Unless you’ve sequestered yourself away in a cave somewhere eschewing modern contact in order to attain higher states of consciousness you are aware of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This magnificent feat of science and engineering was started up yesterday and worked flawlessly to the great excitement of the personnel on site. You will notice, even if you are in the hypothetical cave (and reading this via attuning your mind directly into my thoughts) that the world has not, I repeat not, ended. This isn’t news, the world didn’t end the day before yesterday either. But it is something that various crackpots, sorry concerned citizens, around the world have claimed would happen thanks to the LHC. Well we are still around for two reasons, 1. The theories that predict the microblack holes and strange matter these crac-uh-concerned citizens are afraid of also predict their harmless evaporation, you can’t have one without the other. It would be like saying “don’t light a match because it might ignite the atmosphere and kill us all”, and 2. no collisions have happened yet.

What they actually did at the LHC yesterday was to inject a stream of protons into the accelerator and speed it around the 27km track and that’s it. It just went around and around, didn’t hit anything. But they will someday soon, will we die then? Nope. The two things that are bandied about as the path to doom are microscopic black holes and Strangelets. In each case there is no chance that they would be created in the LHC, for a start we are bombarded with cosmic radiation everyday that has energy far in excess to what the LHC can muster. It is estimated that the amount and type of collisions that will occur in the LHC over it’s entire lifetime happen naturally in the Universe 1013 times every second, and yet we are still here. Secondly even if a black hole was created, which it won’t be, it would decay into a spray of particles in less time than you you could say “What a load of bunk”. The safety report goes into a number of iterations of the “Even if…” thought experiments but the outcome is always the same.

Now that we are safe from imminent destruction I’d like to quote my favourite line from the safety report, this has been quoted in numerous other places but cannot be repeated enough I think, “each collision of a pair of protons in the LHC will release an amount of energy comparable to that of two colliding mosquitos“. Awesome.

Resources

http://lsag.web.cern.ch/lsag/LSAG-Report.pdf  -The LHC safety report, a Must Read, go on it’s only 15 pages.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/2008/09/05/scilhc105.xml

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2710348/Stephen-Hawking-Large-Hadron-Collider-vital-for-humanity.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangelet

http://startswithabang.com/?p=878

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/earth/2008/09/05/scilhc105.xml

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7598000/7598686.stm

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