The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, recently constructed the world’s largest energy particle accelerator/collider outside Bern, Switzerland. After a few delays the collider, known as the Large Hadronic Collider (LHC) was set to begin operations in May or June of this year. The LHC is a behemoth, contained in a circular, concrete-lined tunnel of 16.5 miles, which crosses the border between Switzerland and France at four locations, though most of it lies in France. It is buried 100 meters underground, and the main detector is over seven stories high. Over two thousand physicists from around the world, as well as many universities and laboratories, have collaborated in order to fund and build the LHC, and, as reported in The New Yorker magazine on May 14, 2008, nearly half the particle physicists in the world will be involved in analyzing the LHC’s four million-megabyte-per-hour stream of data.
This unified effort by physicists globally may partially account for the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision to pull the plug last year on a stellarator fusion project based at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. As Raymond Orbach, the department’s undersecretary for science, recently announced, the National Compact Sellerator Experiment (NCSX) faced construction delays and millions of dollars in cost overruns, and terminating the project would “free up funds for other fusion experiments…” One purpose, no doubt, is to address the world’s energy problems through other projects, but the funds may also be funneled into the LHC project at Bern.
The LHC can collide atoms at such great speed (near the speed of light), that the greater energy released should produce a totally new particle, known as the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson, it is theorized, is the missing piece to the puzzle in what scientists call the Standard Model of particle interactions. It is believed that the Higgs particle gives mass to quarks, leptons, and all other particles.
CERN is not alone in its search for the Higgs boson. Over three decades of research around the world led to progressive discoveries about the nature of protons, neutrons, antimatter, gluons, neutrinos, quarks, leptons, etc. In 1977, for example, the existence of a certain quark was predicted, and in 1995, it was found at Fermilab, in Illinois. And the development of the RHIC at Brookhaven Labs, New York pushed understanding of the nature of the subatomic world to new levels. Certainly, their research resulted in advances in medical imaging and other areas. Brook-haven utilized a unique system of accelerators/colliders in tandem to achieve the greater speeds needed to produce the kind of energy release needed for their studies.
Nevertheless, the more these researchers learned, the more they understood there was at least one missing particle that would explain mass, and that was the Higgs particle. Most importantly, scientists believe this elusive particle holds the key to understanding the origins of the universe, the “Big Bang.” And if we look at the nature of mankind, our boundless curiosity to understand ourselves and the world around us, it is no surprise that we would go to great lengths to uncover nature’s secrets. But is such an effort fraught with peril?
To better understand how the physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider, the LHC, hope to achieve that goal (and the risks they face by dabbling in this research), we need to understand some basics. For example, scientists have found only four fundamental forces in existence. These four forces are called “the strong force,” the electromagnetic force, the “weak force,” (not discussed in this article) and the force of gravity. The “strong force” is a strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together at the nucleus. It is called strong because it is precisely that, even though it only operates in the very small area of the nucleus. The strong force, it is said, works between quarks binding three of them together and influences nearby protons and neutrons as well, while the electromagnetic force, also present, is a repulsing force, trying to blow the nucleus of positively charged protons apart. However, the strong nuclear force is one hundred times stronger than the electromagnetic force. As described on the YouTube video: LHC
– Messing with the Unknown, the interplay between the strong force and the electromagnetic force explains the unstable nature of any atomic nuclei that gets close to having one hundred mutually repulsive positive protons. That is why there are only 92 naturally occurring elements.
Gravity—if you can imagine this—is trillions of times weaker than the strong nuclear force. Thus, there is only one force stronger than the strong force, and that would be generated by the LHC. Specifically, the LHC will collect protons and send them almost at the speed of light in opposite directions in a magnetic field. The magnetic field would be lined up so the protons would collide, explode, and release a plethora of quarks and sub-atomic particles.
To think that we could be on the brink of understanding the secrets of the Big Bang! But just like the movie Star Wars, there could be a dark force afoot, and we need to be concerned. The concern centers on the possibility of creating micro black holes (MBHs) and strangelets (strange matter that contains quarks and is more stable than ordinary nuclei) in the LHC, and the effect these would have on our world.
As Wikipedia explains, (see Micro black hole), under some speculative theories, primordial black holes were created during the Big Bang at the earliest stages of the evolution of our universe. In 1974 Stephen Hawking theorized that due to quantum effects, such primordial black holes could “evaporate” by a theoretical process now referred to as Hawking Radiation in which particles of matter would be emitted. Also, the smaller the black hole, the faster the evaporation rate. A fast evaporation could result in a sudden burst of particles as the hole explodes.
The Glast Satellite, to be launched in 2008, is expected to search for gamma ray bursts. These bursts may contain evaporating micro black holes. Needless to say, the LHC will also undertake the same search, even though its energies also may be too low to even create the micro black holes. Nevertheless, the concern is that micro black holes or strangelets, if produced at the LHC, could be a recipe for a worldwide disaster.
Most physicists quickly reject such conclusions. They point to research at Brookhaven (and probably other locations) in connection with the RHIC accelerator where studies indicate that heavy ion experiments have not and will not endanger our planet. They insist there is strong empirical evidence that micro black holes or strangelets will not be produced so as to endanger our world. They also argue that cosmic energy that reaches us from the stars has considerably more power but poses no danger to mankind. Micro black holes are theoretically produced and evaporated without harm.
Yet one concern is that micro black holes or strangelets produced by the LHC at the rate of one per second could become almost stationary and thus captured by the earth’s gravitational field. Normally these would be harmless because they would quickly decay by Hawking radiation. But others point out that Hawking radiation is still debated and has not yet been experimentally tested. In other words, could these particles be captured by gravity, however “weak” gravity may be? And, as the YouTube article, Messing with the Unknown, states, could they “conceivably initiate a runaway fusion process (reminiscent of the fictional ice-nine) in which all the nuclei in the planet were converted to strange matter, similar to a strange star?”
Physicists concede that the fireball created in a particle accelerator bears a striking similarity to a black hole. In the RHIC at Brookhaven (in at least one experiment) “the intense heat of the collision of ions breaks down the nuclei into quarks and gluons, the most basic building blocks of regular matter. These particles form a ball of plasma about 300 million times hotter than the surface of the sun (New Scientist, October 16, 2004, p. 35).” And though it should be noted that no doomsday scenario occurred, there is still a basis for concern. According to S. Hofmann, M. Bleicher, L. Gerland, S. Hossenfelder, S. Schwabe, and H. Stoecker in their paper, Suppression of High-P _T Jets as a Signal for Large Extra Dimensions and New Estimates of Lifetimes for Meta stable Micro Black Holes – From the Early Universe to Future Colliders revised/dated 15 Oct 2002, predicts that MBHs would not evaporate as quickly as once thought. As discussed in their abstract, “…Time evolution and lifetimes of the newly created black holes are calculated based on the microcanonical formalism. It is demonstrated that previous lifetime estimates of micro black holes have been dramatically underestimated. The creation of a large number of quasi-stable black holes is predicted with lifetimes beyond hundred fm/c at LHC.”
Can we believe that Hawkings had it right and MBHs will evaporate, or do we believe the other side that believes that black holes never shrink, they only grow. And if they grow, could all the MBHs gather at the center of the earth until they devour the world? These questions, however, may pale in comparison to yet another concern posed by the LHC—whether or not the LHC can create wormholes, a gate for time travelers!
Prof. Irina Aref’eva and Dr. Igor Volovich, mathematical physicists at the Steklov Mathematical Institute in Moscow believe the energies released in the subatomic collisions in the LHC may be powerful enough to rip space-time itself, spawning wormholes.
Wormholes, also called Einstein-Rosen Bridges, are considered possible based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, which states any mass curves space/time. If two or more people were to hold a light blanket tightly, then throw a baseball into the center, the blanket would curve or dip to the center under the ball. If a tiny ball were placed on the edge of the blanket, it would roll toward the baseball because of the dip or curve.
Wormholes could be formed by two masses applying enough force on space/time to create a tunnel connecting distant points in the universe. Moreover, space/time would be four dimensional. By this, imagine a second, flip version of the first blanket, worked the same way. Both baseballs would meet at the center. Therefore, a wormhole not only has the ability to take a shortcut between two positions in space; it can also shortcut between two positions in time.
A friend recently put it another way: he said a wormhole would actually be the connection between a black hole and a white hole. A black hole brings in mass and light; a white hole throws it out. For a white hole to exist there has to be a black hole at the other end. And since white holes have been documented (through their actions/reactions), then wormholes should exist.
Apply this theory to the LHC. It could become our first ever “time machine,” opening up our time line to the future or vice versa. Further, since time lines are so intrinsically associated with dimensions, can we possibly be on the brink of a dimensional shift?
John C. Cramer, in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, argues that there are issues surrounding time reversal invariance and the arrow-of-time problem. He states, “In the everyday world we have no difficulty in distinguishing one direction of time from the other. A movie showing a dropped egg hitting the floor or a car crash looks very strange and unphysical if the film is run backwards. But on the microscopic scale, there is supposed to be no time preference…. A mini black hole would strongly violate this symmetry…. This is called ‘time-reversal invariance’ and it is an important symmetry principle in the microscopic world.”
Could a person pass through time in an LHC wormhole, though? Theoretically no, because the wormhole would be at the sub-atomic level.
But before we dismiss the possibility out of hand, note that cosmic energy from other points in the galaxy could already precipitate the shift. Numerous articles have raised the possibility that the Mayan Calendar, which ends so abruptly on December 21, 2012, is associated with the harmonic convergence and a dimensional shift, due to the fact that our solar system will be on the same ecliptic plane as the center of the galaxy and we are being bombarded with cosmic energy. Or the nudge from excessive cosmic energy could be precipitated in part by a stellar corpse, such as SGR 1900 + 14, a magnetar. Magnetars are massive stars that blew up in supernova explosions, but unlike other dead stars, they have tremendously strong magnetic fields.
This may be pure, wild speculation, but could cosmic energy partially explain changes in weather patterns? In addition, could experimentation at the LHC also provide the means for such a shift in 2012—perhaps like a car’s starter—while it is the cosmic energy that powers the entire engine, once started? Perhaps even Nostradamus (15031566) supports such speculation in his Nostradamus Century 9:44 prediction: “All should leave Geneva. Saturn turns from gold to iron, the contrary positive ray (RAYPOZ) will exterminate everything. There will be signs in the sky before this…”
Protons are positive rays.
Whatever happens, these are interesting times and it is difficult to decide whether to pay more attention to the earth, the stars, or to CERN.
N. L. Williams is author of the novel, A Matter of Destiny.