June 03, 2003

Kids! Don't Try This at Home!

The Christian Science Monitor on the prospect of making black holes in the laboratory:

Artificial black holes: on the threshold of new physics | csmonitor.com: ...Amazingly, scientists are becoming increasingly confident that they will be able to create black holes on demand, in quantity, using the new atom-smashers due to come online in the next five years. Some estimates suggest that the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN -the acronym is in French) will be able to create an average of one black hole each second. LHC will bombard protons and antiprotons together with such a force that the collision will create temperatures and energy densities not seen since the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. This should be enough to pop off numerous tiny black holes, with masses of just a few hundred protons. Black holes of this size will evaporate almost instantly, their existence detectable only by dying bursts of Hawking radiation.

What exactly are scientist looking for in the Hawking radiation? For one thing, it's a big mystery whether Hawking radiation contains any information about the particles that formed the black hole in the first place, or fell in later. Those particles had charge, spin, and other fundamental characteristics that may not have been erased by the black hole. Also, the exact manner in which a black hole dies may give us a view into higher dimensions in space. The most recent theories about the Big Bang and the earliest moments of our universe suggest that there were more than the four (three of space, one of time) we normally experience...

Posted by DeLong at June 3, 2003 12:02 PM | TrackBack


'scuse me while I cash in my 30-year bonds,
and spend the money *before* we all get
destroyed by somebody's black hole generator :)

Posted by: Barry on June 3, 2003 12:12 PM

Actually, it's the quest for the Higgs particle that gives me the willies. The Higgs is an excitation of the 'state' of elementary particle masses. Everybody assures me that it's all perfectly safe, but still, I -like- the mass of the proton at its -current- value. Really.

Posted by: Matt on June 3, 2003 12:17 PM

If I remember well, at the time of one of the first nuclear, or thermonuclear, there was some margin in the calculation to expect that the explosion heat could ignite the athmospheric nitrogen fusion, which would have wiped clean all the surface of the planet.

There also is some short SF tale on such an issue.


Posted by: Antoni Jaume on June 3, 2003 01:21 PM

Presumably this experiment would determine what happens to the entropy of the original system when the black hole is created. The answer to this question will help resolve what black holes are 'made' of. One of the more intriguing theories is that it is a form of Bose-Einstein condensate...

Being able to create one in a laboratory will shed light on this matter ;)

Posted by: chris_a on June 3, 2003 01:23 PM

This may be a stupid question but might it not be dangerous to create black holes here on earth? Even if they're small wouldn't they be like a universal solvent that could potentially suck up everything around them?

Posted by: The Fool on June 3, 2003 02:15 PM

I think the prospect of scientists creating blackholes that could suck up the entire planet, and deposit it god knows where, suggests the need for inspections.

Posted by: Amitava Mazumdar on June 3, 2003 02:47 PM

I don't mean to be a "Nervous Nelly" but the idea of tiny black holes being created on earth scares the hell out of me. As Bill Joy notes, there is no undo button for some things. Still, it would be a magnificent achievement....

Posted by: Troy McClure on June 3, 2003 04:02 PM

"becoming increasingly confident"

Snort. No one's confident, much less increasingly confindent that we'll see black holes at CERN. It would be neat, but I don't think anyone would bet all that much on it.

Safety's probably not a big deal because higher energy collisions occur in the upper atmosphere all the time.

Posted by: Aaron on June 3, 2003 04:02 PM

Snort. Exactly.

Posted by: Walter on June 3, 2003 05:44 PM

Small black holes evaporate *fast*. They won't have time to accrete anything. The main distinguishing characteristic is that their decay modes look like nothing else in particle physics.

It is *highly* unlikely that the "fundamental" Planck scale (as opposed the "effective" four-dimensional Planck scale) is a low as would be required to be able to manufacture micro black holes in accelerators. It requires that these scenarios of "large extra dimensions" be correct and that the real world lie at the very edge of the allowed parameter space.

On the other hand, if true, the result would be so darned dramatic that it's worth thinking about.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on June 4, 2003 12:30 AM

Evidently, judging by the budget, somebody in the White House has already come up with an artificial black hole generator . . .

Posted by: rea on June 4, 2003 09:20 AM

Well, if they succeed, SOMEBODY is gonna have egg on their face, either Hawking, Yilmaz, the string theory folks...the results will determine who gets hit by the flying egg bits.

In other words, we'll at least eliminate some potential candidate Grand Unified Theories.

Posted by: David Mercer on June 4, 2003 10:40 PM
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