Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/20/lhc_feedback_roundup/

LHC dimensional apocalypse from midnight: Your thoughts

Aliens, gov planetbuster boffins, many others write in

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 20th November 2009 12:58 GMT

Well, this is it. In the early hours of tomorrow morning, scientists at the controls of titanic machines situated in mighty hollowed-out caverns and tunnels deep beneath Switzerland will begin to unleash forces so vast and complex as to tax the very limits of human comprehension. The mighty Large Hadron Collider, most powerful matter-rending machine ever assembled by the human race, will once again begin to shoot beams of particles around its superfluid vacuum-pipe lightspeed doughnut.

Following last year's disastrous electrical crackup and associated liquid-helium explosion which put the mighty machine out of action until now, CERN subterranean-boffinry chiefs have gone for a lower-profile approach than we saw last year. The actual planned time of restart has not been released to the media, and the splendidly comical global hysteria seen in September 2009 has failed to materialise.

We thought that was a shame, particularly as we have it on the authority of no less a boffin than Dr Sergio Bertolucci - one of the top scientists at CERN - that the LHC may in fact create a gateway to other dimensions. Through this dimensional portal might come "something", according to Bertolucci - or through it things from our own native four-dimensional universe might pass into some mysterious other continuum.

CERN may not have released the restart schedule to the press, but in a characteristic move they have posted on the internet where anyone can read it. Keen amateur LHC-watcher Chris Stephens has done so, and thus we know that beam commissioning - that is, the first beams to go all round the collider tracks - starts on the midnight-to-eight shift tomorrow morning (with "splash events", it says here).

So, while the world waits for the mighty machine to fire up, we thought we'd bring together a little compilation of your thoughts on the matter - many, many of you have commented and written in. Naturally, this being the internet rather than the Royal Society or somewhere, the debate has tended to focus on the likelihood of the LHC destroying the Earth or perhaps entire universe and/or the various kinds of dimensional-portal invasions which might occur.

Commentard Valerion flagged up the upsetting notion that the Collider might suddenly replace the present universe with another and different one:

The problem I have

Is the whole "recreating the conditions just after the big bang" thing.

The last time that happened, as I recall, the entire Universe sort of came into being and proceeded to grow continually outward at, presumably, the speed of light.

Seems to me that starting off another one of those in Switzerland could be considered A Bad Thing.

'The Doctor' writes: It should be only a 500 kiloton blast, actually

The commentard known only as "Dr." started off in a similar vaguely-plausible sounding humdrum vein, writing:

"a patch of false vacuum 10 exp. -26 cm across is all the recipe demands" for the creation of a "pocket universe" which, disconnecting from our universe "in roughly 10 exp. -37 seconds," would leave behind a black hole which would evaporate (by the Hawking process of pair creation) "in roughly 10 exp. -23 seconds, releasing the energy of a 500 kiloton nuclear explosion," about 17 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.

But the mysterious Doctor then engaged proper Fruitcake Mode:

Something like that also appears to be predicted by Nostradamus ("Les Propheties...", Rosne, Lyon, 1557, verse IX-44) in Geneva, when a transmutation of elements is done there ("Saturn will transmute gold to iron") by that opposite to a positive ray (RAYON POSITIF, abbreviated to RAY POZ), followed by "extermination of all" ... "by secret fires, a great place will be scorched" ...

Splendid stuff. But actually it seems that everything should be OK and Geneva won't be vapourised in a titanic subterranean nuclear blast.

Up to now now the rays of positively charged protons accelerated in opposite directions ("Le contre RAY POZ") and lead nuclei have been used in accelerators and planned for the LHC, but gold nuclei have been used to make new superheavy elements. According to the prophecy IX-44, all one has to do in order to avoid this fairly local disaster in Geneva is to avoid using gold as a target as well as accelerated gold nuclei!

Phew, that's a relief. Provided that bungling LHC boffins can manage to avoid mistakenly putting gold into the Collider instead of lead or protons, it will - according to Nostradamus, anyway - not explode with a force devastating enough to destroy a city. Even so, there's at least one anonymous coward out there who's taking no chances.

Personally in circumstances like these I prefer to have my back close against several thousand meters of granite. I know they could come in from that direction but I also keep a sheet of aluminium foil handy just in case.

It's good to see the old ways being kept up.

Others pooh-poohed the notion that the LHC could possibly destroy the world. Peter McAulay chipped in, disparaging the machine's abilities.

Turning the planet into soup etc. is definitely out of the question. We need about 18 orders of magnitude more energy for that.

Petrea Mitchell asked the obvious question, saving us the effort.

And just HOW do you coincidentally happen to have just precise knowledge about planetary liquification, Mr. McAulay? Hmm?

Plainly Mr McAulay works for a secret government lab where they have long ago developed a weapon capable of turning planets into soup and are now working on a technology capable of powering it.

It was also - of course - generally felt that there was bound to be some involvement by aliens. Commentard Lee Dowling pointed out that if LHCs could cause colourful mega-scale destruction, aliens conducting similar experiments ought already to have done so, visibly.

There might be a big bang at the LHC in the conventional sense (smoke, flames, loud noise) but we're not going to be kick-starting the second Big Bang.

If we could, we'd be witnessing Big Bangs and self-created black holes all over the cosmos and they would be our primary indicator of "intelligent life" ... But if we don't at least try, we might as well have stayed in caves eating cold veggies because we had no tools to hunt or cook with.

'You Earthbound beings amuse me'

One anonymous coward considered this and brought up one of the best-known rules of science, at any rate the science one learns - as we learn ours here at the Reg - mostly from chaps in the pub.

But what about if by a million/billion/whatever to one chance we are the first "intelligent life" to emerge. Someone has to be, and we all know that the thing about million to one chances is that they happen nine times out of ten.

Others felt that the aliens would get involved more directly. Another AC had this to say:

Aliens will turn up and be like "wtf you doing?"

Though he was promptly contradicted by an apparent actual alien, albeit an anonymous one.

You earthbound beings amuse me

Why is it that you always wish to define the unknown in terms of your greatest fears?

What has happened to the adventurer in you?

What indeed. There was also some stern criticism for the tone and quality of the Reg's coverage and debate round the issue. Commentard Stephen Huyssoon was especially forthright.

That you can think of and discuss this subject as a joke displays a shallowness of thought and a closed state of mind. I get so tired of this. Shoot yourself.

As was yet another AC, who objected to our use of the term "countless aeons".

What's wrong with "13-14 billion years"? Too sciency? Excessive factiness?

There's enough ill-educated hogwash being bandied about in relation to the LHC already, ta.

And one adam wrote in too:

You speak out of both sides of your mouth first you say there is a potential of mangeling the fabric of space-time but then you say "nutballs" (whatever that means) think this could doom earth. WELL WHAT IS IT THEN! CAN IT MESS UP SPACE TIME OR NOT. NICE REPORT!

Thanks. I think.

There was also some chitchat around the interdimensional portal invasion issue, with Trevor 3 pointing out that the mere fact that Bertolucci only expects the gate to open for an unbelievably brief interval means nothing.

Yeah, ok it maybe 10^ -26 seconds on our side, but if they have a different temporal linear time frequency to us, it may be open on their side for...well...years...

Or if time is actually their 3rd dimension what could be 10^ -26 seconds for us could be a location 900 metres to the right of where they are stood.

No-one ever thinks about this! Or the children in the other dimension!

Unanswerable, we say.

'My god - it's full of boobies!'

Sir Sham Cad argued convincingly that the case is already proven, noting our earlier coverage of the LHC losing power following an attack by feathered saboteurs.

I think the best proof we have that the LHC is actually going to open a doorway to a universe of Gollum-esque Space Nazis is that our future selves have sent back armies of avian agents armed with baked goods and strategic maps of weak points in the structure in order to prevent the invasion that wiped out all the fish in 2048.

Events to date were interpreted in quite another fashion, however, by bRick.

We already know it doesn't work- because in one of the parallel universes the LHC wouldn't have had that glitch that we had last September...

So if it had worked that dimension would have already invaded ours ages ago.

Others noted that dimensional portal invasion is a game that two can play, and that the best form of defence is attack. chris 251 said:

Maybe they know exactly what they are going to create and we have an invasion force ready and waiting to go in hard on some unsuspecting alternative dimensional species.

you never know! however, the chances are we are we are doomed!

We didn't notice a secret international taskforce of special-forces interdimensional shock troops massing around Geneva during our recent visit to the LHC, but perhaps they had already mustered in their subterranean beachhead. It's a comforting thought.

Others felt that the possible destruction of the universe was a small price to pay for quality entertainment and/or scientific knowledge, and joined the aliens in deploring the amount of handwringing going on. A bold anonymous coward wrote:

If the world come to an end. So what.

If we open a gateway to another dimension? Cool but so what they will be as tired of us as we are of them. Besides its a tiny tiny tiny speck for a fraction of a second. I doubt anyone in this other dimension would notice it.

CERN! Rock on.

A cheerful note was injected by Paul_Murphy, who had possibly wandered in from another forum altogether - or possibly not. Anyway, he raised a point that everyone else had missed.

'My god - it's full of boobies!'

Of course we will be wanting pictures

Which left everyone stumped. It was left to an anonymous Geneva resident - though a Brit by the sound of him - to introduce some sound, rational thinking to the discussion and offer us all a sensible way ahead.

In the incredibly remote possibility of a black hole being created, might as well go down with a pint in hand.

Good advice, we say, for this or indeed any other weekend. We'll certainly be taking it.

Just before heading out to the pub, however, we would note that the LHC is only firing up full beams tomorrow, not doing any collisions. The very worst that could happen in the event of a mishap would be a so-called "beam dump" in which a beam would be diverted like a runaway truck down a side tunnel and blast into a specially-prepared water-cooled and intensively shielded graphite block buried deep underground.

The actual collisions - and with them all the good stuff - don't start until 3 December, according to CERN's openly-readable secret schedule. We'll keep you posted.

Until then, have a good weekend. ®