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Science

Colliding Particles Can Make Black Holes After All 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the act-now-while-supplies-last dept.
cremeglace writes with this excerpt from ScienceNOW: "You've heard the controversy. Particle physicists predict the world's new highest-energy atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, might create tiny black holes, which they say would be a fantastic discovery. Some doomsayers fear those black holes might gobble up the Earth — physicists say that's impossible — and have petitioned the United Nations to stop the $5.5 billion LHC. Curiously, though, nobody had ever shown that the prevailing theory of gravity, Einstein's theory of general relativity, actually predicts that a black hole can be made this way. Now a computer model shows conclusively for the first time that a particle collision really can make a black hole." That said, they estimate the required energy for creating a black hole this way to be roughly "a quintillion times higher than the LHC's maximum"; though if one of the theories requiring compact extra dimensions is true, the energy could be lower.
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Colliding Particles Can Make Black Holes After All

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  • Quantum black holes are unstable. Now if they manage to create a tuned string [davidbrin.com] we need to start worrying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Arancaytar (966377)

      Oh dear... that means a violin might cause the apocalypse?

    • by Urkki (668283)

      Quantum black holes are unstable.

      Prove (in the scientific sense of "prove") that, and you'll become famous (possibly rich, too).

      Because your proof would most likely have to involve unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity, or alternatively pretty novel physical experiment, results of which might be used by others to do the theoretical unification... In either case, fame and riches await!

      • by russotto (537200)

        Prove (in the scientific sense of "prove") that, and you'll become famous (possibly rich, too).

        Except that Stephen Hawking (both famous and rich, I believe, though sadly unable to really enjoy it) beat you to it.

  • The Large Hardon Collider [newstechnica.com], to be turned on tomorrow, is designed to pump various types of hardon up to huge energies before banging them together. However, many concerned citizens without the personal experience or understanding of what hardons do worry at the idea of the large hardons being sucked deep into a black hole.

    The device will push large, energised hardons through a ring repeatedly, faster and faster, as smoothly and tightly as possible, until they clash and spray matter in all directions. "It's nothing that cosmic rays don't do all the time all over the place," reassured a particularly buff scientist. "It's perfectly right and natural."

    Low-energy hardon physics and the temperature dependence of hardon production are well understood, as is the process of a hardon smoothly entering the nucleus. But some question what may happen at greater, hotter energies.

    Church leaders have come out at the device. "They're the same polarity!" said Pope Palpatine XVI. The Church worries that strange matter may recruit normal matter and turn it strange.

    The Large Hardon Collider was to launch in May, but this has been delayed. "I'm so sorry," stammered a scientist, "this has never happened to us before."

    • by JimboFBX (1097277) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:13PM (#30880140)

      Low-energy hardon physics and the temperature dependence of hardon production are well understood

      Especially in the porn industry.

    • by budgenator (254554) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:12PM (#30880926) Journal

      I'm a pornographic film maker and I have just registered a screen-play with the USPTO [uspto.gov] and the US Copyright office [copyright.gov] for a creative work titled "The Large hardon Collider"depicting two white nude male actors running around a ring for the purpose of jousting with their abnormally large, erect penises. When the actor collides his penis with the opposing actor he is assigned a point for the collision, the first actor to achieve 5 points wins the privilege of engaging in the sex scene with a black actress. Any talk or writings involving "large hardon collider" or "large hardon collisions" with or without blackholes is a serious violation of my IP rights. My legal team is at this moment is preparing litigation against the more grievous violater one "Anonymous Coward".

      Seriously if newstechnica.com habitually misspells the word hadron [web.cern.ch], which is so fundemental to the topic of the article, how can anybody give them any credibility?

      • by tyrione (134248)

        I'm a pornographic film maker and I have just registered a screen-play with the USPTO [uspto.gov] and the US Copyright office [copyright.gov] for a creative work titled "The Large hardon Collider"depicting two white nude male actors running around a ring for the purpose of jousting with their abnormally large, erect penises. When the actor collides his penis with the opposing actor he is assigned a point for the collision, the first actor to achieve 5 points wins the privilege of engaging in the sex scene with a black actress. Any talk or writings involving "large hardon collider" or "large hardon collisions" with or without blackholes is a serious violation of my IP rights. My legal team is at this moment is preparing litigation against the more grievous violater one "Anonymous Coward".

        Seriously if newstechnica.com habitually misspells the word hadron [web.cern.ch], which is so fundemental to the topic of the article, how can anybody give them any credibility?

        Fundamental.

    • i love how you comment was modded +5: Offtopic. This is slashdot :)

  • by koan (80826)

    This would explain why people from the future are trying to stop (not my idea), I do wonder "how stable is the black hole?" "could it fall thru to the center of the planet? Or evaporate after existing momentarily"

    This sort of experimentation seems better suited in deep space than on the planet if the answer to #2 is yes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jandoedel (1149947)

      a) a black hole created in a particle accelarator would evaporate too quickly to be dangerous
      b) the energies that LHC is producing are a LOT smaller than the energies that a lot of cosmic rays have when they hit earth. it's a lot of energy for man, but not for nature, actually quite common. While you were reading this comment, a couple of particles with this energy PASSED THROUGHT YOU

      c) don't panic

      • by koan (80826)

        Didn't they say prior to this article that it wasn't even possible?

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          Well, They say a lot of things. You shouldn't worry too much about Them; They're rather an eclectic group.
      • by WetCat (558132)

        Nope.
        LHC creates holes with relative to earth speed~ 0, while in cosmic ray collisions the holes will have relative to earth speed ~= speed of light.
        So if black holes are created on cosmic rays, these black holes will immediately leave earth, while in LHC the holes will stay here and grow...

        • No, they are so small that they will evaporate far too fast for any accidental growth to even be noticed.

      • by mozumder (178398)

        The particles with this energy didn't pass through you, but some of the decay particles with far less energy might have.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by amazeofdeath (1102843)

      "This would explain why people from the future are trying to stop "

      No. The people from the future already know that it's impossible for LHC to create the black holes in question, as they have read this /. article.

    • by koan (80826)

      LOL you guys are brutal.

    • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:56PM (#30881400) Homepage

      Our best theories suggest that if (and it's a big if) a black hole forms, it will evaporate in an instant.

      We KNOW that much more powerful collisions occur all the time from cosmic rays. We also know that none of them have destroyed the Earth.

      That, in turn, means either such black holes don't form even at much higher energies than we are anywhere near able to produce, or that they decay rapidly just as we theorize, or for some other reason it's nowhere near as bad as we think it could be.

      There is no credible theory to even suggest that an LHC produced black hole would be any more problem than those produced naturally by cosmic radiation over the last few billion years.

  • A quintillion times higher than the LHC?

    Might I suggest that we not use the word possible to mean "as likely as your car turning into a pig and flying away".

    Thanks!

  • by erik.martino (997000) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:14PM (#30880164)
    This means that if the earth collapses to a black hole, the extra dimensions exists. This is an incredible result that will most certainly boost confidence in string theory.
  • well duh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandoedel (1149947) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:18PM (#30880214)

    basically what the TFA is saying is that if you put a lot of energy in a very small spot, you get a black hole...

    in other words:

    E=mc
    +
    high mass density = black hole

    Nothing to see here, move along

    PS: IAAP

  • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:21PM (#30880246)

    I don't see how you can prove something conclusively in silico, you put in what you know and you get a distillation of it out. How can you discover* completely new physics when the computer can only start with a potentially incorrect/inaccurate theory and make deterministic calculations based on that input? I mean, you can't get out more than you put in, can you?

    Caveat: I can easily accept that collisions of the same energy take place all the time in nature, even if a hole were somehow formed I have far more confidence in Hawking than someone who can scream "Think of the Children!!!" while keeping a straight face.

    *There's no reason why you can't put in your theory and come out with a simulation that doesn't resemble how things happen in nature and so begin to disprove a theory. That being said, if CERN could have shown the existence of the Higgs boson using only simulations then they might not have bothered with the LHC.

    • by evanbd (210358)

      Complex theories often make many complex predictions. If we have a theory that particles and gravity and such behave as described by this set of equations, it isn't necessarily trivial to answer questions like "Is there some set of initial conditions that will produce a state some time later with these properties?" You have to work out how the question should phrased in precise mathematical terms, and then do a lot of math to get an answer. This is properly viewed as something in between a mathematical d

    • > How can you discover* completely new physics when the computer can only
      > start with a potentially incorrect/inaccurate theory and make deterministic
      > calculations based on that input?

      What "completely new physics"? This is a prediction of the standard model. The calculations had been done before but only by making some pretty large assumptions in order to simplify the math. These guys worked it out much more rigorously and showed that the prediction still stands.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cli_rules! (915096)

      I mean, you can't get out more than you put in, can you?

      Well, it worked for my wife.

    • "Computer model proved conclusively...." No further reading necessary.
  • by meerling (1487879) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:23PM (#30880272)
    It's amazing how so many people who never passed a high school science class (or their schools 'science' class hadn't gone past basic atomic structure) are utterly afraid of crackpot doomsday predictions about something scientific that they don't even have the faintest inkling of comprehension of, while all the experts in that field aren't afraid or worried in the slightest.
    (Now there's a run-on sentence.)
    Of course those scientist don't say it's impossible, though my understanding is that it's probability of destroying the earth is a bit less than that of a winged monkey to fly out your ass leading a miniature brass band.

    Funny thing about all those colossal energies involved, on the cosmic scale, they don't even qualify as peanut crumbs. If they do produce a black hole (of the extremely miniature variety), it's lifespan will be horrendously short, it's event horizon freaking minuscule, and at that scale the distance to the nearest thing to gobble (assuming it can actually suck it in) is the equivalent of light years away. It's just not going to be a threat. If something that like that could be created by these cosmically insignificant energy levels and actually survive long enough to eat planets, the universe would already be pretty darn empty. There are an uncountable number of energy events that far exceed the LHCs energy levels around us constantly, and if you want the really big ones, just point your telescope pretty much anywhere in space and you'll be pointing at several. If that kind of stuff has been going on for billions of years, and we haven't gone poof yet, you're better off buying a flying monkey proof undies than worrying about calling the LHC the 5th horseman.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Rogerborg (306625)

      it's lifespan [...] it's event horizon

      "it's" is a contraction of "it is", not a possessive.

      Sorry, you were saying something funny about high school education?

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "It's amazing how so many people who never passed a high school science class "

      Why bother with science when superstition answers all?

    • by Cruciform (42896)

      Wouldn't there need to be enough mass present to create a gravity well strong enough to draw in sustenance for the black hole? So that even if you create an itty bitty one it will just evaporate due to starvation and the effects of other gravitational and molecular forces...

      I could almost certainly misunderstand, but I am curious about these subjects. :)

    • by tftp (111690) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @03:19PM (#30881650) Homepage

      If something that like that could be created by these cosmically insignificant energy levels and actually survive long enough to eat planets, the universe would already be pretty darn empty.

      You know, the universe *is* pretty darn empty.

    • by iris-n (1276146)

      There are an uncountable number of energy events...

      Uncountable? Err... I would think that they are finite. It depends a lot on how you define event, but IMHO it is not possible to get worse than countable infinity.

    • by TheCabal (215908)

      People generally don't understand astrophysics. High school science classes generally concentrate on biology (baby pigs are cheap) and chemistry (most of the students probably understand how to make meth better than the teacher). Usually one or two experiments in physics, generally dropping things.

      Secondly, people just understand that black holes are Bad Things, the "most destructive force in the universe" (thank you Disney) and that the universe will end with a Real Big One, because that's what they saw on

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      It's the whole doomsday thing that everyone's afraid of. Look how many people were caught up in the Global Warming scam.

    • It's just not going to be a threat. If something that like that could be created by these cosmically insignificant energy levels and actually survive long enough to eat planets, the universe would already be pretty darn empty

      You, ah, DO realize that a planet is "cosmically insignificant", right? And we don't even need a complete anihilation of earth to no longer be able to live here.

      The LHC throws two particles at each other at very close (on an absolute scale) to the speed of light. While parcticles wiz by at just this speed all the time, they (1) don't tend to hit each other head on, and (2) usually don't collide near a planet.

      Your argument against it is as invalid as the threat.

  • Please remember (Score:5, Interesting)

    by diewlasing (1126425) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:26PM (#30880322)

    While this very well could be true, I'd just like to point out that a computer simulation is no substitute for an actual experiment.

    Also, while I'm no expert in the subject of string theory, if one could reach the Plank energy, wouldn't it then be possible to find these supposed strings about which everyone's been talking?

    • Re:Please remember (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gerafix (1028986) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:58PM (#30880750)
      The funny thing is some people will point to this model and say, "OMG SEE EVIDENCE OF TEH BLACKHOLEZ OF DOOM!!!" While in the same sentence say, "Models of Global Warming are just MODELS, made up COMPUTER SIMULATIONZ!!!"
      • Re:Please remember (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CanadianRealist (1258974) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:54PM (#30881376)

        This can be explained very simply.

        Shutting down the LHC will not inconvenience these people in the least.
        Telling them not to use their SUV to drive to the corner store all the time, or to use it for a one person long distance commute to work will inconvenience them.

        • Re:Please remember (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Gerafix (1028986) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @03:34PM (#30881814)
          From their perspective anyway. The majority of people have a huge cognitive dissonance between what science actually does for them and what they think science does for them. What science does is allow us the comfort of technology (SUVs, food, water) and what they think science does is something entirely different (crazy useless experiments or whatever). This fallacious train of thought is of course in no way hindered by our societies seemingly unashamed bashing of intellectual curiosity while simultaneously praising ignorant brow-beating chest thumping religious platitudes. If that statement offends people I am only more reinforced in my opinion.
  • by gregor-e (136142) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:27PM (#30880340) Homepage
    Because I have several computer models that predict what I should trade to become fabulously wealthy. Excellent!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      For the record, those financial models were perfectly accurate. The data fed into them, however, was stupidly naive and optimistic, which isn't surprising, as the users of the models tweaked the data to get the results they wanted.

      Or: Why you should blame the carpenter, not the hammer.

    • In Soviet Russia becoming fabulously wealthy predicts having several models and trading them on your computer, because you say so. Excellent!

  • the infinity irony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:30PM (#30880376) Homepage Journal
    Here is the irony to me. Einstein won his noble prize for the Photoelectric effect. This effect has traditionally been see as on that requires the quantization of energy for sub atomic particles. This was 1905. This was based on idea of Max Planck in which he limited the available oscillations of light to solve the ultraviolet catastrophe, a mathematical result in which the unrestricted energy of a black body radiator would result in infinite energies. This did not any sense.

    But someone, Einstein's other work, general relativity, that does result in infinities is assumed to be true. I was thinking we would have this fixed by now, and 2001-2010 would be as productive as 1901-1910. Perhaps the year 2000 was the beginning of a little dark age,and will have to wait a while for science to restart.

  • I wonder whether a quintillion is bigger or smaller than a gazillion?
  • If they are scared by the odds of creating a black hole in the LHC, then should be hidden and trembling below their beds as are far more probable ways to end the earth, the human civilization or their own lives in any minute than the black hole one. Is almost as possible as creating red matter [memory-alpha.org], with the same attributes than in the movie.
  • We always knew that it was likely possible that particle collisions could create black holes. The physicists who said this wouldn't happen at the LHC agreed that that was likely possible. The key is that people with their heads screwed on straight understood that this was vanishingly unlikely for particles in the LHC. All this result shows is that it confirms that there is in fact an energy level where one can create black holes via particle collision, which everyone believed already. Indeed, if it turned o
  • by Judinous (1093945) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:06PM (#30880860)
    The Luddites that believe the LHC is going to destroy the Earth are really starting to get on my nerves. It is obvious even with a simplistic high-school level of understanding that any black holes formed by the LHC (if such a thing is even possible) are completely harmless. If we were to collide two protons with enough energy to produce a black hole, you would end up with (very temporarily) a black hole that has the mass (and thus gravitational pull) of two protons, with an electric charge of +2.

    Let's take a look at a Helium atom. Helium nuclei are (usually) composed of two protons and two neutrons, thus they have roughly twice as much mass (and gravitational pull) as our aforementioned black hole. This nucleus also carries an electric charge of +2. That means that Helium nuclei exert more attractive force on their surroundings than the worst-case scenario black hole that can be produced by the LHC.

    In the most extreme case, the closest that one of these miniature black holes would get to sucking in the matter around them would be to capture an electron or two into orbit around them in the same way as a Helium nuclei would, before the black hole evaporates. That would be quite an exciting, interesting, and completely harmless development.
    • by stevelinton (4044) <sal@dcs.st-and.ac.uk> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:20PM (#30880996) Homepage

      If we were to collide two protons with enough energy to produce a black hole, you would end up with (very temporarily) a black hole that has the mass (and thus gravitational pull) of two protons, with an electric charge of +2.
       

      Not true, or at least not the way you mean. Each of the protons going into the collision carries its rest mass, but also the extra mass due to the fact it's moving at almost light-speed. In the case of the LHC this is about 10000 times greater, so you end up with a black hole with the mass of roughly 20002 protons (and, indeed charge +2).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @03:05PM (#30881492)

        Not true either. At the energies the LHC will collide, not the protons collide, but the constituent quarks and gluons. In fact, when producing very massive objects, it will be the quarks constituting the proton, the so-called valence quarks, that interact; gluons and the so-called sea-quarks are extremely unlikely to reach those energies. So you would end up with some fractional charge. A detail, maybe, but as an LHC physicist, I like things correct :-).
        The comparison to the helium atom is wrong too: helium ions, stripped of their electrons, exert quite an electrical pull on their surroundings. But usually they very quickly recombine into neutral helium atoms. Or they have to be accelerated such that their kinetic energy is to large to form a stable atom.
        Finally, the comment about the mass of the moving proton is plain wrong too. The only thing that matters to calculate the gravitational pull of the created object is it's rest mass. The relativistic mass that is being referred depends on the frame of reference (and is therefore an uninteresting quantity we never really work with). Imagine the force being dependent on the frame of reference...
        That all being said, I agree the whole apocalyptic story is plain stupid, but as scientists we cannot afford using wrong arguments. And we need better PR maybe, because a 1/quintillion (or whatever probability limit set) is maybe not zero, but should be rounded down as such for public dissemination.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stevelinton (4044)

          I take your point about the quarks. The point about mass though is that there is a privileged frame in this context, namely the rest frame of the eventual black hole. If you are in some other frame you will see a HIGHER mass, since you will see a moving black hole at the end of the day. Another way of seeing it is that the energy put into accelerating the protons ends up in the rest mass of the black hole.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Right. Uhm. Point taken. I should have read your post instead of just moved my eyes quickly over it. Indeed, if we could produce black holes of 2 proton masses, we'd have found them already. The guys we are talking about here would be order 1000 more massive.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        No, it really only has the initial mass, but it has the additional energy. They aren't converting energy to mass ... yet. Just because it behaves as if it has more mass doesn't mean it actually does, and this sort of thinking is what causes science to be so incredibly wrong that we end up writing things in history books about the time people thought the universe revolved around the Earth.

        Correlation and observation gives you ideas about whats going on, and those ideas are often wrong, even if it takes use

        • by Dr. Spork (142693)

          They aren't converting energy to mass ... yet.

          Actually, they are. The very reason why they need such energetic collisions is that the collision energy becomes particles, and some of these are rather interesting. So for example, we didn't "find" the top quark. We made it (a massy particle) out of energy.

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)

      You are forgetting two things, though:

      1) The difference in kinetic energy before and after the collision. If the kinetic energy after the collision is lower, there must be more mass (recall that mass is energy) to compensate. Hence, you may end up with more particles than you started with.

      2) Particles do not necessarily survive a collision. Therefore, you may end up with different particles than you started with. These may have resting masses lower than two proton masses if the kinetic energy is higher.

      In s

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      The Luddites that believe the LHC is going to destroy the Earth are really starting to get on my nerves. It is obvious even with a simplistic high-school level of understanding that any black holes formed by the LHC (if such a thing is even possible) are completely harmless.

      First off, let me state clearly, I have no belief that they are going to create a earth swallowing black hole.

      However ... There is absolutely 0 proof that it will go either way. The high school physics you speak of regarding this are d

  • by Lulu of the Lotus-Ea (3441) <mertz@gnosis.cx> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:36PM (#30881162) Homepage

    Gee, what's wrong with this sentence:

          Now a computer model shows conclusively...

    I'm sure the research modeling is interesting and worthwhile, and it's just the writeup that is idiotic. But y'know *computer* models do not ever show anything *conclusively*. The model is only as good as the assumptions that went into designing it. Those might be good and reasonable guesses, but you are only doing the model because you *haven't* (or can't) observe the actual phenomenon.

  • by budgenator (254554) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @03:01PM (#30881458) Journal

    Correct me if I'm wrong as I'm not a high energy particle physicist, a particle's energy/mass would only exists at it's maximum along it's axis of velocity, m = mrest/ sqrt(1-v^2/c^2) and v is varied by the cosine of the angle of approach or the radial velocity therefore it is likely that a relativistic particle could have some collisions that would satisfied the conditions for a black-hole and some that did not simultaneously. We generally view a blackhole event horizon as a psychologically comfortable sphere, yet a relativistic blackholes event horizon would be shaped like an hour-glass.

  • Now we just need to figure out how to inject some code for a buffer overflow attack so we can obtain root access!
  • Every day, thousands of particles hit earth at speeds MUCH faster than what the LHC can do.
    They create black holes.
    If anything could have happened, we would all be dead for a looong time. In fact the universe would never have developed any planets, if this would create black holes.

    Anyone who still mentions it... even if it’s only to say that there are some crazy people who are crazy... deserves to be bitch-smiten with a wet crocodile.

  • The last earthlings words spoken will be: OOPS!
  • The title of the slashdot article, "Colliding Particles Can Make Black Holes After All," is misleading, although the summary is less misleading. There's no "after all." Here [arxiv.org] is the earlier paper, by Giddings and Mangano, which concluded that the LHC would not cause the end of the world. Here [arxiv.org] is the more recent paper, by Choptuik and Pretorius, referred to in the present slashdot summary.

    The "after all" makes it sound as though the Choptuik paper contradicts the Giddings paper. It doesn't. Giddings and Chop

  • Black holes are so dense that not only matter, not only light, but even information cannot escape beyond an event horizon. If running the collider proves correct the model with extra compact dimensions by creating black holes at LHC energies, those black holes might consume the proof. And the Earth with them.

  • ...but if someone proposed a collider that would produce energies "a quintillion times higher than the LHC's maximum," I'd still be for it. Those collisions would be freakin awesome!

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