Thursday, September 11, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

Last night, Brian Williams on NBC News devoted all of 15 seconds to the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider. He pointed out that it had been put into operation, that the Earth had not been destroyed, and that we are all still here. Seldom has "news" been less novel. We all knew we were still there.

However, just in case we weren't, one of my listserves is offering a "full refund" for disruption of listserve service :)

The same listserve, more seriously, points out another possibility. I usually have trouble following anything that evokes either Einstein or Hawkings, but apparently an alternate scenario is that the Collider could indeed produce a tiny black hole whose growth pattern inside the earth would be too small to be measured for thousands of years, after which it would grow exponentially too quickly to do anything about. It all depends on whether you use Hawkings' model or Einstein's or somebody else's (not Brian Williams').

I have decided not to worry about this. Greg Bear worried about it for me quite competently in THE FORGE OF GOD. And, in a time frame closer than thousands of years, it's exhilarating to think of how much knowledge the LHC may yield. We are all of us created from star stuff, heavy metals forged in long-ago stars, and in those processes lie all the secrets of the universe. The LHC is currently our best chance of learning exactly how they work. Yesterday was a red-letter day for science.


Daniel said...

I read that they were only testing the LHC so far, not smashing anything yet (just shooting particles in one direction, then the other). Naturally no black holes would be formed yet. Personally, I don't think a black hole will form and suck up the Earth, but it'll be interesting to see if the media gives a care when the LHC actually does start smashing protons (in a year or five).

Nick A said...

Someone should write a first-rate SF novel on dark matter: don't recall reading any that tries to seriously tackle the subject.

Nancy Kress said...

I wrote a novella that concerns dark matter -- "Shiva in Shadow." It's in my collection NANO COMES TO CLIFFORD FALLS. (This has been a shameless self-promoting plug).

Nick A said...

Funny you should mention that. I have read all the short stories in NCTCF, up to 'shiva...'. Good collection.

James A. Ritchie said...

Yeah, it will be sometime next month before any particles get smashed, October 21 is the target date, so we may still vanish in a black hole.

I'm betting with Hawkins on this on. I doubt Higgs will be found.

g d townshende said...

I rather liked the following response regarding Hawking's comment, found in this article:

But Adz of Gosford had Prof. Hawking's plan all figured out.

"Smart bet really. If it doesn't work, he wins. If it does work and eats the world (after all that's the purpose of this machine), he doesn't have to pay up. *golf claps*"

A friend recently sent me a link to a YouTube video regarding this, a song done rap-style. I thought it was quite humorous.

Nancy Kress said...

gd-- That is WONDERFUL! Everybody, you have to see that rap.

TheOFloinn said...

A friend of mine, a cosmologist, says that whenever the math results in a singularity it is a sure sign that the math model has failed. This usually happens at boundary values or extremes. Essentially, a singularity is when some parameter goes to infinity, and there cannot be a physically realized infinity. I understand there is a formulation of the quantum theory under which black holes simply don't happen.

Heck, we haven't found atoms yet, let alone Higgs bosons. My theory is that the Higgs boson will be found the same way the "atom" was found: be redefining the term to designated whatever as been found. That's how Columbus discovered the Indies, after all.

James A. Ritchie said...

Who knows? Maybe this is why the galaxy isn't teeming with sentient races all visiting earth? Maybe every intelligent race reaches the point where it creates a black hole that destroys the home planet before true space travel is around to save them?

bluesman miike Lindner said...

James, atsa nice one! Brings to mind the old ah-deer that every intelligent race kills itself with nuclear war. Well, we've survived that so far (though the Madman of Iran must give us pause...)

I meself believe there's plenty of intelligent races in the mighty Universe (why would God waste so much prime real estate?), but maybe the FTL barrier awaits a genius or is a real barrier.

UFOs? They certainly exist, but they're not alien ships. The UFO phenomenon is =much= stranger...

And here's 2 ah-deers for books:
An anthology of supernatural horror focused on the theater. Call that one COLD READINGS.

And Nancy craves an ah-deer for a new novel? How about MOBY DICK from the whale's POV?