Ever since scientists have built massive particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, there have been some warnings about what might happen. None of those doom and gloom scenarios have come true … not yet anyway.
According to astronomer Martin Rees, however, it may only be a matter of time before catastrophe strikes, reports The Telegraph. In his new book, entitled "On The Future: Prospects for Humanity," Rees details his concerns.
"Maybe a black hole could shape, and then suck in everything around it," writes Rees. "The second scary possibility that the quarks would reassemble themselves in compressed objects called strangelets." That in itself would be harmless entire earth in a hyperdense sphere about one hundred meters across. "
One hundred meters is roughly the size of an American football field. That's the entire Earth, condensed into that tiny space. Obviously, it would mean the end of life on our planet.
In order to be able to do this, consider the particle accelerators are large, high-energy structures. Typically, they are set to collide with one another. This causes the particles to be blown up. The most powerful particle accelerator is the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. It's the biggest machine in the world.
Experiments like these, using such powerful machines, can produce unpredictable outcomes by their very design. That's how we learn from the results. But when you're dealing with the fundamental particles that make up the cosmos, it's scary to think of what could happen when you smash them into one another at such high speeds.
Take a deep breath
Do you know what you're doing? Cool heads do not prevail on this matter.
For instance, according to CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), the organization that runs the Large Hadron Collider: "Could strangelets coalesce with ordinary matter and change it to strange matter? The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC, 2000 in the United States, "they write on their website.
"RHIC has now run for eight years, looking for strangelets without detecting any."
Even the late Stephen Hawking has spoken in support of particle accelerator experiments. "The world does not come to an end when the LHC turns on." The LHC is absolutely safe, "Hawking has said. "Collisions releasing greater energy occur millions of times a day in the Earth's atmosphere and nothing terrible happens."
This is an important, and somewhat comforting, point. Our planet's atmosphere is constantly bombarded by particles that are propelled our way through various powerful events that happen throughout our galaxy and beyond. This causes collisions just as, or more powerful, than anything we produce with man-made particle accelerators on Earth's surface.
While the collisions are producing some rare and catastrophic results, the odds are not likely.
"Nevertheless, physicists should be circumspect about carrying out experiments that do not precedent, even in the cosmos," writes Rees.
Indeed. As with everything, it's better than sorry. It'd probably be a good idea to heed. While the odds are small that a catastrophic event could occur, we're talking about the end of life on Earth here. It only takes one odd experiment to end it all.
Scientist warns that particle accelerator experiments could make earth implode
Earth could be crushed to the size of a football field if a particle accelerator experiment goes awry, says Martin Rees.