I know, this is a bit stale, days old, but I've never claimed to bring you breaking news, or news before it happens. The best one can expect is that stuff covered elsewhere will find its way here, in due course.
Our favorite Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has hit a bread stick, or rather, a bit of baguette has hit the LHC. A bird dropped some bread onto an external power supply, causing a short circuit a couple of weeks ago, which set off the failsafe devices, which shut down parts of cooling system.
Not raised, and not answered, were the questions of how big was the bird and how big was the bread scrap. How can they be sure it was a baguette? Might it not have been a piece of dinner roll?
Now, back to the end of the world scenarios, with the LHC experiments and December 2012 looming and all. Concerns about the collider experiments focus on the following potential threats:
- strange matter (strangelets)
- miniature black holes (mBHs)
- acuum instability of the universe
Black holes are the only one of the three phenomena that have actually been observed.
No one really knows what mBHs are and how they behave, but the chances are good that they would appear in the LHC experiments and they could expand to devour the Earth in 50 months.
On the other hand, chances are also good that the pesky man made mBHs would evaporate without causing anyone so much as a bad cold.
Strangelets have never been observed, but are a theoretically tenable form of matter that absorbs particles it comes into contact with and converts them to strange matter. This process process could continue until the Earth and all living things are transformed into inert blobs. Yes, you thought commuter travel revealed an all too high number of inert blobs in the world already, but that's just a prelude.
Then there's acuum instability of the universe, in which the vacuum of space surrounding Earth could be transformed by some high energy event that would produce a “phase transition” that would spread, irretrievably altering the nature of the entire universe, destroying or transforming everything into another form. Much in the way, for example, that water turns into ice. Earth would become some other matter, which would trigger off transformation of the entire universe.
If the only acceptable risk is zero, when the cost is the possible destruction of planet Earth, should the LHC experiments - which have yet to get off the ground in any case - be shut down? Should physicists be told to take a cold shower until we work out whether these super cool and super sexy experiments pose too great a risk to humanity?
This isn't science fiction, this is for real. Gives the idea of 'pushing the envelope' a whole new zest.