I have to confess you one thing. I am lazy. Really lazy. Everybody who knows me well enough can confirm. And, being lazy, I tend to postpone things. So, when I saw this article on the New York Times, I thought I should write a post on it. Only, since at the time I was busy, I postponed. Then, when I actually had the time, I delayed it again. Then I discovered that half the blogs in my blogroll had already posted about it. And, on top of that, in reality, I had already talked about the matter in this post, before the New York Times article was published. So, I decided to give it up. Even if, indeed, working at CERN and being the only blogger not writing about it was quite a shame. But, what the hell, why waste time on it, when there wasn’t much I could possibly add to dozens of other posts? (Did I tell you that I’m lazy, by chance?)
However, today I come across an aspect of the matter that I thought deserved a small effort. But you would have to wait until the end of the post to know it. Before that, I want just give you the useful pieces of information I wanted to publish in the first place.
No, the earth will not go down the drain of a black hole generated in the LHC. There are lots of reasons why it won’t happen. But the more basic one, and the easier to understand, is that particle collisions like the ones that will be obtained in the LHC (if we’ll make it work, which is another matter altogether…) are happening all the time around us, and had happened since quite some time already. Cosmic rays (in fact particles) with energies reaching values much higher than the LHC could ever dream to obtain, collide every day with protons and nuclei both on earth and other planets. The only reason to build LHC instead of studying these same events is this: Cosmic ray collisions have the somewhat irritating habit of happening all over the place, and not nicely pile up in a detector just to please a bunch of impatient physicists. Dirty little scoundrels that they are – the particles, I mean. Anyway, since the earth, the moon and other planets are still in their place since quite some time, we are safe (well, from this danger at least). Black holes, if ever they are created in particle collisions, either evaporate fast and nicely as this guy Hawking predicted, or interact so weakly as to pose no real threat.
I would add another useful bit of info as well. A short biography of Dr. Wagner, apparently written by himself as a host of this radio show:
Walter Wagner graduated UC Berkeley with a Minor in Physics, and a Major in Biology. Later, he discovered a novel particle in a balloon-borne cosmic ray detector, initially identified as a magnetic monopole. Though its identity remains uncertain, it is definitely not within the standard repertoire of known particles. After a three-year break from science to attend law school, Dr. Wagner resumed work in Physics and Biology at the US Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Francisco, working in Nuclear Medicine and Health Physics. He then embarked on teaching Science and Mathematics, from grade school to college. Dr. Wagner developed a botanical garden in Hawaii, and continues involvement with several professional associations, including Health Physics Society and Society of Nuclear Medicine.
So, a biologist, a physicist and a lawyer. I indeed have no problem to believe the world could be saved by a physicist. Or even, stretching a bit the imagination, by a biologist. But nobody can make me believe that the world could possibly be saved by a lawyer.
What about the peculiar aspect I mentioned at the beginning – you didn’t forget about it, right?
Well, the fact is that the good old New York Times, thanks to an unfortunate misspelling, had involuntarily given birth to a new category of porn, as documented for instance here (nice WordPress theme, by the way).
But if black holes could in theory be generated in LHC, I’m not quite sure I want to know what can be the outcome of a Large Hardon Collider.
PS: The image on top was linked in a comment on one of the blogs in my blogroll, actually in conjunction with the LHC black hole business. What is actually depicted there, where I did find it and which ones among the blogs I link have dealt with this matter is left as an exercise to the interested reader.