Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not With A Bang, With A Whimper.

A new paper by a trio of scientists concludes that although mini black holes created by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe could survive for longer than previous estimates, they pose no threat to Earth.
"We conclude that ... the growth of black holes to catastrophic size does not seem possible. Nonetheless, it remains true that the expected decay times are much longer (and possibly ≫ 1 sec) than is typically predicted by other models ..." (PDF here, p. 7.)
According to the paper,
"After the black holes are created at the LHC they can, depending on the value of Mc [their critical mass], live long enough in the RS scenario to escape into the atmosphere or into the Earth. They can grow in mass and therefore in horizon radius by absorbing anything which comes within their capture radii. There are two basic mechanisms by which the black holes in general might accrete: one due to their collisions with the atomic and sub-atomic particles they encounter as they sweep through matter, and one due to the gravitational force the black holes exert on surrounding matter once they come to rest." (PDF, p. 3.)
Makes sense so far. Mini black holes grow in size by eating through matter or pulling matter into themselves. The question is, could a wild mini black hole created at the LHC last long enough and accumulate enough mass to come to rest inside Earth and just keep growing. The authors conclude that wouldn't happen because the black holes would never grow beyond microscopic size before they decay or pass through the Earth. (PDF, pp. 5-6.)

So, the Earth is safe but the paper doesn't say what would happen if one of these wild black holes happened to pass through a human being, or whether it could happen. If it could, and if it did, it would surely suck.


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