Risks Feed

September 01, 2008

LHC Nearing Full Operation, May Produce Black Holes

CMS Higgs Event
Source: CMS Media/CERN

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN continues on target to ramp up to full operation after a second and final test of the beam synchronization systems was completed on Friday, August 22, 2008.

Scientists are excited about the possibility that the collider will produce unstable, short-lived black holes or even dark matter. Physicists Steven Giddings and Michelangelo Mangano have ruled out the potential for dangerous, stable black holes to be created in a paper entitled Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes published in the journal Physical Review D on August 15, 2008.

The first attempt to circulate a beam of particles is set for September 10, 2008 and will be webcast live.


January 31, 2008

CERN's LHC particle accelerator to begin operating in May, 2008

Update September 1, 2008: The LHC continues to ramp up to full production and the first attempt to circulate a beam of particles on September 10, 2008 will be broadcast live. See the full update here.

Update August 7, 2008: The LHC is scheduled to begin operation on September 10, 2008 and ramp up to full production in early 2009.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is nearing completion of the world's largest and most complex scientific instrument. The final element in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was lowered in place on January 22, 2008. The LHC is a particle accelerator which will be used to accelerate tiny particles to extraordinarily high velocities to observe their resulting transformation in collisions with one another. The facility is scheduled to begin operation in May, 2008. There have been a number of news articles in the past few years that have speculated on remotely possible catastrophic risks posed by the LHC.

One speculation is that the LHC will create miniature black holes. If this happened, standard physics theory expects that these black holes would evaporate very quickly due to Hawking Radiation. However, some have suggested a remote possibility that these miniature black holes would not evaporate, but would grow to consume the Earth within a short period of time.

Another highly unlikely possibility is that strangelets could be produced. Strangelets are hypothetical objects that are comprised of roughly equal numbers of up, down, and strange quarks. The concern is that these objects would begin to change other matter that they come in contact with into strange matter, resulting in a runaway process that converts the entire Earth to strange matter.

The consensus within the physics community is that the operation of the LHC is safe. Studies have been conducted which have analyzed the risks and concluded that these catastrophic scenarios are not credible. The official position of CERN is that experiments in particle accelerators are completely safe and the risks have already been adequately analyzed and dismissed in previous studies. A small minority, however, disagree. James Blodgett noted that Dr. Walter L. Wagner is so concerned about the existential risks of experiments to be conducted at the LHC that he is proceeding with an effort to initiate legal action against CERN to force it to conduct additional safety studies.

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LHC Nearing Full Operation, May Produce Black Holes

Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here.


January 22, 2008

Cell Phone Sensors Detect Radiation To Thwart Nuclear Terrorism

PhysOrg.com is reporting that researchers at Purdue University are working to develop a system that would use a network of cell phones to track radiation in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks with dirty bombs or nuclear weapons. Tiny solid-state radiation sensors are already commercially available and the additional circuitry would not add significant bulk to portable electronic products. The researchers tested the system and demonstrated that it is capable of detecting a weak radiation source 15 feet from the sensors. A fully developed system could cover a nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a large scale tracking system that would require no intervention from individual users.

Chris K. Haley, NestedUniverse.net. Subscribe Get free RSS or email updates here.