B.C. scientists aim to unlock secrets of the universe
Buried deep beneath the border of France and Switzerland is a machine of such extremes that its properties are difficult to imagine.
When activated later this summer, it will consume as much power as a medium-sized city, operate at temperatures as low as –270 ° C (colder than outer space), and fire a beam of energy powerful enough to melt a small car almost instantaneously.
There is also a chance that when the machine is turned on, it will create miniature black holes that could suck the entire planet into oblivion, though most scientists have dismissed such concerns.
The Large Hadron Collider, as it’s called, is a circular tunnel 27 kilometres long and between 50 and 175 metres underground. Many sections are large enough to fit a cathedral inside with room to spare. Looking at a map of the structure, entire towns appear as nothing more than dots overhead.
For more than a decade, scientists at universities throughout British Columbia have played a significant role in the project. Many of the discoveries these people hope to make with the apparatus are difficult to comprehend. How do you visualize extra dimensions, for example? Or describe so-called dark matter?
These are the types of questions that some 2,000 scientists from almost 50 countries have set out to explore. Their tool is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built, one that will attempt to obtain clues to the origins of the universe by simulating its existence just billionths of a second after the big bang. That's the cosmic explosion theorized to be responsible for the birth of the universe. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) approved construction outside Geneva in 1994, and Canada made its first financial contribution in 1996. The entire project is estimated to have cost $8 billion.
For the LHC, Canada built a series of large quadruple magnets that can control the direction of a charged subatomic particle with nearly unprecedented accuracy (to within 25 microns). The country’s most significant role, however, was its contribution to something called the ATLAS detector.
The plan for ATLAS is to discover the most basic building blocks of the universe and work to understand the most fundamental forces of nature.
“That was our buy-in,” Nigel Lockyer recently told the Georgia Straight in a telephone interview. Lockyer is the director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, located at UBC. “The Canadian universities got together and decided what part of the experiment they were going to build,” Lockyer said of ATLAS, “and a lot of that was built at TRIUMF.”
Rob McPherson, an associate professor at the University of Victoria and Canada’s representative at CERN, sat down with the Straight at TRIUMF and explained what the Large Hadron Collider will do.
“From this accelerator, we get one proton beam going one way and another proton beam going the other way,” McPherson began. “And then we collide these proton beams in four places, one of which is at ATLAS.” ATLAS was built between 1998 and 2008 by an international collaboration involving more than 2,000 scientists, including over 100 from Canada. It weighs roughly 7,000 tonnes and is the size of a small building.
Protons are positively charged subatomic particles that are a part of what make up the nucleus of an atom. A nucleus is an atom’s very small and very dense centre. When you collide protons at very high energies, they explode and, in the debris, can create new particles.
According to McPherson, the LHC will collide beams of protons (from hydrogen nuclei) travelling at 99.999999 percent of the speed of light. As the beams circle inside the LHC—completing the 27-kilometre circuit 11,000 times per second—their energy will reach unprecedented levels. When two protons collide, 14 trillion electronvolts of energy will be released, which could be enough to produce new types of particles that nobody has ever seen before.
These energies are difficult to relate to everyday life. But McPherson said that the concentrated energy of one beam is roughly that of a 400-tonne train travelling at 150 kilometres per hour—only instead of the energy spread out across the body of an entire vehicle, it exists at a single, very tiny point in space.
Focusing such high energies in such a minuscule space will generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the sun, according to a CERN fact sheet.
McPherson went on to explain that ATLAS is one of four detectors that will monitor these collisions, which will re-create conditions similar to those that existed within billionths of a second of the big bang. Experiments at ATLAS will, essentially, take us back in time, close to a point when everything that exists began from an unimaginably small point of infinite energy, when the entire universe was no larger than a sphere one-third of a metre in diameter.
“We don’t know what happens at these scales [of energy],” McPherson said.
Isabel Trigger worked on the ATLAS detector from October 1999 (a few months before she married McPherson) until she was recruited by TRIUMF in June 2005.
Walking through CERN’s European doors is the scientific equivalent of a religious experience, the ATLAS-Canada physics coordinator told the Straight in a telephone interview, although the facility is not the mad-scientist’s project that novelist Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons made it out to be.
“While they do make antihydrogen there, it would take several billion years to make enough to pose a danger to the Earth,” Trigger said. (In Brown’s novel, Vatican City was held hostage by a cult armed with antihydrogen bombs stolen from CERN.) And they are having retina scanners installed for access to the LHC, which Trigger jokingly said “really freaked everyone out”.
Trigger was at CERN working on a component of ATLAS called a muon spectrometer. Muons are elementary particles, among the most fundamental forms of matter.
Rob McPherson, Canada's representative to CERN, and his
wife, TRIUMF’s Isabel Trigger, have dedicated the last
decade to working on the Large Hadron Collider.
ATLAS was designed to measure the direction and energy of elementary particles, partly because that information could hold evidence of something called the Higgs boson particle. The Higgs has never been observed directly because it is highly unstable. It will only exist for one millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second before decaying into a spray of other particles.
Although widely accepted arguments for the Higgs exist on paper, physical evidence has never been observed. Nicknamed the “God particle”, the Higgs has become something of a Holy Grail for physicists. It could be the Higgs that gives particles (and everything) mass.
And here is where TRIUMF and UBC, UVic, SFU, and other Canadian universities come into play. When the LHC’s beams collide, billions of particle collisions will occur. With all that debris, so much data will make analysis a major challenge.
According to a TRIUMF media release, it is one of only 12 CERN Tier-1 data analysis centres in the world. Every second, 320 megabytes (about 100 songs’ worth) of information will run from ATLAS to these Tier-1 computers via dedicated Internet connections. In this global web of information, the Higgs is one of the first things that scientists will be looking for.
“We have the Standard Model,” Trigger said, which she described as a bunch of equations that explain why particles have mass and interact with forces like electricity and magnetism the way that they do.
Basically, it is a model of the 16 known elementary particles (and their interactions) that make up all matter. But there are some holes in it. Gravity, for one.
Gravity is a function of mass; the greater an object’s mass, the greater its gravitational pull. But the Standard Model cannot account for gravity; it does not explain enough of the mass in the universe.
“There’s no contradiction between gravity and the other stuff we see,” Trigger said, “But we know there’s gravity, and we’d kind of like it to fit the same model.” The Higgs boson would complete the Standard Model. But even the Higgs, a particle that is, theoretically, 100 to 200 times the mass of a proton, cannot be the whole story.
Colin Gay is an associate professor at UBC and a member of the ATLAS-Canada group. He will be working on the central tracking chamber of the ATLAS detector, looking for evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model.
According to Gay, the Higgs is the “bare minimum” scientists working with the LHC can expect to find. Without the Higgs, the Standard Model becomes mathematically nonsensical, he said. “After 30 years, we are finally getting to this crucial energy range where the theory is really backed into a corner.”
But, he continued, “There has to be something else because, really, that model doesn’t make sense to our guts; it doesn’t feel right.” For Gay, the answer to explaining the universe is in something called supersymmetry theory, or even extra dimensions.
It’s a concept that twists the human mind in an unnatural direction.
Gay tried to explain a fourth dimension of space through an analogy: imagine living your whole life on a piece of paper in a world where everything you knew, from the Earth to the farthest reaches of space, existed within that very thin plain. Would you be able to imagine the direction up? No? That doesn’t mean that up is not there.
“It would be a spectacular discovery,” Gay said, “that in addition to the three space dimensions that we have, that there was another one that was fairly large, that we just hadn’t noticed.”
According to Gay, the mass that the Standard Model cannot account for could exist within this extra dimension.
“That would drastically alter our view of how the universe is structured,” he said.
UVic's Rob McPherson, Canada's representative to CERN, on dark matter and supersymmetry.
However, evidence of dark matter and supersymmetry will likely come before any extra dimensions are found, according to UVic’s McPherson.
For decades, McPherson explained in a later interview in his office at TRIUMF, scientists have hypothesized that gravity can be explained by the existence of dark matter in the universe.
But dark matter (along with a mysterious constituent dubbed dark energy) cannot be observed directly and is only assumed to exist because of the movement of galaxies and other very large objects. This is theorized to account for as much as 96 percent of the mass in the observable universe.
“One of the best theoretical models for explaining dark matter is something called supersymmetry,” McPherson said. “In supersymmetry, there is almost always a very good candidate for a massive particle that is almost invisible, exactly what we want for dark matter.”
Supersymmetry theory hypothesizes that every known particle has a partner with an equal mass. The extra mass of these particles could go a long way to accounting for gravity.
ATLAS might be able to detect particles that supersymmetric particles decayed from. This would provide evidence of supersymmetry.
“Additionally, these decays should include dark-matter candidates which show up as missing energy and momentum in our detectors,” McPherson said. “And this would be a fantastically exciting outcome.” It would account for more mass.
Amid all the excitement, some scientists have warned that working with such high energy levels could be catastrophic.
Walter Wagner, a former nuclear safety officer who claims to have been studying nuclear physics for more than 30 years, has brought a lawsuit against the LHC and CERN in a federal court in Hawaii.
According to his complaint, the levels of energy created by the LHC’s collisions could create microscopic black holes or “strangelets”, either of which could destroy the entire planet. A black hole is a region of space with an incredible amount of mass. The result is a gravitational field so powerful that not even light can escape its pull.
Speaking to the Straight from Hawaii, Wagner explained his concerns. “A micro black hole would simply bounce around, hitting other atoms and absorbing them into itself,” he said. Over a period of months or years, a reaction that began in the depths of CERN’s underground laboratories would eventually grow to swallow the Earth.
A strangelet, Wagner continued, is potentially more stable than any kind of existing matter. If one were created inside the LHC, it would convert any matter it came into contact with into a part of itself.
“The larger atom would eventually convert all of the Earth into a large strange atom,” Wagner said.
Part of Wagner’s complaint for a temporary restraining order reads: “There is no question that should defendants inadvertently create a dangerous form of matter”¦or otherwise create unsafe conditions of physics, then the environmental impact would be both local and national in scope, and quite deadly to everyone.”
Wagner maintains that nobody has come up with definite proof that CERN will not create these potentially disastrous particles.
It turns out that he’s technically correct.
Dugan O’Neil is an associate professor at SFU and is one of approximately a dozen scientists that the university will have analyzing data from ATLAS. Federal funding for TRIUMF’s computing centre goes through SFU, making it another Canadian institution that is playing an integral role in CERN’s groundbreaking work.
Addressing concerns raised by Wagner’s lawsuit, O’Neil said that it is never going to be possible to completely exclude some “very strange things” from happening.
“It would be fascinating if those theories were right,” O’Neil, said, only somewhat jokingly. “But the probability that they’re right is exceedingly small.”
He continued, “There’s no evidence that microscopic black holes exist; there’s no evidence that strangelets exist.”
O’Neil said that concerns around micro black holes and strangelets have developed out of mathematical theories written in a particular way that make predictions for these dangerous particles possible. “It’s much easier to come up with a crazy idea than disprove an absolutely crazy idea,” he added.
Asked for odds on whether or not the world will end, O’Neil laughed but declined to commit himself to numbers. “Extremely, extremely unlikely,” he said.
So we could discover how the universe originated, what it is made up of, and why it works the way that it does. And the probability of destroying the Earth in the process is relatively small.
The LHC is estimated to have cost $8 billion, approximately $100 million of which has come from Canada, according to Walter Davidson.
As director of national science facilities for the National Research Council of Canada, Davidson controls the purse strings on the country’s role in the project. Canada has been funding and working on the LHC for 14 years, he said. “Yes, it is expensive, but the financial burden is shared among continents.”
“Why do this and not spend money on poor in Africa? Or a war in Iraq?” Davidson mused. “They are trying to re-create conditions in the Large Hadron Collider that existed in the very, very beginning of the universe, 14 billion years ago.”¦It is part of exploration, part of something deep and innate within humankind to do that.”
For many, this would be enough for Canada’s $100 million. But the country does have more tangible benefits to gain from the LHC. Davidson noted that during the past decade, Canadian industry has been awarded very challenging contracts by CERN.
Canada took on an important role in constructing the LHC and has moved to become a leader in analyzing the data that the LHC will produce, Davidson continued. These accomplishments will likely garner an eventual economic return on Canada’s investment, he said.
The Canadian-designed ATLAS detector–pictured here
nearing completion in 2006–will monitor reactions
involving energy levels never before produced by humans.
CERN has made its share of profitable discoveries (the Internet is a media favourite), but the LHC is not about money. More than two decades ago, Eric Vogt had a dream to expand TRIUMF with a project called KAON. He wanted to build a facility that would then have fired the most intense beam of subatomic particles in the world. As with the LHC, Vogt’s goal was to solve the mysteries of the universe.
In 2009, the construction of Vogt’s dream facility will be completed—but in Japan, not B.C. Vogt was never able to secure the necessary federal funding for his project.
“You win some and you lose some, and we won TRIUMF, after all,” Vogt told the Straight in a telephone interview from his home in Vancouver. “I came here to found TRIUMF in 1965, and that worked.”
From 1981 to 1994, Vogt served as the director of TRIUMF. On May 4, he was celebrated by UBC for four decades of physics teaching and research at the university. For Vogt, answering why the world should spend 14 years and $8 billion on a device with no obvious practical application is beautifully simple.
“One of the most wonderful gifts that we have as human beings is our sense of wonder,” he said. “The fact that we are able to construct some relatively simple pictures using the mathematics that our brains can invent to describe what happens around us”¦that is just a marvellous thing.”
Richard Taylor, recipient of the 1990 Nobel Prize in physics and a professor emeritus at Stanford University, was among the guests at Vogt’s party.
Asked prior to the event why a project such as the LHC is important, Taylor’s answer came quick.
“It’s not important to me; I’m going to die pretty soon.”¦What good is it to my grandchildren? That’s the right question.”
He continued, “I have a mind. I think about things; I’m curious”¦and this is going to tell me some things I don’t know. That’s enough, for me. But for my grandchildren, I want them to start with more knowledge than I started with 50 years ago.”
Taylor said that the LHC will not change peoples’ daily lives any more than Copernicus’s discovery that the Earth revolves around the sun. But although people may not like it or even know it, discovering that humans are not the centre of the universe did change the way the human mind thinks.
So will discovering where our universe came from.
May 16, 2008 at 12:58am
“Why do this and not spend money on poor in Africa? Or a war in Iraq?” Davidson mused.
A 100 million could go a long way to mitigating poverty and homelessness right here in Canada. What a crying shame that scientists [read: atheists] are allowed the freedom to squander valuable resources on a "theory" that can never be proven.
May 16, 2008 at 6:14am
Quote: "O’Neil laughed but declined to commit himself to numbers. “Extremely, extremely unlikely,” he said."
I am not sure what this estimation is based on. Earlier this year CERN posted on its Safety web site predictions that micro black holes might be created at a rate of up to one per second. The Safety web site still predicts that micro black hole production will not be an unexpected event. So we might reasonably estimate a 50% chance of creating micro black holes when the Large Hadron Collider begins collissions later this year.
However CERN believes that any micro black holes created will evaporate, even though their LHC Safety Assessment Group does not assume that micro black holes would radiate and decay for purposes of risk assessment, and multiple physicists include Dr. Adam Helfer have published peer reviewed work concluding "no compelling theoretical case for or against radiation by black holes".
Even so, CERN believes that even if micro black holes are created and even if they do not evaporate, then they will surely grow so slowly as to not pose any conceivable threat to Earth in Earth's expected remaining 5 billion year life span, and CERN promises to release a theory of this proof soon. However Germany's Dr. Otto E. Rossler, father of Chaos theory, recently published work calculating that a single micro black hole might accrete Earth in closer to 50 months.
Though some state "Extremely, extremely unlikely", the actual odds of danger may in fact be closer to 0% or closer to 100%. Probably one of the two. Science does not know enough at this point to say with confidence which extreme is more likely. But if all goes as planned, we could have an answer in as soon as 50 months after collissions are scheduled to begin this year.
I support the lawsuit to require reasonable safety assessment prior to gaining this knowledge purely from trial and error.
May 16, 2008 at 10:37am
The upcoming Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN could be dangerous. It could produce potentially dangerous particles such as mini black holes, strangelets, and monopoles.
A CERN study indicates no danger for earth, [Ref. 1] but its arguments are incomplete. The reasons why they are incomplete are discussed here.
This paper considers mainly micro black holes (MBHs) with low speeds. The fact that the speed of resultant MBHs would be low is unique to colliders. An important issue is the rate of accretion of matter subsequent to MBH creation.
This study explores processes that could cause accretion to be significant.
Other dangers of the LHC accelerator are also discussed.
I. Arguments for danger in LHC particle accelerator experiments
"In the 27-kilometer-long circular tunnel that held its predecessor, the LHC will be the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It will smash fundamental particles into one another at energies like those of the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, when the temperature of the Universe was about ten thousand trillion degrees Centigrade." [Ref. 5]
1. There is a high probability that micro black holes (MBHs) will be produced in the LHC. A reasonable estimation of the probability that theories with (4+d) dimensions are valid could be more than 60%. The CERN study indicates in this case a copious production of MBHs at the LHC. [Ref. 1] One MBH could be produced every second. [Ref. 4 & Ref. 5]
2. The CERN study indicates that MBHs present no danger because they will evaporate with Hawking evaporation. [Ref. 1] However, Hawking evaporation has never been tested. In several surveys, physicists have estimated a non trivial probability that Hawking evaporation will not work. [Ref. 9] My estimate of its risk of Hawking evaporation failure is 20%, or perhaps as much as 30%.
The following points assume MBH production, and they assume that Hawking evaporation will fail.
3. The cosmic ray model is not valid for the LHC. It has been said that cosmic rays, which have more energy than the LHC, show that there is no danger. This may be true for accelerators that shoot high energy particles at a zero speed target. This is similar to cosmic ray shock on the moon's surface. In these cases the center of mass of interaction retains a high speed. This is different from the situation at the LHC, where particles with opposing speeds collide. With cosmic rays (mainly protons in cosmic rays) we need a speed of 0.9999995 c to create a micro black hole of 1 TeV and after the interaction the micro black hole center of mass will have a speed of 0.999 c. As MBHs are not very reactive with matter, calculations indicate that this is more than enough velocity to cross planets or stars without being caught and to escape into space.
4. Lower speed MBHs created in colliders could be captured by earth. Using Greg Landsberg's calculation [Ref. 3] of one black hole with velocity less than escape velocity from earth produced every 10^5 seconds at the LHC, we have 3.160 (US notation 3,160) MBHs captured by earth in ten years. More precise calculations show that we could have a distribution of MBHs at every range of speed from 0 m/sec to 4 m/sec. The probability of very low speed MBHs is not zero. We need to evaluate if low speed MBHs present more risks.
5. The speed of a MBH captured by earth will decrease and at the end MBHs will come to rest in the center of earth. The speed will decrease because of accretion and interaction with matter.
If we consider that:
a. The CERN study's calculus for accretion uses the "Schwarzschild radius" for the accretion cross section. [Ref. 1] In the case of low speeds, we must not use the Schwarzschild radius for the calculus of accretion. There are several reasons the capture radius extends beyond the Schwarzschild radius. For example, if the MBH speed were zero, gravitational attraction would be active at a distance greater than the Schwarzschild radius.
b. If a MBH accretes an electron, it will acquire a charge and then probably accrete a proton.
c. If a MBH accretes a quark it will then probably accrete a proton. When a quark is caught, the whole nucleon can be expected to be caught because otherwise the black hole would have acquired a charge which is not complete. (For example minus 1/3.) In a nucleus a fractional charge is unstable and is not allowed. This strongly suggests that the MBH will be required to accrete other divided charges to reach a completed integer number of charges. The same process can be expected in regard to quark color.
d. Gauge forces at short distances could also help to capture an atomic nucleus.
Our calculus indicates that a slow speed MBH can be expected to capture 8.400 (US notation 8,400) nucleons every hour, at the beginning of an exponential process.
6. In the center of earth new processes could occur: As stated above, it has been estimated that in ten years 3.160 (US notation 3,160) MBHs could be captured by earth. All MBHs will progressively lose speed because of numerous interactions. After a time (calculations have to be completed to estimate this time) all these MBHs will go toward the precise gravitational center of earth. (Kip Thorne [Ref. 7 p. 111]) After numerous interactions they will stop there at rest and then coalesce into a single MBH. To get an idea and for a first approach our calculus indicates that the mass of this MBH could be on the order of 0.02 g with a radius of 4 x 10^-17 m. At the center of earth, the pressure is 3.6 x 10^11 Pascals. [Ref. 8]. This pressure results from all the matter in Earth pushing on the electronic cloud of central atoms. The move of electrons is responsible of a pressure (called degenerescence pressure) that counterbalance the pressure of all the matter in Earth.
Around a black hole there is not an electronic cloud and there is no degenerescence pressure to counterbalance the pressure of all the Earth matter.To indicate the pressure we must use the surface If in an equation Pressure P = Force F / Surface S if we keep F= Constant and we reduce surface, we are obliged to notice that Pressure P will increase. Here F is the weight of all the matter of Earth and this do not change. As the surface of the MBH will be very small, calculus indicate on this surface an impressive increase of pressure in the range of : P = aprox 7 x 10 ^ 23 Pa .
The high pressure in this region push strongly all the matter in direction of the central point where the MBH is.
Electrons directly in contact with the Micro Black Hole will first be caught, then the nucleus will be caught.
It is sure that the atoms will be caught one after the other but the more the pressure will be important the more the caught will be quick. When a neutron star begins to collapse in a black hole (implosion), at the beginning the black hole is only a micro black hole as we see in [Ref. 7 Page 443]. At this very moment the high gravitational pressure in the center of the neutron star is there breaking the "strong force" which lays between the quarks located into the neutrons.
The MBH will grow there only because of the high pressure.
In center of Earth pressure is normally far to small for such a process, but if we create a slow speed MBH that does not evaporate and if this MBH comes at rest in the center of Earth, the pressure in the center of Earth could be sufficient for the growing of the MBH. We must remember that in the surrounding of the MBH the "strong force" is broken and this could mean that the same kind of pressure process than in neutron star could work there ( in a slow mode compared with a neutron star of course ). In the center of Earth, the high pressure, the high temperature, the increasing mass associated with electrical and gauge forces process could mean important increase of capture and a possible beginning of an exponential dangerous accretion process. Our calculus indicates as a first approximation with a MBH of 0.02 g at rest at the center of earth that the value for accretion of matter could be in the range of 1 g/sec to 5 g/sec.
7. Conclusion about MBHs : We estimate that for LHC the risk in the range of 7% to 10%.
II. Other Risk Factors
The CERN study indicates that strangelets and monopoles could be produced and present no danger for earth. [Ref. 1]
We will present arguments of possible danger.
Strangelets are only dangerous for earth if they are not moving rapidly through matter. If only one strangelet is at zero speed there would be danger. We have seen for MBHs that the cosmic ray model is very different from the LHC where particles with opposing speeds collide. We have seen that, given the impact of opposite speed particles, the distribution of speeds of resultant particles indicates the probability of very low speeds (0 m/sec < speed < 4 m/sec) and this could mean dangerous strangelets. We estimate a minimal risk for strangelets on the order of 2%. We might estimate as high as 10 % if we want to be wise because the danger is primary!
Monopoles could be produced in the LHC. [Ref. 1] .CERN's calculations indicate that one monopole produced in LHC could destroy 1.018 (US notation 1,018) nucleons but it will quickly traverse the earth and escape into space. However, we know that photons produced in the center of the sun need thousands of years to traverse the sun and escape into space because of the numerous interactions. If the speed given to the monopole after interaction is a speed in a random direction, we can imagine that the monopoles produced in the LHC could stay a very long time in earth and be dangerous. 3. Estimate of danger due to our ignorance of ultimate physical laws: We have not exhausted processes that might cause danger. There are other particles, black energy, black mass, quintessence, vacuum energy, and many non definitive theories. We estimate this danger ranging from a minimal 2% risk to 5%.
The CERN study [Ref. 1] is a remake of a similar study for the earlier Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven (RHIC) [Ref. 6] adapted to the LHC.
It is important to notice that: The study for the RHIC had concluded that no black holes will be created. For the LHC the conclusion is very different: "Black holes could be created!" !
The main danger could be now just behind our door with the possible death in blood of 6.500.000.000 (US notation 6,500,000,000) people and complete destruction of our beautiful planet. Such a danger shows the need of a far larger study before any experiment ! The CERN study presents risk as a choice between a 100% risk or a 0% risk. This is not a good evaluation of a risk percentage!
If we add all the risks for the LHC we could estimate an overall risk between 11% and 25%!.
We are far from the Adrian Kent's admonition that global risks that should not exceed 0.000001% a year to have a chance to be acceptable. [Ref. 3] .Even testing the LHC could be dangerous. Even an increase in the luminosity of the RHIC could be dangerous! It would be wise to consider that the more powerful the accelerator will be, the more unpredicted and dangerous the events that may occur! We cannot build accelerators always more powerful with interactions different from natural interactions, without risk. This is not a scientific problem. This is a wisdom problem!
Our desire of knowledge is important but our desire of wisdom is more important and must take precedence. The precautionary principle indicates not to experiment. The politicians must understand this evidence and stop these experiments before it is too late!
Fausto Intilla - www.oloscience.com
1.. Study of potentially dangerous events during heavy-ion collisions at the LHC: Report of the LHC Safety Study Group. CERN 2003-001. February 28, 2003.
2.. E-mail exchange between Greg Landsberg and James Blodgett, March 2003, http://www.risk-evaluation-forum.org. (No longer posted. Request a copy. Risk Evaluation Forum, BOX 2371, Albany, NY 12220 0371 USA.)
3.. A critical look at risk assessment for global catastrophes, Adrian Kent, CERN-TH 2000-029 DAMTP-2000-105. Revised April 2003. hep-ph/0009204. Available at: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-ph/pdf/0009/0009204.pdf.
4.. High energy colliders as black hole factories: the end of short distance physics, Steven B. Giddings, Scott Thomas. Phys Rev D65 (2002) 056010.
5.. CERN to spew black holes, Nature October 2, 2001.
6.. Review of speculative disaster scenarios at RHIC September 28, 1999 W.Busza, R.L. Jaffe, J.Sandweiss and F.Wilczek.
7.. Trous noirs et distorsions du temps, Kip S. Thorne, Flammarion 1997. ISBN 2-08-0811463-X. Original title: Black holes and times warps. 1994 Norton. New York.
8.. Centre de la Terre, Science & Vie N 1042. Gallate 2004.
9.. Results of several Delphi groups and physicist questionnaires, James Blodgett, Risk Evaluation Forum, forthcoming.
May 21, 2008 at 12:36am
Some things are best left un known and some questions are best left without the answer. This is one of those cases. As stated before it is a complete waste of money where it could of been put to much better use, and as excited as everyone is on this project, it concerns me greatly for one reason. Anyway you slice it not one of those scientists knows exactly what is going to happen NOT ONE!
Some might say that this is the trigger for the prediction of the end of the world by the Miyan calendar and could be the reason that pulls the comet into the wrong path and in the end destroys us all.
May 22, 2008 at 12:47pm
<em>Submitted via e-mail</em>
In the article about the LHC for CERN, the question was raised that Canada's contribution, through the NRC, of $100 million could have been spent on humanitarian aid to other countries. Unfortunately, the involvement in CERN is most likely PIK, payment in kind, with only 'value' changing hands whereas foreign aid would require hard cash to buy food, housing , tools or whatever. The Canadian government certainly can't afford to layout $100 million in cold hard cash.
I work for the NRC's Astronomy Technology Research Group - Victoria as an engineer and work package manager designing telescopes and their instruments. One such project is the Thirty Meter Telescope, a collaboration with CalTech among others. The NRC has a mandate to get 75% of it's operating budget from outside sources. As a work package manager, I would calculate the cost of each person to the project by referring to a standard charge out rate based on each person's job category.
A midlevel scientist or engineer has a standard charge out rate of $100/hr. There are 2080 standard work hours in a year. After statutory holidays, holidays, sick time etc. this is reduced to about 1800 billable person hours in a year, making the charge out $180k/year. If there is 10 scientists/engineers working on the project, this becomes ~$2 million/yr. After 12 years, the project has been charged ~$25 million. Yet not a dime of cold hard cash has been spent beyond the normal salaries and benefits of these people. Want the number bigger? Add in some form of net present value of the charge out rate and presto, $100 million pops out.
R Gardhouse, P Eng
Jul 24, 2008 at 1:17am
To be honest - I like LHC. They gave us the Internet they may give us a black hole to touch - or even a short span New Dimension.
The later one may solve all problems at once as the energy release of a imploding dimension is kind of hard to calculate. But for sure less painless then getting eaten slowly by a black hole.
Alexander Joerg Herrmann
129/110 Soi Kantang 7
A.P. Muang Trang