End-of-the-world Filter
March 29, 2008 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Larry Niven warned everyone about it. MetaFilter, too: Try to escape. Quantum black holes is dangerous.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth (70 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a lawsuit raised in Hawaii by a lawyer and an "author and time researcher" on CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Geneva as it goes through it's power-up tests, rather than during the years it took to fund and build it.
posted by lothar at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2008


["its" not "it's"]
posted by lothar at 8:31 AM on March 29, 2008


or they could be portals to awesome.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:43 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


.
posted by pencroft at 8:48 AM on March 29, 2008


Whatever, CERN and this lawsuit are all just viral marketing for an awesome new Michael Bay movie.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


this large hardon collider - it vibrates?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


Wagner and Sancho are just machine elf patsies.
posted by cortex at 9:00 AM on March 29, 2008




humanfront, those links make my head hurt.
posted by mumkin at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2008


The destruction of the earth via a runaway artificial black hole also figures prominently in Dan Simmons's Hyperion books. I know very little about modern physics, but as near as I can tell from the NYT article and Slashdot, the concern is that while the scientists expect the tiny black holes to evaporate due to Hawking radiation, that has never actually been observed. In addition, there's a concern the machine could generate millions of black holes, and they would aggregate together before they had a chance to evaporate, and form a kind of critical mass that starts eating mass faster than it loses it.
posted by gsteff at 9:24 AM on March 29, 2008


Wikipedia says the first collisions are due mid-August. Just enough time for another bath, then.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:31 AM on March 29, 2008


It really would be funny if they're right. Blink. Gone. Just like who knows how many other civilizations on other planets that reached the same point in development, ran the same experiment, and... blink. Gone. And no sign that we, or they, ever existed except for broadcasts defining an expanding sphere around a black hole where we used to be. If anyone one is even listening.

Well, Sir, I think I'll try a yip.
posted by pracowity at 9:35 AM on March 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


If we did create a small black hole, it'd take a LONG time to destroy the earth; years, decades, perhaps centuries.

We'd have time for a few thousand humans to vamoose and take up miserable lives in pressurized domes on Mars (as one of the links implies).

I'm very pro-science but I am slightly disturbed. They didn't set the atmosphere on fire with the atom bomb; they probably won't make the earth collapse with mini-black holes; but I can certainly tell you if they keep trying experiments that have a small chance of destroying everything, eventually they will destroy everything.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:39 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was going to post this too. Thanks for sharing. On a side note I loved the article for its use of words like "crackpots" "quark-gluon plasma" "Doomsday" "ballyhooed" and "primordial."
posted by pithy comment at 9:40 AM on March 29, 2008


I have a feeling the judge is educated stupid.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:50 AM on March 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


I know a "researcher on time theory," several in fact. They always have the good stuff.
posted by wobh at 9:55 AM on March 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


If we did create a small black hole, it'd take a LONG time to destroy the earth; years, decades, perhaps centuries.
Eh? I don't know much about much, but I always assumed that black holes suck matter in at the speed of light. Hence the name. I'm intrigued by a particle-sized black hole that takes years to eat the Earth.
posted by revgeorge at 10:07 AM on March 29, 2008


From the NYT article: There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”

I'm starting my own lawsuit [NOT REPTILIST].
posted by Salmonberry at 10:07 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


And no sign that we, or they, ever existed except for broadcasts defining an expanding sphere around a black hole where we used to be.

Actually, Candlejack is the real rea
posted by fleetmouse at 10:09 AM on March 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Quantum black holes is dangerous.

Just because they involve singularities doesn't mean you're supposed to consider "black holes" a singular collective noun!

</bad-grammar-joke>
posted by chrominance at 10:10 AM on March 29, 2008


I've been to Fermilab several times and nothing bad ever happened to me. What's the difference between this and Fermilab?

Also, weren't his experiments in Chicago probably more dangerous, knowing what we know now?

"Upon the discovery of fission, by Hahn and Strassmann early in 1939, he immediately saw the possibility of emission of secondary neutrons and of a chain reaction. He proceeded to work with tremendous enthusiasm, and directed a classical series of experiments which ultimately led to the atomic pile and the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. This took place in Chicago on December 2, 1942 - on a squash court situated beneath Chicago's stadium."

I seem to remember reading an Asimov book on black holes when I was a kid. How can an a particle accelerator on Earth create a black hole? Don't we have gravity to protect us?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:18 AM on March 29, 2008


"We know how the universe ends—" said the guide, "and Earth has nothing to do with it, except that it gets wiped out, too."

"How—how does the Universe end?" said Billy.

"We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears." So it goes.

posted by gerryblog at 10:18 AM on March 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


It really would be funny if they're right. Blink. Gone. Just like who knows how many other civilizations on other planets that reached the same point in development, ran the same experiment, and... blink. Gone. And no sign that we, or they, ever existed except for broadcasts defining an expanding sphere around a black hole where we used to be. If anyone one is even listening.

actually, the black hole cascade failure would swallow up the entire universe, not just earth. eventually.

but speaking quantum physically, there's a finite, but miniscule, chance that the carrot in my kitchen will spontaneously transform into a corvette. speaking quantum physically, of course.

But surely, City 17 isn't that bad. Look forward to headcrabs.
posted by mr_book at 10:24 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Did you read that paper by Luis Sancho referenced by humanfront above? Biggest collection of scientific mumbo-jumbo BS I've read in a long time. This guy is a raving lunatic.
posted by eye of newt at 10:26 AM on March 29, 2008


I've been to CERN and walked around the "electro-mechanical quantumization enablers" or whatever it's called, and as far as "end-of-the-world" scenerios go, ripping holes in space-time is a MUCH cooler way to die than gradually dying out from global climate change.

Bring it on.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


revgeorge: Eh? I don't know much about much, but I always assumed that black holes suck matter in at the speed of light. Hence the name. I'm intrigued by a particle-sized black hole that takes years to eat the Earth.

Not really. They're called black holes because no light can escape from them, not because of any particular rate at which they "take in matter". Mass is mass. If a black hole weighing as much as an apple were to suddenly appear (which, to the best of my knowledge, is far larger than the LHC could conceive of creating) then it would attract matter no differently than an apple at the same location. These doomsday scenarios are silly.
posted by vernondalhart at 10:32 AM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eh? I don't know much about much, but I always assumed that black holes suck matter in at the speed of light. Hence the name. I'm intrigued by a particle-sized black hole that takes years to eat the Earth.

Black holes only interact through other matter by gravity. Gravity is an incredibly weak force. Gravity of objects on this scale is so weak that it is truly negligible and very difficult to even show as existing. Since these black holes have so little mass, they will have substantially no way to attract other mater. Only things that randomly bump into their exact location will get sucked up. Even if you had a macroscopic black hole it would be very bad at attracting anything. Do you feel yourself pulled towards nearby buildings, no because gravity is so much weaker than anything else. These micro black holes would fall to the center of the earth (actually, I guess that they would oscillate), evacuate a microscopic hole, and sit there evaporating. This all assumes that they would be stable, which everything we know indicates that they would not be.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2008


then it would attract matter no differently than an apple at the same location. These doomsday scenarios are silly.

Actually to add to that, it would attract less matter because the black hole would be much smaller than an apple, and the whole square of the distance would kick in, and the gravity effect would diminish much quicker. Now, if the apple and the black hole had the same mass, density and volume, the would be indistinguishable gravity-wise. But the apple would taste better.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


If those madmen do manage to create a black hole that will destroy the earth, I wonder if a judge would be willing to certify a class consisting of everyone. That would be one for the textbooks.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I first heard about the minute chance that a particle accelerator could end life as we know it back in my high school science class. Kinda freaky to think about.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:42 AM on March 29, 2008


NOM NOM NOM
posted by WalterMitty at 10:44 AM on March 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
posted by The Straightener at 10:47 AM on March 29, 2008


Black holes only interact through other matter by gravity.

Not quite true, since black holes can have charge and thereby interact electromagnetically as well. In particular, if you were to squish an apple into a black hole the result would probably have a slight charge, as it's unlikely that the apple you started out with was exactly electrically neutral.

If this charge were negative, your apple black hole would act very much like a bizzarre negatively charged particle with the mass of an apple.

In fact, the idea that fundamental particles might be black holes has been around for a while; see black hole electron on wikipedia.

it would attract less matter because the black hole would be much smaller than an apple, and the whole square of the distance would kick in

Actually, assuming the apple is roughly spherical, it would attract more or less the same at a given distance from the apple / black hole's center. See the shell theorem.
posted by Pyry at 10:51 AM on March 29, 2008




If we did create a small black hole, it'd take a LONG time to destroy the earth; years, decades, perhaps centuries.

This was the theme of David Brin's Earth (which, frankly, I hated). The black hole goes whizzing around in an inner orbit toward the centre of mass of the planet, accumulating matter as it goes, until it comes to rest. I don't recall how he accounted for Hawking radiation.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:03 AM on March 29, 2008


This is why we can't keep anything good in this universe.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:04 AM on March 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Not quite true, since black holes can have charge and thereby interact electromagnetically as well.

Since that would be the dominant force on our microhole, it would very quickly absorb matches of the relevant charge and go back to being a neutral hole, if it acted in semi-classical ways. I'm imagining a microhole that had somehow managed to absorb a tiny amount of mater to survive (and can be thought of acting classically), since that's a necessary intermediate between quantum-weirdness plank-scale hole and Earth-destroying hole. Maybe I should label it a milli-hole to differentiate them. Of course, that the existence and behavior of such things is completely theoretical (and not very worked out) uncovers the problem in analysis before that intermediate. Hm, I guess that a randomly charged milli-hole would act kind of like an ultra-heavy (anti)proton or nucleus.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:15 AM on March 29, 2008


If we did create a small black hole, it'd take a LONG time to destroy the earth; years, decades, perhaps centuries

The sci-fi book Singularity by Bill DeSmedt includes a similar idea.
posted by eye of newt at 11:18 AM on March 29, 2008


If we did create a small black hole, it'd take a LONG time to destroy the earth; years, decades, perhaps centuries.

So, we would basically create the Nothing. Ugh, that would be awful -- much worse than the sudden BLINK out of existence, which almost sounds restful at the end of a long week.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:18 AM on March 29, 2008


I saw this in today's paper after having read The Clockwork Atom Bomb (also Escape Pod version) before bed last night. It presents the same possible end-of-earth-due-to-man-made-black-holes concept. I hadn't ever heard it before so it see it in the news (and here!) immediately after my first encounter was kinda freaky! And scary.
posted by stevil at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2008


Well, it's as good a time as any to start back up with the wild spending, drug use and irresponsible sex, then.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:23 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, we would basically create the Nothing. Ugh, that would be awful -- much worse than the sudden BLINK out of existence, which almost sounds restful at the end of a long week.

Well, there are all sorts of other possibilities where Nothing would propagate out at the speed of light from the initial point. So don't give up hope yet!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:28 AM on March 29, 2008


I have a feeling the judge is educated stupid.

or just an evil android
posted by b1tr0t at 11:30 AM on March 29, 2008


So, we would basically create the Nothing

Dibs on Falkor!
posted by LeeJay at 11:37 AM on March 29, 2008


Countess Elena: So, we would basically create the Nothing. Ugh, that would be awful -- much worse than the sudden BLINK out of existence, which almost sounds restful at the end of a long week.

I tend to think that once the black hole started acting macroscopically (which is what would take a long time) things would be over very quickly. Everything would be fine, we wouldn't have detected it, and then suddenly the surface of the planet would collapse.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The black hole possibility doesn't bother me as much as the strangelet conversion one does. If I had the gumption I would do a bunch of research and rewrite The Hole Man as The Strange Man.
posted by wobh at 11:48 AM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


so, when the universe gets swallowed by a Big Crunch, do I have to fight Galactus for a seat on the Living Tribunal? Or do I only need to survive longer than him? Because, this whole end-of-the-world-filter is gonna be a lot cooler when i get the Power Cosmic.
posted by mr_book at 12:02 PM on March 29, 2008


It really would be funny if they're right. Blink. Gone.

Sure beats living through the slow motion collapse of civilization into resource-deprived squalor.
posted by sourwookie at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, if the earth is destroyed by a black hole, at least you'll know where your keys are.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:04 PM on March 29, 2008


Well shit, they need to hold off for a few years. Gordon Freeman is still in undergrad.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:05 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


If a black hole weighing as much as an apple were to suddenly appear (which, to the best of my knowledge, is far larger than the LHC could conceive of creating) then it would attract matter no differently than an apple at the same location.
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.
http://www.risk-evaluation-forum.org/anon1.htm
posted by vira at 1:07 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


While I would not care to guess the exact form that a reasonably efficient Doomsday Machine would take, I would be willing to conjecture that if the project were started today and sufficiently well supported one could have such a machine by 1970. I would also guess that the cost would be between 10 and 100 billion dollars.

Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War (1961)

Cheaper than he thought!
posted by generalist at 1:17 PM on March 29, 2008


Don't worry. They can't do a thing without the Oscillation Overthruster.
posted by paddbear at 1:21 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Now what would be really cool is if we could eventually create a black hole gun. Direct the mini black holes at our enemies and then poof! they're gone; digestible matter. Of course this wouldn't be until we eventually began space travel and encountered aliens, whom would immediately be considered enemies. But, poof! Enemy no more. Now if we could only make one of them there black hole guns that also pops the black holes when they're done digesting, we could plop them into countries we want to disappear, then pop! The next day we begin to build our new country from scratch. Oh, those lazy scientists. Why can't they work quicker!
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 2:03 PM on March 29, 2008


All this is not to say that it hasn't happened before. Ever hear of the Big Bang? Well, we're inside what was once a mini black hole in a Vogon particle accelerator. Back and forth, back and forth; black hole, white hole, black hole, white hole...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:44 PM on March 29, 2008


I had an internship at Fermilab in college, and I worked on the LHC there. I told girls at parties that the stuff I'm doing could eventually destroy the earth. It didn't work out too well.
posted by naju at 3:06 PM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if a judge would be willing to certify a class consisting of everyone. That would be one for the textbooks.

Sweet. When do I get my check for $0.30?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:25 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


It really would be funny if they're right. Blink. Gone.

But is a cosmic event still funny even if there is nobody left to witness it and laugh?

Oh the zen-like implications...
posted by sour cream at 3:48 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't worry. They can't do a thing without the Oscillation Overthruster.

Yeah, laugh while you can, monkey boy.
posted by Snyder at 4:25 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit shooting up heroin.
posted by sixswitch at 4:47 PM on March 29, 2008


blue_beetle:
Actually to add to that, it would attract less matter because the black hole would be much smaller than an apple, and the whole square of the distance would kick in, and the gravity effect would diminish much quicker. Now, if the apple and the black hole had the same mass, density and volume, the would be indistinguishable gravity-wise.
That's exactly incorrect.

Volume has absolutely nothing to do with gravitational attraction. The gravitational force exerted on an object by any other object, such as an apple, is computed their masses and the distance between their centers of mass.

That is, gravitationally, an apple has exactly the same pull on you as would a black hole of the same mass located at the same spot where the center of the apple currently is.

Additionally, the "square of the distance" thing that you mention allows the maximum force exerted by the black hole to be greater than the maximum force of an equivalently-massed apple: You can get radius-of-apple closer to the center of mass of a black hole than you can get to the center of mass of an apple.
posted by Flunkie at 5:33 PM on March 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I tend to think that once the black hole started acting macroscopically (which is what would take a long time) things would be over very quickly. Everything would be fine, we wouldn't have detected it, and then suddenly the surface of the planet would collapse.

I'm looking forward to it. It'll be like the Ultimate Meetup.
posted by Ritchie at 8:22 PM on March 29, 2008


The gravitational force exerted on an object by any other object, such as an apple, is computed their masses and the distance between their centers of mass.

That only works when you are dealing with masses that are sufficiently far apart that they can be replaced with point masses without introducing too much error into the computation.

If you want to know what happens when a black hole travels through the center of the earth, the distribution of mass around the core of the earth and the black hole itself is almost certainly relevant to the computation.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:56 PM on March 29, 2008


The LHC is totally nerdporn (I have several pictures of it used as desktop backgrounds) but it doesn't worry me - the simple fact that nothing we make (LHC, Z-Machine, etc) could ever even begin to approach the magnitude, scale and frequency of natural energetic events (GRB 080319B, Oh-my-god particle) is reason enough.
posted by Tzarius at 2:07 AM on March 30, 2008


After a second thought, this maybe be silly, but radioactivity was also harmless before starting to kill people.
posted by zouhair at 3:29 AM on March 30, 2008


the simple fact that nothing we make (LHC, Z-Machine, etc) could ever even begin to approach the magnitude, scale and frequency of natural energetic events (GRB 080319B, Oh-my-god particle) is reason enough.

This isn't a good argument when it's being used to support doing nothing about global warming, either.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 AM on March 30, 2008


So what I don't quite get is if this apple-sized black hole were to appear, how does it follow the earth's orbit? I mean the earth isn't standing still through all of this. If it sucks up things slowly at first due to low gravity will it stay in place while the earth moves around it? Or will the earth's gravity drag it with us?
posted by Green With You at 7:15 AM on March 30, 2008


It'll fall toward the Earth's center of gravity*, just like an apple would. The difference is that when an apple meets a table, or the floor, or the dirt below the floor if the floor is missing, it bounces and settles down. A black whole would presumably gobble matter right up, carving an apple-sized tunnel down to the center of the earth. And then, I suppose, out towards the far side of the globe, and presumably would keep zipping back and forth below the surface.

Would gobbling up matter slow it down? Make it grow? Etc? Exercises for the reader, I guess.

*This is assuming it has nominal velocity, at the time of its creation, relative to the motion of the Earth around the sun. If it is moving at escape velocity, then it will, well, escape the Earth's gravity well and fare thee well, traveling black hole.
posted by cortex at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2008


To be fair, an apple-sized (in terms of mass) black hold wouldn't leave an apple-sized hole, but one much smaller.

Also, according to our understanding of the rate at which black holes evaporate, if we happen to find a black hole as large as 0.02 g, it would evaporate in, oh, 10-31 seconds. It wouldn't even ever come close to being able to do any damage.
posted by vernondalhart at 11:48 AM on March 30, 2008


Ah, good point.
posted by cortex at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2008


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