Kiwi Particle Physicist

September 14, 2006

Could a black hole at the LHC end the world?

There is an article at the Sydney Morning Herald that talks about the possibility of a Black Hole being made at the LHC and destroying the Earth. This issue seems to pop up quite often when starting up a new accelerator. Needless to say, there's nothing to worry about.

They asked "What do you think? Is it worth playing the odds?" and posted everyone's responses on the site. Here's the comment I left.

It's absolutely worth it.

As pointed out in the list of threats in the Wikipedia article linked above, the particle collisions that will be produced at the LHC are similar to those that occur naturally in our atmosphere anyway. Cosmic rays (mainly protons) with much higher energy than those to be used in the LHC experiment collide with protons in the atmosphere, and have done so since the beginning of our solar system. The collision energy of a single proton at the LHC is equivalent to 10^5 TeV, whereas cosmic rays have been observed with energies as high as 10^8 TeV, about 1000 times higher.

If there was any danger of a stable black hole or some other dangerous matter forming in collisions at these energies, then we would have been wiped out already.

I can't wait to see the first results from this machine when it gets up and running in a year or so. It will hopefully tell us a lot more about why our universe is here, and deliver a few suprises along the way.

As someone else pointed out though, it might just be a cunning way for the experiment to get a bit of publicity. Works well for the experiment, and gives the media something else that they can hype up. Everyone's a winner.


  • I'm not a scientist. BUT, reading through some other links, some scientists have been quoted (hopefully not misquoted) as expressing uncertainty over safety with the LHC that opens in Nov. 2007.
    Afterall, in 2005 there was an accident at the accelerator in NY and the scientists don't sound too certain about the result of that accident.
    Shouldn't we be concerned?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 13, 2007 10:37 PM  

  • Anonymous,

    I'm not sure about the accident in NY you are talking about. Things do occasionally go wrong at accelerators because of the complicated electrics, heavy machinery, and so forth. But nothing worse than would happen in an ordinary industrial environment. Accidents like these have happened in the past. Perhaps there was an accident along these lines?

    Nobody, including lots of scientists I have spoken to, expects any safety issues at the LHC other than what would be expected from any other science experiment or engineering effort of this size.

    By Blogger Kiwi Particle Physicist, at September 13, 2007 10:52 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 14, 2007 12:52 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 12, 2008 6:57 PM  

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    By Blogger Jack, at September 07, 2008 7:44 AM  

  • Hi, I have one question regarding this topic.

    I read one scientist's opinion that though cosmic rays do hit the earth naturally, they are not captured by the earth's gravity. Since the LHC is within the earth, the gravity will capture certain energy making the dangers possible. Do you think there is anything sound in this idea

    All forms of science appeal to me in terms of reading and studying, but I have no schooling or other background that gives me the knowledge to understand what is real and what is not regarding this experiment. I must admit I'm frightened to the point of being depressed, but if this is some type of irrational neurosis brought on by reading too many doomsday scenarios I will be happy to admit it if everything turns to be fine. I am not normally scared by things of this nature and would prefer to find it exciting; for some reason I can't dismiss the periodic images of the earth's destruction from my mind though.

    If you have any other good words of advice I'd be happy to read them. Thanks, I'm glad there are people out there who understand these things.

    By Blogger sunnygamar, at September 25, 2008 1:47 PM  

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  • finally lhc find the desired particle higgs boson and we are yet to see destruction of the world....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 19, 2012 7:23 AM  

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