As I predicted nearly two-and-a-half years ago, it looks like the Earth will survive the most powerful accelerator ever built. A recent article validates my prediction.
On September 8, 2008, I recorded a Science News Flash podcast addressing concerns that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) would produce a shower of black holes that would, in turn, consume Earth from the inside out. I predicted that Earth would not only survive the experiments performed at the LHC, but that these experiments would answer important questions about particle masses, dark matter, and maybe even dimensions beyond the familiar three large spatial ones. In fall of 2009, the LHC commenced operations. The data and results addressing these questions are still in process, but a paper posted to the preprint archive discusses the production of black holes.1
The scientists found no black hole signatures in data acquired between March and October 2010. In fairness to Dr. Otto Rossler, who predicted the LHC’s production of destructive black holes, the team searched only for black holes that form and immediately evaporate, leaving a characteristic jet of particles with the detector. (One should also note that Rossler predicted the destruction of Earth would occur four years after startup.)
In all seriousness, the main significance of this publication rests in the constraints it places on physics models that contain large (but still microscopic) extra dimensions. The lack of black holes with masses below 3.5–4.5 TeV constrains a large class of models with large, flat extra dimensions. Future data from this powerful particle accelerator will gives us much greater insight into some of the most pressing physics questions of the day—assuming it doesn’t destroy the Earth in another year-and-a-half.
1. CMS Collaboration, “Search for Microscopic Black Holes Signatures at the Large Hadron Collider,” submitted to Physical Review B, http://arxiv.org/abs/1012.3375.