Forget Y2K ~ Big Bang machine could destroy Earth : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

) Ready for blastoff: a Brookhaven engineer puts finishing touches to the ion collider

Big Bang machine could destroy Earth

by Jonathan Leake Science Editor

A NUCLEAR accelerator designed to replicate the Big Bang is under investigation by international physicists because of fears that it might cause "perturbations of the universe" that could destroy the Earth. One theory even suggests that it could create a black hole.

Brookhaven National Laboratories (BNL), one of the American government's foremost research bodies, has spent eight years building its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) on Long Island in New York state. A successful test-firing was held on Friday and the first nuclear collisions will take place in the autumn, building up to full power around the time of the millennium.

Last week, however, John Marburger, Brookhaven's director, set up a committee of physicists to investigate whether the project could go disastrously wrong. It followed warnings by other physicists that there was a tiny but real risk that the machine, the most powerful of its kind in the world, had the power to create "strangelets" - a new type of matter made up of sub-atomic particles called "strange quarks".

The committee is to examine the possibility that, once formed, strangelets might start an uncontrollable chain reaction that could convert anything they touched into more strange matter. The committee will also consider an alternative, although less likely, possibility that the colliding particles could achieve such a high density that they would form a mini black hole. In space, black holes are believed to generate intense gravitational fields that suck in all surrounding matter. The creation of one on Earth could be disastrous.

Professor Bob Jaffe, director of the Centre for Theoretical Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is on the committee, said he believed the risk was tiny but could not be ruled out. "There have been fears that strange matter could alter the structure of anything nearby. The risk is exceedingly small but the probability of something unusual happening is not zero."

Construction of the #350m RHIC machine started eight years ago and is almost complete. On Friday scientists sent the first beam of particles around the machine - but without attempting any collisions.

Inside the collider, atoms of gold will be stripped of their outer electrons and pumped into one of two 2.4-mile circular tubes where powerful magnets will accelerate them to 99.9% of the speed of light.

The ions in the two tubes will travel in opposite directions to increase the power of the collisions. When they smash into each other, at one of several intersections between the tubes, they will generate minuscule fireballs of superdense matter with temperatures of about a trillion degrees - 10,000 times hotter than the sun. Such conditions are thought not to have existed - except possibly in the heart of some dense stars - since the Big Bang that formed the universe between 12 billion and 15 billion years ago.

Under such conditions atomic nuclei "evaporate" into a plasma of even smaller particles called quarks and gluons. Theoretical and experimental evidence predicts that such a plasma would then emit a shower of other, different particles as it cooled down.

Among the particles predicted to appear during this cooling are strange quarks. These have been detected in other accelerators but always attached to other particles. RHIC, the most powerful such machine yet built, has the ability to create solitary strange quarks for the first time since the universe began.

BNL confirmed that there had been discussion over the possibility of "perturbations in the universe". Thomas Ludlam, associate project director of RHIC, said that the committee would hold its first meeting shortly.

John Nelson, professor of nuclear physics at Birmingham University who is leading the British scientific team at RHIC, said the chances of an accident were infinitesimally small - but Brookhaven had a duty to assess them. "The big question is whether the planet will disappear in the twinkling of an eye. It is astonishingly unlikely that there is any risk - but I could not prove it," he said.

-- Cherri (, July 20, 1999


Since The Times went Murdoch, it's no more than the Enquirer in elegant type. Think of a hooker in Adolfo. Give as much credence to this story as you would to "Elvis is alive!" rubbish.

-- Old Git (, July 20, 1999.

Right on Old Git,

Just more hipe about nothing. Create enugh hipe and the " REAL " problems will go away...

-- justme (, July 20, 1999.

Please forgive me, but is "The (Sunday) Times" completely unrelated to "The London Times"?

-- Anonymous99 (, July 20, 1999.

Well, regardless of the paper that ran the story, the quotes and people making them are real. It's just a little unnerving to know that the possibility exists, even though the probability is probabaly a fraction of a fraction of a percent.

Loose Long Island to a man made black hole?? I should be concerned because...??? LOL

-- CygnusXI (, July 20, 1999.

As far as I know, The Sunday Times is the Sunday edition of The (London) Times. I don't read either, but if the report above is typical of their usual output, I don't think I'm missing much.

-- Richard Dymond (, July 20, 1999.

There is a 100000000000000000000000 times bigger chance that the earth is destroyed by an asteroid within the next 20 minutes.

-- justme (, July 20, 1999.

Theory also says some other strange things could happen under such conditions - such as the vacuum energy dropping to a lower level. Since an expansion of a lower quantum of vacuum energy was what created this universe in the first place, we could blow the whole thing up and start a new one.

But I rather doubt it. For that matter, I doubt that strange matter will be stable enough to cause the spreading reaction they describe.

-- Paul Davis (, July 20, 1999.

Here is a link if you are into learning about High Energy Physics. Great Site.

 (Fermilab) Brief Overview of High-Energy Physics

And this is the leading edge of Physics. Michio Kaku may seem over the top but it is no stranger than alot of the material out there. If you think Y2K is weird, feel free to blow your mind. Theoretical Physics is to cool. Its been 20 yrs. since I read up on it but now it looks like the equipment has caught up to the theory (kind of).

Michio Kaku, Articles

-- Brian (, July 20, 1999.

Sorry, I should have said a CHEAP hooker in Adolfo. Used to be that The Times (including the Sunday edition) was the most respected newspaper in the world. If it appeared in The Times, it was true, no question, every bit. It was revered. Then Murdoch bought it. Ruined it--utterly. Very, very sad.

Still respectable are The Financial Times, The Telegraph (including the Electronic Telegraph), The Economist, and one or two others whose names escape me at the moment.

-- Old Git (, July 20, 1999.

"The Telegraph (including the Electronic Telegraph)"

I would like to think the Telegraph is respected, since it has historically "called a spade a spade" with regard to BJ Clinton, but previous comments from others indicated that the Telegraph is a UK version of the US "National Enquirer".

Comments please.

-- Anonymous99 (, July 20, 1999.

Since an expansion of a lower quantum of vacuum energy was what created this universe in the first place, we could blow the whole thing up and start a new one.

Say, there's an idea....

-- Lane Core Jr. (, July 20, 1999.

Of the many real problems we have to deal with, this one does not concern me. Accelerators are a way of life for me, I have run experiments at most of the non coliders, and some of the coliders. There are many strange and wonderful particles to look at, but I recall the worries that the first Nuke test would set the atomosphere on fire, a concern that did not pan out.

Accelerators do not make "Lots of these new particles" We have to have very big detectors to spot the few that are created. We are a long way from having a "strange matter Production Machine" even in the limited sense of the "Meson Factory" at Los Alomos.

I am looking forward to the machine even meeting specs.

-- helium (, July 20, 1999.

" Since an expansion of a lower quantum of vacuum energy was what created this universe in the first place..." Paul Davis.

Paul thinks he knows how the universe was created. bwahahahaa!

-- number six (, July 20, 1999.

Black Hole = Kennedy Plane Location?

-- BadKarma (Bad, July 20, 1999.

UK Newspapers:

Times and Sunday Times : owned by Rupert Murdoch, agree with above, junk journalism and Murdoch lies in fancy type.

Telegraph: often called the "Torygraph". Quality journalism, right- wing (Tory) bias usually confined to the right places (ie editorial columns) (except during UK elections!) Independant: still fairly much so.

Guardian: antidote to the Telegraph, leans the other way.

The rest are tabloids of various sorts.

-- Nigel Arnot (, July 21, 1999.

Back to the topic: there's no way to predict the unknown. Fear of the unknown, if allowed to triumph, means zero progress, and sooner or later one of the still-unknown things gets you.

One might imagine a group of prehistoric proto-humans discussing fire. One wants to grab a bit of it next opportunity, ring it with stones, and feed it wood, to stay warm. Another fears that the gods would wipe them out for their presumption. Others simply have vague misgivings that the consequences might be larger than anticipated.

Well, would you rather that we were still huddling in caves, like animals, in the cold and the dark, afraid of imagined gods and everything else out there? Note that the ones with vague misgivings were of course right: the consequences went way beyond their wildest hopes and their wildest fears, from their time through today and on into the future ...

-- Nigel Arnot (, July 21, 1999.

PuD writes.....

But I rather doubt it. For that matter, I doubt that strange matter will be stable enough to cause the spreading reaction they describe. ROTfLMAO!!! Think about what you say here Paul! Ohgod, I can't stand it!!! My bladder just can't take this much pressure!! OHOHOHhoho,wheeeehehehehe. Stop it PD, you're killin me. But since you said it, now I know it's time to.........DUCK!!!

-- Michael (, July 21, 1999.


Subj: Brookhaven, Date: 7/18/99 We detected some very unusual signals on Friday for a duration of 100 minutes. The time period was from 10:42 AM until 12:22PM EST. The signal had a base frequency of.480hz with a time period of 2.084 seconds. This is the first recorded signal of this kind by us and it may be significant due to the activity at Brookhaven. I am enclosing a photo for your inspection and comments. Charlie Plyler Elfrad Group . . end snip

-- Michael (, July 21, 1999.

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