Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Holes Yet...

Particle physics: I know so little about it that I could count what exotic materials (see, probably not even using the correct terms) I've heard of on one hand. (Counting fingers, not sub-atomic particles.)

BUT I think it's really cool.

Being a science fiction reader and writer, I've run across several tales in my time dealing with CERN, and that other particle accelerator (what's it called?). Usually they have to do with time travel, tears in the space-time continuum, other dimensions, tiny things getting huge, or black holes being born.

Apparently, scientists are actually worried about that last item on the sci-fi list.

Some say that the new particle accelerator, The Large Hadron Collider (They turned it on today/yesterday.), is a very dangerous machine. They're afraid that it could spawn little black holes that would (relatively--is that a double pun?) slowly eat the planet.

Wouldn't the holes keep eating after that? I'd think the danger is to the whole solar system--and maybe beyond it--but most Earth scientists are rather elitist, concerned only about life on this planet...

At any rate, the majority of scientists say that the collider won't produce black holes. BUT it could produce strangelets, dark matter, maybe even anti-matter. Now, as I said, those terms there mean little to me, as I'm not a particle physicist. However, I do know that anti-matter means the opposite of matter, and that in itself might not be a good thing to create inside a big tube under the earth. It could also be the best thing to happen to humankind so far.

But hey, scientists know what they're doing right? Especially those dealing with theoretical particles, ideas about how things form in the universe, and computer models of how matter might react if certain things are done with it. No worries.

The scientists who say nothing bad can happen are (not being very scientific, really) already touting the fact that the machine is turned on and no black holes have been born. Then, as if in afterthought, they say, "The machine's not up to speed and won't be for a year, so nothing's happening in there right now." So really, we still don't know if black holes will spring forth from the huge metal oval under France. Or is it Switzerland? We'll know in in a year, when the machine reaches full operating capacity.

I'm not really worried. Scientists do all sorts of crazy stuff to matter every day. We just don't hear about it. I suggest everyone read some science fiction or conspiracy theories.

I've actually written a story about a small black hole let loose inside a planet. (Who hasn't?) Here's an exerpt:

I happened to be in the right place at the right time. (That’s a joke among my people.) I’d just taken seven ships to the science planet of Aros, and was in orbit, programming the flight computer to head home, when the planet disappeared under me.

Not all at once, but quickly. At first I couldn’t understand what was happening. My radio began screaming—voices shrieking for help, and warnings from observatories and sentries across the system. I had a good view of the planet, and could see a dark spot growing on its surface.

I escaped.

At a respectable distance, I observed the planet’s demise.

I don’t have time to explain it all, I’ve probably put too much detail into this anyway, and I have to go soon. I’ll tell you what I can.

They had a small black hole contained at Aros. No one knows how, but they lost containment, and the thing ate the planet.

I’ve been monitoring the hole, sending distress signals, trying to make sense of radio chatter blasting through my speakers.

Worlds will fall into the hole. Billions will die. But I can stop it.

And of course, he does. But Aros is completely destroyed by then.

As I said, this isn't my idea. I actually wrote the story that the above comes from, inspired from another short story about a group of scientists who find an alien machine on a distant planet, and they accidentally turn it off, letting slip the small black hole inside it that had been powering the alien technology abandoned on the planet for 10,000 years or so. They think one of the scientists did it on purpose.

I just tried to find a list of all the books and movies dealing with particle accelerators. I was not fruitful. But I was reminded that in his book, Angels and Demons, Dan Brown (I know, but you really should read Angels and Demons. It's the same sort of thing as the Davinci Code, but better.) makes CERN into a place of unwitting evil.

Angels and Demons is about a secret society using anti-matter stolen from CERN to destroy the Vatican. There's a great interview about the facts of CERN and how they relate to Angels and Demons here: CERN-Angels and Demons

Anyway, the idea that a collider could cause the end of the world is not new.

And I say, "Something has to."

I guess we'll see what happens when that sucker is all warmed up and they start flinging particles at each other in the ultimate rollercoaster/crash-up derby in the world. Oh, to be a quark on the wall inside that crazy tube.

If we don't all die by being stretched to infinity inside an expanding black hole or three, then the newest, biggest, best particle collider ever is going to give scientists a glimpse into the fabric of the universe. They think they could discover new particles, new dimensions, and even a Higgs-Boson particle! (That's the particle that scientists think holds the key to the secrets of mass.)

That's some awesome stuff. I really hope it works.

If it doesn't destroy us, we science fiction writers may end up with new story ideas.

If it does? Well, scientists have also always wondered exactly what happens to objects that are sucked into a black hole. They'd all find out first-hand.


Anonymous M.Sherlock said...

read this

Now behold...other stupid arse well ast he other things the hadron collider may kill us with.

One possiblility is a whole sun could be formed in the the link to find out why..

10:11 AM  
Blogger Shameless said...

You know, this is familiar. I think I just saw a movie about recreating the Big Bang and how it would just cancel-out the universe.


Well, fortunately I don't believe that life ends after the universe does.

They've turned it on. They're going to smash particles with it. It's going to be freakin' cool either way.

Golden Age or End of the Universe.

People are some dangerous things.

10:25 AM  
Blogger K.C. Ball said...

In times like this, I prefer to read poetry. How's this one?

And we'll all go together, when we go.
Every man and woman, every buck and doe.
There will be no time to scream; when they turn on that machine.
And the party will be "come as you are".

You are right, Kevin. Humanity is a piece of work. Oh, what a world; what a world.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

I love you, but I was not geeky enough to read this post.

You might want to update your readers on your chantix journey.

There are stop-smoking ads on your blog now.

I have finally put your blog in my default tabs. Watch out. I might begin to read your blog.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Shameless said...

I love you, but I think you're just not geeky enough in THAT WAY to read my post.

I will update them when I'm not writing a fabulous new story about zombies.

Yay for the ads. Yay for the Chantix.

Yay for you reading my blog. Or not reading it, and commenting about that.

11:51 AM  

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