'The LHC will implode the Moon or PUT OUT THE SUN'
Proton-billiards miscue might pocket the black (hole)
Tinfoil Tuesday Here on the Reg Large Hadron Collider (LHC) desk, where we follow the rollercoaster triumphs and disasters which occur at the world's mightiest particle-thrasher, there are occasional quiet spells. Right now, for instance, the titanic machine is shut down for a couple of days' technical tweaks.
On such days we cast about us for an entertaining LHC doom prophet - for instance the splendid though rather creepy Walter L Wagner of Hawaiian lawsuit fame, or the man known simply as "Doctor Dark Energy" and his somewhat foam-lipped plans to eliminate CERN chief Rolf Heuer "and all his bigbangers" using a nuclear weapon supplied by Osama bin Laden.
Today, however, we have a new contender. Step forward Professor Otto Rössler. The prof is perhaps the LHC doom-prophet best qualified in actual physics: though his life professorship at the University of Tübingen was awarded for achievements in chemistry, and he originally qualified as a medical doctor, the 77-year-old academic has taught theoretical physics and published papers on chaos theory. This certainly trumps Wagner's physics minor and Doctor Dark Energy's qualifications as a schoolteacher and "agricultural mechanisation specialist".
Professor Rössler wouldn't make our list just for this, however: what's really brought him up on our radar is an excellent interview he gave to Swiss anti-LHC tinfoiler blog (sorry, "non profit news agency") notepad.ch. In it, the prof reveals some new and splendid notions on how the great Collider will doom us all.
The basis of Rössler's concerns are an old friend, the idea that the LHC may create tiny black holes which could then fall into the centre of the planet, and - in his words - "eat the Earth from the inside out in a few years time". According to the prof, the entire world would then be packed down into a marble-sized sphere "a little bit smaller than 1.9 centimeters".
But that's rather old hat, and far more eminent physicists than Rössler have said that this can't happen - if it could, highly energetic cosmic-ray collisions in the upper atmosphere should have caused it to already.
Rössler counters by arguing that cosmic-ray micro black holes, created by lightspeed rays hitting stationary Earthly particles, naturally pop into existence moving extremely fast and zoom off into interstellar space - if necessary zipping straight through any planets or stars they encounter - before trouble can arise. But he says that LHC micro-holes, created by two proton beams of equal energy colliding with each other head on, could be moving so slowly when generated that they would be unable to escape the Earth's pull despite their extreme titchiness.
Moonbase LHC plan won't work after all
Eminent physics brainboxes such as renowned robovoice wheelchair prof Stephen Hawking say that this still won't work as the microholes would decay by "Hawking radiation" before getting a chance to collapse the world. Rössler says Hawking is wrong, and has written to tell him so, but without any reply so far.
Meanwhile in today's interview the German doc and chemistry prof flags up another worry. The micro-black holes from the LHC, he says, would very probably escape the Earth without destroying it - but then there is a serious risk that they might instead be captured by, and subsequently gobble up, other important objects such as the Moon or the very Sun itself.
Rössler had actually suggested last year that the LHC be rebuilt on the Moon as a safety measure: but he has now changed his mind, saying this would not - even if it could be afforded - be any safer. Notepad.ch quotes him:
But we were talking about the danger to the Sun and the Moon. To the moon for example. So some of these many little black holes that would be radiating away they would be going in all directions. I didn't know that when I said the moon would be safe ...
And therefore the Moon: Enough would be hitting the moon and one would be slow enough to stay on the Moon. It's not very probable but if it many enough it would also happen with one with the Moon and also with the Sun. So the Sun would go out as well.
Presumably a Moon-imploding microhole slipup by careless boffins at the LHC quite literally wouldn't be the end of the world. The tides and so forth would carry on as normal, as the resulting pea-sized black hole in orbit around Earth - while unsatisfactory in terms of romantic moonlight trysts and so on - would have close to the original lunar mass.
Having the Sun go out would be pretty serious, of course. Even so, it still seems unlikely that the prof is right and the LHC is actually a planet-busting blackhole implosion cannon. As a retired biochemist with a sideline in chaos theory he doesn't draw the same sort of water as Hawking and the other pro-LHC heavyweights; and further, if his theories are correct the entire universe should be full of long-lived micro black holes spraying away from cosmic-ray collisions at different velocities. It would seem odd that none have yet managed to get captured by something we can see and implode it. We'd certainly know of any Moon- or planetary-mass black holes in our own solar system.
The assembled boffins of the independent LHC Safety Assessment Group have strongly pooh-poohed any such ideas, saying:
Any microscopic black holes produced at the LHC are expected to decay by Hawking radiation before they reach the detector walls. If some microscopic black holes were stable, those produced by cosmic rays would be stopped inside the Earth or other astronomical bodies. The stability of astronomical bodies constrains strongly the possible rate of accretion by any such microscopic black holes, so that they present no conceivable danger.
Also it has to be said that the sudden change of mind on the safety of a lunar-base LHC - and indeed his vehement insistence that putting it on the Moon would only double or triple the Collider's cost - tend rather to undermine Rössler's credibility, too.
So we'll just have to give up on the prof's colourful predictions, and settle instead for the far more authoritative theory - outlined by no less a boffin than Sergio Bertolucci of CERN itself - that the LHC will instead function as an interdimensional portal. ®