also written two science fiction novels that explore the scenario of a man-made black hole swallowing Earth. The second, “Krone Ascending,” was published last year. And while he says the idea makes good sci-fi, the physics probably doesn’t pan out.
The LHC smashes together subatomic particles at close to the speed of light, creating torrents of particles like those created in the Big Bang. The list could include tiny black holes.
WHEELER: It is entirely true that something like the LHC might conceivably make a black hole. The people operating those experiments are aware of this possibility. But the whole point is that if you make this really tiny one, it will immediately evaporate by Hawking radiation, it’s very, very ephemeral. So the idea of making one that would actually get loose and do something nasty is really way beyond the bounds of practicality.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
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