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Man-Made Black Holes Looming? 300

Posted by michael
from the danger-will-robinson dept.
camusflage writes: "The New York Times has a story that some physicists think it might be possible to make black holes at the under construction Large Hadron Collider at CERN, slated to come online in 2006. Trying to allay concerns about a man-made black hole blipping us out of existence, they say "The same calculations ... predict that around 100 such black holes a year are `organically' and apparently safely produced in the earth's atmosphere in cosmic ray collisions." As long as we can keep critters from building nests in the singularity, we should be okay."
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Man-Made Black Holes Looming?

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  • by Steel_viper (462121) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:01AM (#2290764) Homepage
    Can't have any naked singularities running around...

    Ouch. Black hole puns. There's no excuse.

    Viper Out
    • by Edgewize (262271) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @03:14AM (#2290995)
      Don't worry about posting a pun. When the story is about black holes, there's no escaping it.
      • Couple that with the fact that I originally read it as the "Large Hardon Collider" and did a double take, I figured this was a physicist's equivilant of the "real doll" [realdoll.com]

        Sorry! That's just how my demented brain processed it

        Mike

      • I'm curious how they can contain it? Would they use some kind of vacuum combined with a magnetic containment system?


        If so, then it would really suck if the power went out...

        • No kidding. I'd really rather something like this was done in orbit or at a Lagrange point or something so that if the facility does go fubar, we'd have a little time to do something before it sinks into our tender little planet.
    • I remember reading A Brief History of Time [amazon.com] where Stephen Hawking talks about a "cosmic censorship hypothesis", which in its weak form states that singularities can only occur in places (like black holes) where they're decently hidden from public view. In its strong form, it says that singularities can only occur in the past (such as the Big Bang singularity), or in the future (such as with a singularity in a black hole)...

  • if they really can control them, then this might have some potenial for swallowing up balistic missiles. just a thought.

    maskirovka
    • if they really can control them, then this might have some potenial for swallowing up balistic missiles. just a thought.

      The problem with a small black hole that eats up a balistic missile is that it suddenly becomes a much bigger black hole.

      From the site may be able to produce miniature black holes on demand.

      Notice they say miniature black holes - I'm presuming these are the sort of thing that you look at with a microscope (or not in this case since there won't be any light escaping...), not the sort of thing that captures a balistic missile.

      Of course is you can manouver one of these things into the way of a balistic missile, then hold it in place against the kinetic energy imparted by said missile, you already have the technology required to stop the missile, so the black hole itself is rather pointless.

      Pity really, it sounds like a good plot for a SciFi story.
      • >Pity really, it sounds like a good plot for a SciFi story.

        Check out the relatively unknown SciFi series called Star Wars. The newer books, telling the story approximately 20 years after the death of the emperor, already include using black holes as offensive and defensive weapons. Quite interesting, since it is suggested that these holes can also be controlled sizewize. Not impossible *if* you know how to extract energy from a black hole. Interested? Check out the "New Jedi Order" books.
        • Check out the relatively unknown SciFi series called Star Wars. The newer books, telling the story approximately 20 years after the death of the emperor, already include using black holes as offensive and defensive weapons

          Of course I wouldn't consider Star Wars to be 'hard SciFi'. Doesn't George Lucas say that the books (I'm presuming you mean the official books here) are second only to the movie in 'correctness' about the Star Wars universe.

          Still I'm glad I don't live there, without midichlorines(sp?) in my blood, I'd be one of those extras that get killed off early for effect.
          • Indeed it is fairly safe to say that SW isn't hard ScFi, but cool to read anyway. The best thing, which keeps it soft scifi, is that the authors do not pretend that the technological advances are possible and try to convince me by overloading me with pages of possible explanations of future tech bits. I want that that, I'll read J. Verne :-)
        • Check out the relatively unknown SciFi series called Star Wars. The newer books, telling the story approximately 20 years after the death of the emperor, already include using black holes as offensive and defensive weapons. Quite interesting, since it is suggested that these holes can also be controlled sizewize. Not impossible *if* you know how to extract energy from a black hole. Interested? Check out the "New Jedi Order" books.

          So-called Hawkings Radiation is the only energy known to extract itself from black holes. The problem is that even if drastically accellerated, it would be a lengthy process and there is reason to believe that as a black hole might decay, it might actually eventually explode. Cool, we get rid of the ICBM and get something much more dangerous which will either:

          1: Eat us and everyone else alive or

          2: Explode with near perfect matter to energy conversion making the ICBM threat look pretty minor.

          Either way, it would be a very bad idea.
          • Hawkings Radiation is the only energy known to extract itself from black holes

            This is not correct as a general statement about black holes. Hawking radiation is the only method of extracting energy from a stationary, static black hole (the Schwarzschild and Reissner-Nordstrom black holes), meaning one that is not evolving in time. Hawking radiation is, however, a quantum energy extraction process, not a classical process. Angular momentum (and hence energy) can be extracted from a rotating black hole (the Kerr and Kerr-Newman black holes) by means of the "Penrose process" by objects passing through the "ergosphere" a region of space outside the hole with certain wierd and wonderful properties. Unlike the Hawking process, this is a purely classical energy extraction process, the only one known.

            The idea is that you carry with you an object that you don't really care about, fly in the direction of hole rotation into the ergospere, throw the object you are carrying into the hole, and you will come out with more energy than when you went in. You net gain energy, so the hole has to net lose energy.

  • But why ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by popeyethesailor (325796) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:08AM (#2290787)
    We all know Black holes suck..
  • by smaughster (227985) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:12AM (#2290795)
    Ok, I can see a certain (vast) amount of coolness in building a black hole, but what I interested in is practical applications of this. How about:

    • Your own little black hole instead of a trash can.
      Placing your black hole between you and your mother in law to suck in the boring conversation.
      No more standing in line in shops or outside disco's.
      A good excuse when your boss comes complaining about all the budget you are eating: "It wasn't me, it was the company black hole!"

    • Your own little black hole instead of a trash can.


      The only problem is that you'd hear news stories about people who produced too much trash and caused their "trash hole" to grow in size so much that it swallowed their whole house.


      Of course, it would be a much better story for students who didn't do their homework. "Our black hole ate it."

    • In future GUI's, you will be able to delete unwanted files by dragging them to the black hole on your desktop.
  • Not to worry... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TH4L35 (310071)
    The particle physicists say there are only very, very small chances that these singularities could be dangerous. Of course, IIRC, not all physicists believe that small black holes evaporate. Some cosmologists argue that the "missing" dark matter needed to account for the universe's decelerating expansion will be found in many, many mini black holes, so they have found ways to explain how black holes might stick around.

    (alos, if little harmless singularities are popping up all the time in our atmosphere due to cosmic rays, then how come those neutrino detector counts are always coming up short?)
    • Re:Not to worry... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dragons_flight (515217) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:39AM (#2290850) Homepage
      The simple fact is that nature still does better at creating high energy particles than anything we can do in the lab. The reason a 100 blackholes might be created in the atomsphere is because cosmic rays are still more powerful than accelerators. In fact rare extremely powerful cosmic rays, believed to be extra-galatic in origin, are still several orders of magnitude beyond what we can make.

      Since these high energy cosmic rays will have the same types of collisions as they want to produce in the lab, you would expect them to produce black holes if that is possible. Any such black holes that might be produced obviously haven't destroyed the Earth thus far, so these energies are probably safe to use in a lab. Of course this may just mean that they never actually create black holes.

      Regarding your other issue, nuetrinos. The reason they didn't come out right is because Super Kamiokande and the other 1st generation experiments could only detect electron and muon nuetrinos. The next generation results, which came out in the last two years, show that when you account for the number of tao nuetrinos, the total flux from the sun turns out to be right where it should be according to the theories for what goes on in stellar fusion.

      The surprise here is that nuetrinos of one type can apparently turn into another type. We knew from theory how many electron nuetrinos to expect but they were hidden by changing into the other two varieties. Thus the appearance of low nuetrino counts. Flavor mixing, as it's called, is exactly what is predicted and required if nuetrinos have a non-zero mass. So we simple have to accept that nuetrinos have small but non-zero mass and figure out how this revises the "Standard Model" of particle physics.
  • by IvyMike (178408) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:13AM (#2290798)

    From the article: We've been trying for a century, and we still don't fully understand black holes," said Dr. Andrew Strominger. And then he goes on to conclude that we need to make some.

    If they're going to do something which at least sounds dangerous, I would really like it if they could say, "Nothing can possibly go wrong", not, "Our understanding is incomplete."

    • "Nothing can possibly go wrong", not, "Our understanding is incomplete."

      If watching movies gain any insight, these two comments are logically equal. Each time someone says "Don't worry, everything's under control", you bet it's time to panic and flee the scene as fast as you can.

      - Steeltoe
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2001 @02:33AM (#2290942)
      Yeah, let's not become a statistic. I mean, who's to say that the universe's existing black holes weren't all created by intelligent beings who smugly thought "the chances of this wiping us out gotta be pretty slim, right George?".

    • does not inspire confidence. Not just because of the hybris (or the movie indoctrination where nemesis always follows that kind of hybris). But because it is not the sort of thing real scientists say.

      Real scientists know their understanding is always (and will always be, it is mathematically proven (by Gödel)) incomplete.

      And they are not shy of saying so. "Our understanding is now complete" is no way to ensure funding for new reasearch. Think about it.

    • by dragonsister (321121) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @03:55AM (#2291070) Homepage
      If they're going to do something which at least sounds dangerous, I would really like it if they could say, "Nothing can possibly go wrong", not, "Our understanding is incomplete."

      As another poster pointed out - if this kind of black hole creation were going to cause any problems, it already would have. If these high-energy particles they will be making will produce black holes, then there are about 100 black holes produced per year as a result of cosmic radiation - and they haven't been detected yet, so obviously they have a pretty small effect, and there's nothing to worry about.

      People often worry excessively about Nuclear phenomena. This is, as far as I can tell, because very few people actually know what natural levels are.

      There is a natural background level of radiation which varies by 10% from place to place. Nuclear facilities are typically permitted to increase the level by 1%. By contrast, international flights usually involve triple the normal background level of radiation - it's cosmic radiation that doesn't reach the ground.

      In one mole of carbon - 12g, about what you might find in a fruit - you get about 100 decays a second; this is from the tiny fraction of naturally produced 14C. How radioactive do you think you are? (grin)

      Rachel Butt
      Nuclear Physics PhD student.

      • As another poster pointed out - if this kind of black hole creation were going to cause any problems, it already would have. If these high-energy particles they will be making will produce black holes, then there are about 100 black holes produced per year as a result of cosmic radiation - and they haven't been detected yet, so obviously they have a pretty small effect, and there's nothing to worry about.


        Doesn't matter, this is the United States of America, where anything that's man-made is bad, and anything that's "natural" is good, even if it's identical to the man-made.
      • I am reminded of a novel by James P. Hogan.

        Suppose that one quantum black hole is safe, but that several tend to combine, and be less safe? Is this an unreasonable supposition? Presumably it could be calculated. One may hope that it will be calculated. But there could be effects that depend on the number of black holes that were created (well, on the rate of creation, unless you are somehow trapping them).

        OTOH, I seem to recall that the effective temperature of a black hole is some sort of power law inversely proportion to the mass. So these things might just be a new standard for the maximum temperature. (What's the projected decay time? -- I ought to check the story, but my browser isn't creating multiple windows at the moment.)
    • As a point of clarity, I attended a colloquium about this at CERN in August when I was doing a beam test. It's not so much the fact that they are trying to make black holes, as they think that they have found a way to test for their creation within the LHC. So if it turns out that it DOES happen, it's something that has been going on for as long as we have been on the planet. Nothing to worry about.
    • Joke, sorry (Score:4, Funny)

      by rve (4436) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @07:11AM (#2291414)
      To ensure our safety, all nuclear research should be banned until we know enough about it to know what the risks are.
    • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @08:32AM (#2291592)
      From the article: We've been trying for a century, and we still don't fully understand black holes," said Dr. Andrew Strominger. And then he goes on to conclude that we need to make some.

      If they're going to do something which at least sounds dangerous, I would really like it if they could say, "Nothing can possibly go wrong", not, "Our understanding is incomplete."


      Actually, there's a pretty ironclad argument for this being safe - the same one that comes up every time the press starts fearmongering about more powerful accelerators:

      Cosmic rays with energies far higher than will be produced by any accelerator any time soon have been striking the earth and the moon for billions of years. If high-energy collisioins could cause catastrophy, they would have already, because they've been happening in our neighbourhood for quite a while.

      The fact that nothing around here has been sucked into a black hole yet leads us to conclude that if micro-black-holes can be formed, they don't do much.

      Our current models of black holes suggest that micro-holes would evapourate in a burst of Hawking radiation almost as soon as they're formed. The smaller the hole, the more intense the Hawking radiation (and so the faster it loses mass).
    • by sharkey (16670) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @10:49AM (#2292388)
      That's just the scientific community's way of saying, "Hold my beer and watch THIS!"
  • From the article:

    "Dr. Greg Landsberg, a Brown University physicist who works at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., is part of a team planning for black hole production."

    Batavia is also the home of Aldi [aldifoods.com]. It's interesting that we're expecting a city to control the black holes the make, when the most disgusting refried beans ever produced come from the same town!

  • Speculation on the ultimate weapon at my house settled on countdown controlled blackholes...some small high energy device that, when triggered, creates a black hole that swallows all available matter until a saturation point is reached...tactical black holes, strategic black holes, etc. Of course this is a long tradition, first encountered in my experience with the D&D 'portable holes' and such.
    Still, the synchronicity is interesting...and now that a method seems to exist all that remains is shrinking the power source. Which is a problem this may incidentally solve.
    And forget cemetaries!
  • Big or little...You'll never convince me that making a singularity is a good idea.

    What if, in the future, they have the ability to make bigger singularities...Maybe not "star sized"...But big enough to get started on the world...what then?

    Will we be held hostage by a terrorist, threatening to "eat the world?" It seems farfetched...but, christ, we're talking about black holes, here.

  • David Brin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by weaselgrrl (204976) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:19AM (#2290811)
    Perhaps we should send these guys a few copies of David Brin's wonderful novel "Earth", 1990.


    For those of you who haven't read it, its a story about a group of scientists accidentally dropping a lab-made black hole into the center of the earth. Whoops! Quite a good deal more goes on which and it all makes quite a good read.

    • Re:David Brin (Score:2, Interesting)

      by qubezz (520511)
      Larry Niven wrote about exactly the same thing 17 years before in The Hole Man [fictionwise.com] - it earned him a Hugo Award to (spoiler) postulate that a black hole dropped into Mars would oscillate back and forth through the planet until it eventually all was eaten up and entered the singularity.
      • Re:David Brin (Score:2, Interesting)

        by beable (170564)
        it earned him a Hugo Award to (spoiler) postulate that a black hole dropped into Mars would oscillate back and forth through the planet until it eventually all was eaten up and entered the singularity.
        I think that's wrong, actually. If you dropped a black hole on a planet's surface, it would fall until it hit the ground, then it would start consuming the ground it hit. It would keep falling until it hit the centre of the planet, getting more massive as it fell and ate more of the planet. Because it gets more mass as it falls, after it goes through the centre of the planet, it will go slower more quickly as the gravity of the planet pulls it back towards the centre at the same time as it gets heavier due to eating more of the planet. Therefore, it would go slower each time, until it would stop at the centre, sucking in the rest of the planet. I don't think it would make it all the way through the planet even once.
    • Re:David Brin (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RollingThunder (88952)
      And, ironically enough, Switzerland (where CERN is, if I remember correctly) is a major feature in Earth. Mostly as glow-in-the-dark melted mountains, admittedly. :)

      A fascinating book, very depressing view of the future that is probably all too accurate.
    • Another book... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by b1t r0t (216468)
      Thrice Upon a Time has a plot thread about an experiment that generates tiny black holes that don't show themselves as growing until a few months pass (with wierd unexplainable holes in things until people figure it out). But don't worry, their trusty DEC PDP-21 will help fix things!
  • Worst idea ever (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    On one hand if you can create a temporary black hole, you can go ooh, neat, we created a black hole.

    On the other hand if it turns out not to be temporary, you just destroyed earth.

    Negative risk just slightly outweighs the positive doesn't it?
  • Since there's a relatively concentrated ammount of ambient particles and whatnot here on earth, how would we get rid of the black hole? I know at least that they dissapate naturally when no energy is availible to feed them but since our environment is not that case what can we do? Could we transport it elsewhere?
    • We get to cheat. In order for a black hole to "eat" something the potential munchie needs to have a De Broglie wavelength no larger than the diameter of the black hole (according to prevailing wisdom in how black holes and quantum mechanics will interact). 1 TeV particles have a de Broglie wavelength of about 1.9 * 10^-19 m, and presumably the threshold for creating a blackhole will make ones of roughly this size or slightly smaller (this is the one point I don't know for sure).

      Typical atomic matter at rest has a de Broglie wavelength on the order of 10^-15 m and larger. So if the first blackholes have a 10^-19 m threshold size then they can't eat anything when removed from the beam.

      Secondly the beams are highly charged by nature. We fully expect that black holes can carry electrical charge if there is a charge imbalance in what they eat. So we will presumably have a charged black hole which is a very good thing because charged objects can be trapped in magnetic bubbles and moved according to electrical forces.

      In any case I fully expect that the things will boil off due to Hawking radiation far faster than they can grow from eating matter. Hawking effects are small for large holes but IIRC go as something like 1/R^4 which gets big very fast when R is near 0.
      • We get to cheat. In order for a black hole to "eat" something the potential munchie needs to have a De Broglie wavelength no larger than the diameter of the black hole (according to prevailing wisdom in how black holes and quantum mechanics will interact).

        That's prevailing wisdom. Problem is, gravity is the one remaining fundamental force that hasn't been reconcilled with the others. The strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces all "play nice" in a theoretical sense, but we don't have a quantum theory of gravity that fits with the standard model. We don't really know, in other words. Still, I tend to think it would just "boil off" via Hawking radiation before it became a problem.

        Your point about electric charge is a good one. Presumably, if the beamline was tuned just right (and that's by no means trivial), the black hole could be accelerated back out of the accelerator, and probably into orbit. I suppose it could be contained by magnetic fields until we were ready to launch it (or we could just wait until it boiled off). Not sure whether it would hit much stuff on the way out--I'm too tired to do the calculations. Also, LHC isn't my specialty--I was just working at a cyclotron, which is a horse of a different colour.
  • by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:30AM (#2290829)

    As everyone knows, gravity is the weakest of all the fundamental forces by a very very long way, something like 40 orders of magnitude weaker than the weakest of the nuclear forces. I remember reading an article here long ago (can't find it and put a link to it because Slashdot search is down...grr) that talked about some speculation that gravity is so weak because the universe has more dimensions than the four that we see (this is also a prediction of superstring theory), and while the other three forces are only capable of propagating there, gravity is able to propagate through these extra dimensions, making it seem weaker. These dimensions are supposed to be curled up small so we don't normally notice them, so one of the implications of this theory is that the value of the universal gravitational "constant" should shoot up dramatically when you try to measure it at smaller scales; the smallest scale at which gravity has been measured so far is on the order of centimeters only. Another implication is that it should be possible to create low mass black holes with less energy than the weakness of gravity as we know it predicts. So if these scientists are successful in making such small black holes, it could go a long way to validating this theory.

    • I know next to nothing about superstring theory and all this multiple dimensions stuff, but let me display my ignorance for everyone.

      I seem to remember having read somewhere that the whole point of the multiple dimensions in string theory was that they were incredibly tiny and curled up on themselves. And they were supposed to be less than the planck length in total size, if I remember right. I understand how the dimensions could dissipate the force of gravity, but how does the gravitational force increase at small distances? Wouldn't the multiple dimensions of the two particles somehow have to collide/interact? And wouldn't that only occur if the two particles were closer than the planck length, which is closer than they could possibly get anyway? I know I am missing something here, and I am interested to hear exactly what it is.
      • by dragons_flight (515217) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @02:19AM (#2290919) Homepage
        You're essentially right.

        The original theory expected curled dimensions on the order of a Planck Length (10^-33 m), but some people later showed that is was possible to modify the theory for dimensions of arbitrary size. The question then falls to experimentalist to say how large they might be. As it turns out, it's easy to show that they aren't as large as a meter (unless you modify string theory in some really weird ways that few people consider plausible). Thus we can easily confirm everyone's ordinary perceptions that life at our scale is 3D. However the types of experiments to test this don't scale well, so the best that experiments can say so far is that there are no hidden dimensions on the order of a millimeter.

        Scientists that think that hidden dimensions are really only just beyond the horizon of where we know they aren't are a pretty scant minority right now. Most people expect that they probably are down near the Planck Length and well out of reach. However, the neat experiments and effects (such as black holes) that could be done with access to large extra dimensions make them worth looking for, just in case.
      • I also have seen things about 11 or more dimensions, and all but our familiar 4 curled up too small to perceive. But then I wonder if perhaps that's just a tad egocentric of us. Maybe some dimensions are curled up on our quantum scale, but what if our familiar 4 are curled up on someone else's quantum scale?
        • Maybe some dimensions are curled up on our quantum scale, but what if our familiar 4 are curled up on someone else's quantum scale?

          And what if my Aunt had balls, then she'd be my uncle.

          "What if" is the very beginning of science, but only if you then proceed with some science.
          • >What if" is the very beginning of science, but only if you then proceed with some science.

            It would be nice, but I also recognize that I don't have the math or physics skills. Nor do I have the time/resources to acquire them at the moment or near future. I must also admit that it may well be beyond my capacity to do anything orginal or meaningful on this, no matter how hard I might work.

            But it's fun to read about, and at best if I post ignorant comments on Slashdot, hopefully someone more skilled or knowledgable would respond, even if to set me straight.

            >And what if my Aunt had balls, then she'd be my uncle.

            She/He could be a hermaphrodite in that case, too. It does occur at some rate in the general population. Normally they are 'corrected' by surgery, but that is being questioned. (I withold judgement on the whole matter, but I do know that being 'abnormal' is terrible for a child to live through.)
  • by krazo (220290) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:33AM (#2290836)
    Everybody already knows black holes spontaneously appear. Here's an experiment to prove it.

    Place two matching socks in a washer machine. turn the washer machine on, wait for it to finish. Remove the single sock. Voila. Black holes.

    Now place that single sock into the drier. Turn it on, wait for it to finish. Remove one entirely different sock, which you have never owned. Kazow. Alternate Dimensions.

    The field of pairingsocks physics solved the Black Hole question years before the cosmologists or those silly particle physicists. This article is old news.
  • Maybe they should read:

    How We Lost the Moon, A True Story By Frank W. Allen

    This is a sci-fi short-story about some scientists who "accidentally" created a black hole.

    whoops...
    • There's always The Neutronium Alchemist by Peter F. Hamilton, the second in a long trilogy, but their blackhole weapon involved a jump-drive and a stasis feild, but they did nova a gas giant with it which was cool
  • by Niscenus (267969) <ericzen@nosPaM.ez-net.com> on Thursday September 13, 2001 @01:41AM (#2290853) Homepage Journal
    No, we are not talking about black holes capable of swallowing matter, nor are we talking about the ability to "place them" at any particular point. Though, it does make for an interesting bit of science-fiction.

    You must understand that every individual type of particles and radiants have their own, what may be referred to as, gravimetric frequency. You may note in the article that Dr. Giddings' calculations suggest that the interactions of cosmic rays and sub-atomic particles produce, what he calls, "organic," black holes, referring to naturally occurring black holes.

    This team is producing the black holes from specific, fully separated subatomic particles, those being gluons and quarks. Black holes produced by collapsing stars result from still-integrated subatomic particles (matter), which remain connected gravimetrically to other large sources of gravity (fuel), are not anything to worry about here; in fact, they couldn't even be produced on the surface of the planet (the core, however, is a different idea altogether). The "man-made" varieties will only be able to effect other nearby gluons and quarks. In an vacuum-sealed accelerator, they will not be able to "find" that source of energy and will evaporate relatively quickly; though, I disagree that the result will be an abundance in the spawning of similar sub-atomic particles.

    I recommend The Elegant Universe [amazon.com], by Brian Greene. You'll learn about how the universe works according to ideas as old as "General Relativity" to as recent as the "M-Theory".
    • I like the Elegant Universe, a good read.

      While you've got a good number of the important ideas right, you might want to work on the presentation. It took me several reads to get what you meant, and I know what you are talking about.

      FYI, you get the strean of particles coming out because the intensity of Hawking radiation gets dramatically large as the hole evaporates. All that's needed to create particle X is for the hole to be putting out enough energy equivalent to the mass of particle X. It has a large reserve of energy (and this part is key), because of the theorized change in the gravitational attraction law that makes the whole process possible.

      Ordinarily gravitational potential energy goes as G*m1*m2/r but if the rate law changes energy may go as G*m1*m2/r^(n-2), where n is the number of actual dimensions. Or even some other strange law. Since the effective minimal approach is at least the wavelength of the 1 TeV particles (10^-19 m) and probably considerably less, the fact that the powers of r increase can give a dramatic increase in the kinetic energy of the particles as they approach and thus allow for enough energy to create the black hole and lots of energy for it to then radiate away.
      • Earth [amazon.com] by David Brin - really more of a cosmic string/knot type thing but an excellent read, probably my favorite work by him.
      • Einstein's Bridge [washington.edu] by John Cramer - a hard sci/fi book about the SSC and wormholes.
      • Others??
  • ...aside from the obvious bragging rights -- "What did you do at the office today, honey?" "Oh, I fabricated a few black holes." -- is that, should this work, it would demonstrate that gravity does not in fact obey the inverse-square law over short distances. It blows my mind to think of it obeying, say, an inverse-seventh-power law, which I believe would imply that the universe really has eight spatial dimensions...
  • We're a type 13 planet in the final stages of our development. It's all over.
  • As long as we can keep critters from building nests in the singularity, we should be okay."

    i'm more worried about evil sadistic demonic things torturing me and then taking me with them back to another dimension that resembles hell [imdb.com] [us.imdb.org].

    -BlueLines
  • hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tharsis (7591) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @02:11AM (#2290909)
    The ultimate Darwin Award
  • Is there any discussion of possible industrial applications should this in fact become both possible and controllable?
  • I don't care how smart they might think they are or how many thought experiments they may have done but this is not an experiment I want done on my planet. I'm thinking this kind of shit should be done a deep space probe on the opposite side of the galaxy. want to make a black hole? fine. do it very far away from me. as someone else pointed out we know nothing about black holes theres no way we should be making one. if the scientists want a challenge they can try and figure out why running water makes you want to pee. there are tons of other things they could research and test without putting the entire planet at risk. anyone ever seen the episodes of Lexx on earth? we're the type planet that always ends up blinking itself out of existence.
  • by IronChef (164482) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @03:25AM (#2291018)
    They better not try to put their pet black hole in a bag of holding.
  • ..CS might well stand for crackpots, but definitely some interesting material. Not recommended for philosophobes. may we live in (exponentially acceleratingly) interesting times!

    http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~phoenix/vinge/vinge-s ing.html [caltech.edu]
    http://singularitywatch.com [singularitywatch.com]
    http://singinst.org [singinst.org]

    for the love of Life!
    *(r)

    memes don't exist. tell all your friends.
    (enlightened by na-fun)
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @03:42AM (#2291042) Homepage Journal

    Black holes have a reputation for being mass-gobbling irreversible singularities, and they are. But this doesn't mean a black hole where the Sun is would swallow the Earth. I'm not an expert so someone can correct me if they know it better or more accurately.

    Any amount of mass can be turned into a black hole - you just have to crush it into a small enough space. This is because every bit of matter has an event horizon, including the Sun (or the Earth for that matter). The difference with the Sun and most things is that the event horizon for the amount of matter in the sun is smaller than the Sun. If you crushed all of Sun's matter into a sufficiently tiny space that it was all inside, then everything else that moved inside would collapse and not return.

    What most people don't realise is that if the Sun spontaneously turned into a black hole, we wouldn't die from being sucked in. We'd die from lack of solar energy. Because the Sun-black-hole would have the same mass, everything orbiting it would continue to orbit it the same way it is at the moment. The only big difference would be when something happened to wander inside the event horizon at which point it wouldn't leave, if you ignore all the wierd relativity things that go on at that point at least.

    So I guess the point is that just because someone says they might be able to make a black hole, it doesn't mean you'll be instantly sucked in tommorrow without any warning.

  • by deathcow (455995) on Thursday September 13, 2001 @04:22AM (#2291129)
    Remember that the gravity is proposed to be this Extra-Ordinarily intense only at these "quantum distances". The point was -- you can make the black hole with almost no matter whatsoever, if you can get the particles to play nice at these infinitesimally small quantum distances.

    Fast forward a few years, scientists make a black hole. Why doesnt it destroy the earth?

    1) The black hole weighs no more than the particles slammed together to make it. It has essentially zero pull on anything. A grain of salt would make an incredibly more effective attractor.

    So you say, yes, but the black hole will persist and continue to grow in mass by swallowing more and more particles.

    But the scientists in the Times article say the black hole will "evaporate".

    The following paragraph, from this page [microsoft.com], states it well:

    Since the 1970s, it has been known that black holes are not completely black. In fact, they emit very low-energy radiation called Hawking radiation. The lower the mass of a black hole, the higher the energy of the emitted Hawking radiation. As a black hole radiates, its mass decreases, and it starts emitting more and more radiation, causing it to evaporate more and more rapidly. Eventually, it shrinks to around the Planck mass, the point at which its DeBroglie wavelength is equal to the Schwarzschild radius. At this point, we no longer know what happens, since to describe physics at the Planck scale requires a theory of quantum gravity.

    • Many years ago I read a book by Hawking that talked about black holes, so I'll relate what I can remember. If this is incorrect or has changed in recent years, let me know...

      The origin of Hawking radiation is not due to the fact that something actually escapes from the black hole; this is still impossible. What's essentially believed to happen is this: something weird happens at the event horizon, causing particle/antiparticle pairs to be created. Most of these pairs are destroyed immediately, but some are aligned in such a way that the particle is ejected outside the event horizon, while the antiparticle falls inside. The antiparticle destroys a particle inside the black hole, while the outside particle escapes and is measured as Hawking radiation. The net result of this process is that something has been "relocated" to the outside of the black hole, even though nothing technically "escaped".

      If this happens faster than the black hole can acquire new matter, then it will eventually evaporate.

  • Aren't there already billions of particles right next to other particles in sub-millimeter lengths?

    I.e. with any solid object?

    I'm assuming that they meant to say "when travelling at extremely high speeds toward each other, it is possible that they would enter extra dimensions"... but still, isn't that just a vague idea that we really have no basis to make an assumption on?

    "leap of faith" is an understatement. This is more like a "we have a rocket here that can put you into orbit on 2L of gas!" leap of faith.

    And they "predict" by the same leap of faith that we have 100s of these forming in the atmosphere, so why can't they just go there to do their tests? If what they say is true, that the disintigration pattern is unmistakable, then it should not be difficult at all to perform this in the atmosphere, or at worst in space itself (i.e. the space station)... no?
  • If blackholes are created through natural atmospheric events, then would it not follow
    as night the day, that a small number could last a long time if they found matter to absorb before evaporating?

    Perhaps we have some near the Earth's core, or maybe there is a much smaller but more accesible number
    in the Lagrangian Points [nasa.gov]. IANA astrophysicist but it would seem quite likely that the moon's core would have such black holes. If so, might black holes in the lunar core be detected through perturbation of neutrino density during lunar eclipses?

    On another note might microscopic black holes be able to change the ratio of neutrino flavors seen when solar neutrinos are viewed after passing through the Earth? Fascinating subject!


    Can't wait to store my data in those extra dimensions.. hard disk will never get full! (not)

    • Sorry meant solar eclipse. The story being that
      physicists have found that neutrinos oscillate between three "flavors" during their trip from the Sun to us, and that a different ratio of these flavors is found when they are detected after passing through the Earth. For neutrinos, ordinary matter is as thin as air is to us, but I'd imagine a black hole would put a kink in their travel plans! Some physicist help!
  • How long before we see the Ronco TrashMaster 3000 on Sunday mornings.
  • James P. Hogan, Thrice Upon a Time. It's actually a time travel novel, but one of the subplots involves a particle collider which is making lots and lots of tiny black holes. This was written a couple of decades ago, I believe. A good read if you like Hogan's stuff.

    -Rob Knop

  • Back in the 1940s during the first secret bomb
    tests some scientists were afraid an open air
    nuke explosion would cause the oxygen and
    notrogen in the air to burn into nitric acid.
    And a chain reaction could burn all the air.
    However very little of this happened.

    It is thought the friction of large meteors
    do a similar thing.
  • By far, the most interesting thing I've learned in this thread is that Microsoft is researching black holes: Information loss in black holes [microsoft.com]

    Let's see what kind of conspiracies you guys can cook up with that little tidbit. ;-)

    • We've already found that. It's called a "lost cluster". That's where crucial elements of your data (you know, the small stuff like system files and important documents) go when you have to reset Windows 98 for the upteenth time.

  • If 100 of these natural black holes occur per year in the atmosphere, then the odds of one appearing within the view of the Fly's Eye cosmic ray detector in Utah is quite high. The Fly's Eye has documented several events the apparent energy of which is so large (single atomic nuclei with the kinetic energy of a hard ball) that they are difficult to explain. Perhaps these natural black holes offer some alternative that reconciles observation with theory.

Nobody's gonna believe that computers are intelligent until they start coming in late and lying about it.

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