back to article Sorry, say boffins, the LHC still hasn't sucked us into a black hole

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has still failed to produce microscopic black holes, according to a new analysis of data from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration. The idea, beloved of theoretical physicists, lawyers, and cranks others, is that collisions even down to the Tera-electron-volt (TeV) scale could produce …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Bravo

    I for one welcome our theoretical, microscopic, dimension-hopping overlords!

    * should they exist.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bravo

      You won't be saying that as you get dragged screaming towards CERN one day!

      I'm all for scientifiy progress, but whilst one lot of theoretical scientists piss on the idea of black hole creation another lot point out the very high risks of this level of experimentation.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Bravo

        You won't be saying that as you get dragged screaming towards CERN one day!

        Not going to happen, cannot happen even if they make a hundred black holes every hour until the end of time. These microscopic black holes (should they exist) are inherently unstable and would decay almost instantly.

        1. Joe Harrison

          Re: Bravo

          ♫ The chances of anything coming from CERN were a million to one they said ♪

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: Bravo

            ♫ The chances of anything coming from CERN were a million to one they said ♪

            "I watch black holes fly south across the Autumn sky,

            And one by one they disappear..."

      2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: Bravo

        You won't be saying that as you get dragged screaming towards CERN one day!

        Simple conservation of mass (or equivalently energy) will tell you that the black holes formed have no more mass than the particles from which they formed. The black holes do not exert more gravitational attraction than those selfsame particles. Only if they live long enough (which they shouldn't) and have time enough to accrete more mass could they pose any danger. The very same theory that predicts their formation suggests they should decay before this happens. A scenario like in Larry Niven's "The Hole Man" is perhaps not impossible, but very, very, improbable.

        What you should not do is work out the exact improbability, and feed that into an infinite improbability drive, of course.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bravo

        Wow, I'm proud of getting 17 downvotes and counting!

        The arrogance of humanity knows no bounds, that's why we are in deep sh1t. Sometimes the cautionary principle needs to apply, not just charge ahead like lemmings over the cliff edge.

        1. cray74

          Re: Bravo

          "Sometimes the cautionary principle needs to apply, not just charge ahead like lemmings over the cliff edge."

          And sometimes it helps to look at the facts of the matter rather than tossing "begging the question" fallacies over the hedge and running for cover. You know, follow through with the questions you pose.

          For example, before the LHC powered up someone asked, "Maybe the LHC will form black holes. What's the chance of us all dying?" The scientists didn't run like lemmings off a cliff and power up the LHC right away. No, they took the time to investigate, crunch the numbers, and answer the question**. And they answered many other questions of safety about the LHC: the effects of stray beams, high voltage, cryogenic materials, working underground, and so on.

          **The answer was, "None, since Earth gets bombarded by higher energy cosmic rays every day and hasn't collapsed into a black hole after 4.5 billion years of that treatment."

          But speaking of lemmings, Cavehomme2, are you aware you seem to be falling for your own logical fallacies? In your last post, you used an appeal to belief fallacy ("Some people believe the LHC might make a black hole, therefore we need to listen to them!") No, we don't need to listen to them because they believe it, we'd need to listen to them because they've raised a concern, and then you'd need to follow on to listen to the answer. In this latest post, you're dodging your own questions (the ignoratio elenchi fallacy) like I described above. You're not making a point just by posing questions - you need to pay attention to the answers, too.

        2. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Bravo

          @ Cavehomme2

          I suppose you have been downvoted because lemmings don't charge ahead over the cliff edge. That only happened in a Disney film, the poor lemmings were shoveled down the cliff.

      4. ColonelClaw

        Re: Bravo

        I found one of your 'another lot'

        https://youtu.be/X-OatBpJq3E?t=1m48s

        Actually, after watching that maybe we all deserve to be sucked into a black hole.

      5. cray74

        Re: Bravo

        "I'm all for scientifiy progress, but whilst one lot of theoretical scientists piss on the idea of black hole creation another lot point out the very high risks of this level of experimentation."

        There's one lot of medical doctors who piss on the idea of vaccines being generally harmful and another lot (e.g., Dr. Tenpenny) who point out that vaccines cause autism.

        There's one lot of people who piss on the idea of magic being real, and another lot (e.g., Jack Chick) who point out that Harry Potter is a gateway to satanic magic.

        There's one lot of astronauts, sailors, and educated people who piss on the idea of the world being flat, and another lot who point out that all their observations, knowledge of gravity, and orbital flights are wrong.

        That one group has a belief about a situation doesn't mean it is a fact, or that you should give credence to them simply because they exist.

        Rather, check what facts both sides are saying. For example, one group says the LHC will produce black holes; the other group says that's unlikely and, even if it did happen, the handful of protons that formed the black hole will have too little mass to bother anyone. To drop a non-obligatory Buffy reference, insert "black hole" whenever you hear "fear demon":

        https://vimeo.com/15408628

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Bravo

          What you say about "the other lot" reminds me an awful lot of our Congress.

      6. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: Bravo

        " whilst one lot of theoretical scientists piss on the idea of black hole creation another lot point out the very high risks of this level of experimentation"

        Which scientists are pointing out the risk of these experiments?

        Professor Otto Rössler, a German chemist:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/2650665/Legal-bid-to-stop-CERN-atom-smasher-from-destroying-the-world.html

        Walter L. Wagner, a botanist, and Luis Sancho, a Spanish science writer:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/29/science/29collider.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        These are scientists who do not have any relevant expertise in high energy physics.

        Experiments at the LHC are a fraction of the energy of cosmic rays, which have bombarded the Earth for billions of years without producing a runaway black hole. The reason for this is that either the black holes can't be created like this or, if they can, they don't last long enough to do anything.

        Plenty of informed content here: http://press.web.cern.ch/backgrounders/safety-lhc

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Bravo

          Unless of course, in most of the Multiverse we got destroyed/didn't ever exist and we're in one of the very few versions that did - so far.

          Joke icon. Unless it's true of course.

      7. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Bravo

        That's an interesting concept... being drug into a black hole, that is. What would we find? Would we just be a lot smaller? Packed in tighter than sardines in a tin without the oil? or maybe nothing but a collection of atoms/molecules?

      8. Captain DaFt

        Re: Bravo

        "You won't be saying that as you get dragged screaming towards CERN one day!"

        PFFT! As if! How hard is the gravitational pull of a nano gram of matter? Assuming that a lab produced microscopic black hole had even that much mass, it would have exactly the same gravitational pull, ie: negligible.

        Plus, it would go poof in a cloud of Hawking radiation as soon as it formed. (That's how they'd know they made one.)

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Theoretical, microscopic, dimension-hopping overlords

      If they turn out to be mice then I'm leaving the planet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If they turn out to be mice

        Ahah!

        So you think we should look for these black holes in the wainscoting then?

        1. Toastan Buttar
          Go

          Re: Wainscotting

          "Eeeeh, our village has been mentioned on t'Register!"

          1. Bunbury

            Re: Wainscotting

            "They mentioned us again!!!"

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wainscotting

            LOL

            I hoped someone would get that!

  2. Paddy

    Tea?

    These micro black holes that we have a five percent chance of seeing - they won't upset my morning cuppa will they?

    1. Stumpy

      Re: Tea?

      No, but if it's really, really hot, there's an infinite improbability of a large sperm whale appearing somewhere over Geneva.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Tea?

        While the bowl of petunias simply thinks to itself "Oh no, not again".

  3. fajensen Silver badge

    How would we know?

    According to my understanding of Max Tegmark's book, "Our Mathematical Universe", we may exist in an infinite universe where the wave-function does not collapse - a multiverse.

    Creating a black hole that destroys the earth is a quantum event, and, since the wave-function contains all possible states of all possible universes, never collapses, we do not notice this event because we happen to be inside one of an infinite number of universes where the earth didn't get destroyed - we just get a little bit more unlikely each time the earth is destroyed by CERN (or Launch on Warning Nuclear Insanity) so what we experience is the world getting stranger as it becomes more unlikely.

    1. Sealand

      Re: How would we know?

      So what you're saying is that they may in fact have produced a black hole, but if they did, nobody noticed since we're all inside it?

      I wonder how many times that has happened before ...

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: How would we know?

        "nobody noticed since we're all inside it"

        Nobody noticed?! When I get out here at rush hour, it's so bloody dense that I've got no doubt of being inside a black hole.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: How would we know?

      "so what we experience is the world getting stranger as it becomes more unlikely."

      Or as many of us call it, getting old.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How would we know?

      That's some fine Anthropic sleight of hand there by Tegmark - what he's basically saying is that there's no need to worry about the world getting destroyed because if you can worry about it then it hasn't happened.

      But really, my gripe over the CERN safety calculations is that in any risk analysis you are supposed to multiply the likelihood of an event by the potential damage such an event can cause. This is why we still drive cars, or even put the kettle on. So even if the probably of a catastrophic event is only 1 in a billion (a figure far lower than those proposed by various reputable scientists) but that event could cause 7 billion deaths, when you multiply them together that still gives you 7 deaths. Anybody found to be knowingly embarking on a course of action that would lead to 7 deaths would be arrested and charged with attempted murder.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: How would we know?

        @AC regarding risk analysis.

        Likelihood times impact works for risks with a relatively high frequencies and relatively low impact. There are, however, some risks with a potential impact that high, say causing a few billion deaths, that taking them is simply not acceptable regardless of likelihood (other then zero).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How would we know?

        Your argument could apply to rare but very damaging events like asteroid collisions or supervolcano eruptions. However, the likelihood of Earth being destroyed via the LHC producing strangelets or black holes is zero. The Earth is bombarded every day by cosmic rays accelerated by supernovae, neutron stars, galactic mass black holes, etc. to energies far greater than any the LHC can hope to achieve in the foreseeable future, and this bombardment has gone on for the last 4.5 billion years. Furthermore the Sun has an even greater surface area and undergoes the same bombardment, and it's still here too. And every star in the sky undergoes the same bombardment and we don't see them suddenly disappearing. Caution is one thing, ignorance and the lack of any common sense or rational thought is quite another.

      3. kwhitefoot
        Flame

        Re: How would we know?

        I very much doubt that anyone did any kind of risk analysis when the kettle was invented.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: How would we know?

        "what he's basically saying is that there's no need to worry about the world getting destroyed because if you can worry about it then it hasn't happened."

        That makes perfect sense to me. I shall sleep soundly tonight!

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: How would we know?

      world getting stranger.....

      SO that explains Islington.

    5. John H Woods

      Re: How would we know?

      This is testable - in a solipsist manner: all you have to do is commit suicide - or not - based on a quantum event (e.g. make yourself a Schrödinger's cat). At a 50% chance of not making it out of the box, by the time you've done it 5 times, it's starting to look like it's true. By the time you've survived it 10 times, it's probably true. By the time you've done it 30 times, the chances that it's false (providing your set up is correct) is about one in a billion.

      1. Justicesays

        Re: How would we know?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permutation_City

    6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: How would we know?

      According to my understanding of Max Tegmark's book, "Our Mathematical Universe", we may exist in an infinite universe where the wave-function does not collapse - a multiverse.

      Unfortunately for MAX TEGMARK!!, a showman of high capabilities -- indeed, who can claim to have named META-UNIVERSES using one's IMPRESSIVE FAMILY NAME, which happens to not even be one's original family name, but then "Shapiro" sounds rather humdrum --, these are just words strung end-to-end. They have no meaning. And they are not science.

      More at: Our Mathematical Universe

      Tegmark’s innovation is to postulate a new, even more extravagant, “Level IV” multiverse. With the string landscape, you explain any observed physical law as a random solution of the equations of M-theory (whatever they might be…). Tegmark’s idea is to take the same non-explanation explanation, and apply it to explain the equations of M-theory. According to him, all mathematical structures exist, and the equations of M-theory or whatever else governs Level II are just some random mathematical structure, complicated enough to provide something for us to live in. Yes, this really is as spectacularly empty an idea as it seems. Tegmark likes to claim that it has the virtue of no free parameters.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: How would we know?

        There's a right way, there's a wrong way, and there's a MAX TEGMARK way.

        I've always found the writings of Avg Tegmark less extreme. Though he can be mean.

    7. Esme

      Re: How would we know?

      So THAT explains economists and marketeers! Coo!

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How would we know?

      I have always thought that when you see infinity in your calculations then it means you have made a mistake in your maths, because infinity only exists in theory, not reality. A infinite number of universes would require an infinite amount of energy.

      As much as the multiverse theory might be a useful theoretical model, it just seems a little too convenient to explain everything by saying that "things are the way they are because we just happen to live in the universe that is like that". It is semantically identical to the creationist argument of "things are the way they are because that's how god made them".

      In my layman's opinion it's the kind of utter bollocks that gives real science a bad name.

      1. dkjd

        Re: How would we know?

        Renormalization (getting rid of infinities) is needed for most quantum physics theories. If you could get rid of them you would get a Nobel Prize, (and reduce the takings in bars at physics campuses).

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: How would we know?

        I have always thought that when you see infinity in your calculations then it means you have made a mistake in your maths,

        Tell it to Cantor.

        because infinity only exists in theory, not reality.

        That's what the kids in grade school said about complex numbers, too.

        Pro tip: Unless you're some sort of unreconstructed Platonist, none of mathematics "exists in reality" separate from theory. Tautological formal truths, which is what all of mathematics is, is the theoretical domain par excellence.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

    So if you discover one with less mass than the moon, it would only be around for a few years.

    If they have less mass than a person, then the life time is a tiny fraction of a second. Given that the power of a blackhole is a function of its mass, at TeV's are not enough to make anything substantive. I've not ran the maths on this, and I don't know how long a 10 TeV blackhole would take to evaporate, I guess its not very long. Hence the difficulty of spotting.

    1. TheProf

      Re: I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

      That's all very well and good but why did you post as an Anonymous Coward?

      (Up-voted anyway.)

    2. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

      That's the theory, but as far as I understand it, so far it is just a theory.

      1. Mike Bell

        Re: I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

        That's Prof. Hawking's baby: The smaller the black hole, the faster it fizzles away to nothingness courtesy of Hawking Radiation.

        Don't ask me how that would allow a large black hole to form in the first place. I'm not clever enough to answer that.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

          Large black holes form by forming from masses that are larger than for small black holes.

          They just need enough mass to be stacked inside a small enough volume. Then a large black hole will inevitably form.

        2. Grikath

          Re: I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

          well, the big 'uns, by all data to date are formed by a runaway fusion reaction of stellar scale pushing down towards the bottom of a gravity well on a core of neutronium ( itself generated by a runaway fusion reaction of stellar scale pushing... well you get the picture..).

          Mind.. in absence of any matter or radiation they still evaporate, it just takes 100's of billions of years.

          The little ones... well if the LHC manages to somehow bash things together so hard neutrons actually fuse ( which in and of itself should give off a pretty distinctive signal) and a black hole is created... you run into some interesting problems..

          There's the Schwarzschild radius ( for all practical purposes, the event horizon) , for instance, which for a mass of the mount everest would be less than a nanometer, let alone for a couple of neutrons. The lifetime of such a black hole would be femtoseconds, if even that long. Even if one is formed, a black hole that size would not have time to interact with anything.

          Mind.. I like worst case scenarios, so let's see..

          The LHC does manage to create a black hole, and by sheer coincidence it's smack in the middle of the beam, so it actually gets fed mass and energy by the LHC itself. pretty scary stuff..

          Until you realise that all that would happen is that the black hole could "eat" no more than the mass + energy in the beam. As impressive as the energies in the LHC are, that would still never amount to more than a couple of kilos in mass. Giving us a black hole that would be far less than a nanometer across, and doesn't live long enough to interact with anything it isn't fed directly.. Its disintegration at that mass would be a bit tricky though, it'd make a nice Bang!.

          But even in that scenario all that would happen is that the beams in the LHC suddenly "disappear" , followed by the random destruction of a lot of expensive equipment ( and perhaps a bit of real estate). The black hole itself would never be able to "swallow the Earth" , it simply doesn't live long enough.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I understood that tiny blackholes were very unstable.

      If they have less mass than a person

      But less mass than which person - that's the real question, innit? What's so special about that bloke?

      My theory, which is mine, and belongs only to me, is that a black hole with the mass of the brontosaurus is skinny at one end, then big in the middle, then skinny again at the other end.

  5. JNewland

    Somewhat disappointing

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      On the contrary.

      Nature says: NO MORE TOYS FOR TODAY! AND EAT YOUR BROCCOLI!

      We will not get magic Hollywood tech or flying cars (actually this is sad, as I always wanted to build a silently hovering UFO and then stick multicolored lights on it to buzz unsupecting cops on highway patrol), but at least the math is likely to look nice.

  6. John H Woods

    Never mind more than a curiosity...

    ... if you could create a nice small black hole in a nice stable container, you could chuck mass in it and harvest energy given off as Hawking radiation. It would be the ultimate waste processing facility - the waste is gone for ever and the energy extracted from so doing, if you feed it just fast enough to stop it evaporating, approaches the theoretical maximum.

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: Never mind more than a curiosity...

      There's a prototype in my house already. I just have to throw in the occasional log and free energy radiates out keeping everything toasty.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Never mind more than a curiosity...

        "There's a prototype in my house already."

        I thought you were going to tell us you had a teenager. Sucks up all available energy for no apparent "work" output.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Never mind more than a curiosity...

      When you neglect the vast energy you have to put in to create the small black hole in the first place, and all the energy to keep it stable, it might actually work.

    3. lorisarvendu

      Re: Never mind more than a curiosity...

      Surely you'd just get the mass out that you put in? After all, Hawkwing radiation is just a fancy phrase for Pair Production at the Event Horizon boundary isn't it?

      So you throw a couple of protons into a micro black hole, wait a while, and out come a couple of protons...eventually. Since the rate of radiation emitted is inversely proportional to the size of the hole, if you've got one large enough to take a reasonable amount of waste, it's going to to be too big to give you much in the way of output (if any).

      Conversely if it's small enough to be radiating away at a decent rate, then won't it be too small to make an efficient waste disposal unit anyway?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Never mind more than a curiosity...

        Surely you'd just get the mass out that you put in? After all, Hawkwing radiation is just a fancy phrase for Pair Production at the Event Horizon boundary isn't it?

        This is correct. That black hole is white-ish and evaporating. Alternatively, the vacuum is trying to heal itself around the nasty "trouser leg from the future".

        Conversely if it's small enough to be radiating away at a decent rate, then won't it be too small to make an efficient waste disposal unit anyway?

        Also correct.

    4. Kaltern

      Re: Never mind more than a curiosity...

      Well it worked for the Romulans...

  7. Steve Crook

    Not a black hole.

    But an Alternate Universe. One where the Tories won a completely unexpected overall majority in the general election. It all makes perfect sense.

    1. arnieL

      Re: Not a black hole.

      But an Alternate Universe. One where the Tories won a completely unexpected (by the Left and their mouthpieces in the press) overall majority in the general election. It all makes perfect sense.

      FTFY etc. etc.

  8. Joe Harrison

    It's almost Friday

    The barman says "Sorry sir we don't serve CERN's time-travelling particles in here."

    A tachyon goes into a bar.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's almost Friday

      An explanation why Greedo actually shot first: Han pulls faster than light.

      (I think the joke is "We don't serve faster-than-light particles in here")

  9. Anonymous Blowhard

    ADD = Additional Dimensions

    Where does the second "D" come from? Is it from an additional Dimension?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ADD = Additional Dimensions

      "Attention-Deficit Dimension"

    2. kwhitefoot
      Happy

      Re: ADD = Additional Dimensions

      It's plural, I presume; MS = manuscript, MSS manuscripts.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: ADD = Additional Dimensions

        Or, in email headers, CC means "copies" (and not "carbon copy"; the abbreviation was in use before carbon paper was invented). Doubling an initial to indicate plural is an old English convention, though not an Old English convention, as far as I can tell.

  10. Graham Marsden
    Alien

    Don't worry...

    ... "All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension..."

    BTW for fans..."Luther writer is bringing back Sapphire and Steel"

    Ok, if it every happens, like other remakes it could turn out to be great (cf Battlestar Galactica) or dire (eg The Prisoner), but I'd certainly like to see more S&S :-)

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: 95% confident

      Upvoted for making the xkcd a real link rather than necessitating select-copy-newTab-paste-enter

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: 95% confident

      A while back edge.org surveyed a bunch of scientists on the matter of what commonplace scientific idea needed to be discarded. (They've done similar surveys in the past, some collected into books like What is Your Dangerous Idea?, which at the very least make for a fun read.)

      Someone - haven't gone back to find out who it was - said "p < 0.05". Using "hey, only one in twenty of this vast catalog of studies is statistically likely to be wrong" as a yardstick for good research is pretty poor.

      Of course, when it comes to high-energy physics, the community generally doesn't stop at p < 0.05; that's a very preliminary result. But in a lot of disciplines people are willing to take p < 0.05 as gospel as long as it agrees with their preferences.

      (Also of course, the Frequentist-versus-Baysian debate is rather more nuanced than that xkcd strip suggests - Randall's making a joke, even if it has a grain of truth - and lots of frequentist-inclined statisticians deplore that sort of "p < 0.05 therefore I conclude" sloppiness.)

  12. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    They cannot be using it correctly.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The arrogance of humanity knows no bounds, that's why we are in deep sh1t. " What an arrogant statement. I see your point :D

  14. Stumpy Pepys
    Devil

    Wake up sheeple!

    The black hole is a smokescreen.

    They're building a transdimensional portal to hell. If you add up the numerical values of the letters in 'Brian Cox' …

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