Planetary Annihilation Chances 'Totally Miniscule'

The Large Hadron Collider, under construction in an underground circular tunnel nearly 17 miles long at the world's largest physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists could generate a black hole at a rate of one per second once it comes online in 2007.

Is it safe to have black holes on Earth? Science fiction writer David Brin explored this idea in his very cool 1991 novel Earth:

"Have you created a monster, Dr. Lustig?.. When the mob cut the power cables, Lustig... that let your black hole out of it's magnetic cage. It fell into the Earth then, no? So what happens now? Will it emerge again, blazing and incinerating some hapless place halfway around the world? What did you make here, Lustig A beast that will devour us all?"
"No, of course I didn't."
Alex remembered telling Manella on that day, and everyone else since then. Now he let go of the lie with relief.
"Yes, Mr. Hutton. I think I made the very Devil itself."
Silence stretched as Hutton stared at him. "You're saying ... the singularity didn't dissipate like the experts said? That it might still be down there, absorbing matter from the Earth's core?"
(Read more about David Brin's novel Earth)

According to experimental physicist Greg Landsberg, the chance of planetary annihilation by manufactured black holes "is totally miniscule."

How might the LHC create black holes? At its maximum, each particle beam the Large Hadron Collider fires will pack as much energy as a 400-ton train traveling at 120 mph. Brown University's Landsberg and his colleague Savas Dimopoulos at Stanford University in California calculated in 2001 that if theories about the universe containing extra dimensions other than those of space and time are correct, the accelerator might also generate black holes. Physicists Steve Giddings at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Scott Thomas at Stanford University in California came to the same conclusion.

So why is there no danger here? Physicist Stephen Hawking calculated all black holes should emit radiation, and that tiny black holes should lose more mass than they absorb, evaporating within a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, "before they could gobble up any significant amount of matter," Landsberg said

Read more at Black Hole Factory Will Not Destroy Earth. Or, you could remember that author Brin has a Ph.D. in space science, and go hide under your bed.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/19/2006)

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