Storage Soup

Feb 6 2008   1:42PM GMT

Are storage vendors going to help send us down a black hole?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

I’m sure any number of you can come up with witty figurative responses to that, but I actually mean it literally.

Back in August I did a case study on CERN, the world’s largest physics laboratory, in Switzerland, and the petabytes of data storage that are going to support research on its Large Hadron Collider (LHC). LHC is a 12-story-high, 10-mile-wide underground system of tunnels, magnets and sensors that’s designed to do no less than recreate atomic conditions at the creation of the universe and capture particles that until now have been only theoretical.

Having spoken with CERN about their research and the way the whole system is set up, I was surprised when I logged in to my personal email this morning and got a friend request from a profile titled STOP CERN. According to the profile:

This space has been set up to spread awareness of the risks a project due to be launched at CERN next year poses to our planet. For the first time in many decades someone has built a machine that exceeds all our powers of prediction, and although they estimate the possibility of accidentally destroying the planet as extremely low, the LHC propaganda machine that ‘everything is safe’ is well funded by your tax dollars, paying large salaries to thousands of people who have much to lose financially should the LHC be unable to prove its safety. As most of them perceive the risk to be small, they are willing to take that ‘small risk’ at our expense. The actual risk cannot presently be calculated, and a Large Hadron Collider [LHC] legal defense fund has even been set up to challenge CERN on the project.

I don’t have any kind of physics background, so I don’t know if the criticisms are legit, but I was doubly surprised to find that the MySpace profile is only the tip of the iceberg of people questioning CERN. In addition to some other critical websites, an LHC Legal Defense Fund has been started with the goal of legally intervening to stop CERN from turning on LHC this May, creating a black hole within the collider and accidentally destroying the planet.

By the way, isn’t that really every geek’s dream? To be working on a machine that even theoretically could accidentally destroy the planet?

Anyway, the debate seems to be whether or not something called “Hawking evaporation” (presumably named after physicist Stephen Hawking) will neutralize the microscopic black holes that could be created by the particle collisions in LHC, or if they’ll continue to grow and, well, eat France.

According to another anti-CERN site:

If MBH’s [microscopic black holes] are created, there is a likelyhood [sic] that some could fall unimpeded to the centre of the Earth under gravity…Scientists have estimated that a stable black hole at the center of the earth could consume not only France but the whole planet in the very short time span of between 4 minutes and 30 seconds and 7 minutes.

I’m a little more inclined to believe the multiple accredited physics organizations around the world involved in the LHC project know what they’re doing than I am to believe some people I’ve never heard of from the Internet, but what do I know? The criticism has at least been strong enough to prompt CERN to post a kind of FAQ page about black holes, strangelets, and all manner of interesting potential doomsday scenarios that have been envisioned for LHC.

Despite the impressive power of the LHC in comparison with other accelerators, the energies produced in its collisions are greatly exceeded by those found in some cosmic rays. Since the much higher-energy collisions provided by Nature for billions of years have not harmed the Earth, there is no reason to think that any phenomenon produced by the LHC will do so.

Wouldn’t it just be something, though, if after centuries of war and pollution and all the other things mankind has done to compromise the planet, Armageddon was actually brought about by a bunch of guys in a physics lab?

6  Comments on this Post

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  • James Tankersley Jr
    I beleive in Classical Einstein physics that seem to predict that microscopic black holes would not evaporate, but would instead grow with out limits. But far more concerning is the fact that collidEr created microscopic black holes would have not have sufficient velocity to escape Earth's gravity. It is unlikely that Earth has ever been exposed to such slow moving Micro black holes. I find CERN's cavalier dismissal of any possible risk to be silimilar to the attitude of the Challenger shuttle management teams dissmissal of warning's before the shuttle disaster. There appears to be no plan to reduce this risk, instead they appeard to be in denial with fingers crossed.
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  • Hasanuddin
    I also believe that LHC will produce mini black holes that will not evaporate. Several reasons. First the idea that mini black holes will evaporate is, as the last commenter stated, "cavalier" wishful thinking. Would we accept such assurances from a biotech lab? Suppose the lab reported revolutionary benefits of conducting an experiment where they insert small pox genes into an influenza host--with the solemn assurance that any and all samples will immediately be destroyed. Would we just let them waltz on ahead? I think not. The other reason I believe that the mini black holes will be stable is because I am advancing a revolutionary new model, the Dominium, that suggests that mini black holes will stay stable as voracious matter compacting beasts. Debate has been hot and heavy on my Scientific American blog. I invite anyone to come on over and join the “fun.” You wouldn’t believe some of the harsh words that my detractors have against me. The funniest thing is that the people with the harshest words adamantly declare that they have never read the model. Go figure? Of those who have read the model, they have nothing but positive things to say…though they all hope that I am wrong about the stable mini black-holes, or, if I am right, that LHC can be stopped in time. If you do chose to join in the discussion, please read the model first. You can download the half-version at or you can purchase the full book (the paperback is more complete) at online bookstores
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  • Bob Jeo
    OMG I'm scared!!! we need to stop france!! on the bright side if we could stablize it we could bomb iraq with it or reverse it and put it in space craft to travel light-speed...
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  • korinne
    i think this is a very stupid idea to test out right now. i say this because if your going to risk our world to just be bale to see whats in a god damn black whole, you should be locked up. your crazy! do you think that people want to die or something? like the risks that you are taking are very high! something could go wrong that you don't know about, and our world could vanish and there would be nothing left! You need to get a new hobby, because trying to destroy our world is mean! i love life, and you should too! Honestly, do we really need to know whats in a black hole? we have lived perfectly fine before you came up with this nonsence. we can live longer if you don't carry on with this. you make me so angry im going to cry! i am sitting here in grade 10 science class reading this stuff, thinking to myself and outloud, that im going to die. so obviously im going to get upset with you. dont take it personell but this it stupid. even though my friends are laughing at me right now for leaving this comment, i am still going to. because i think that this is wrong! GGRRRR FACE!
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  • kristen
    didn't they already test it? like back in september? I was told it would happen again in december. is that true?
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  • kristen
    are they done testing it
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