If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple of years, you may not know that there is a large construct, built 574 ft beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. This is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and it’s the world’s largest energy particle accelerator (the second being The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Upton New York). The LHC’s main purpose is to discover and be a platform to test particle physics theory. Most recently they have proved beyond a doubt that the Higgs boson particle exists. This is a mind boggling discovery and opens up a whole new understanding of the universe and everything in it. However, like everything, there is a good and a bad side to this discovery.
For those not in the know, the Higgs boson particle was supposedly a myth. It was first suggested in the 1960’s by physicist, Peter Higgs, who speculated that a particle must exist that can explain why there is mass. By using controlled collisions of particles they did just what they said the LHC would do and found this elusive particle, thus changing the way we understand the building blocks of our universe.
…it could also create a micro black hole…
This is all fantastic news for science (even famed Stephen Hawking doubted its very existence) and now we are at the beginning of a great road of discovery. But as I mentioned before there are cons to any pro.
If we have found a hypothetical particle what is to stop us from finding others? When the LHC was first tested when the scientific community was split right down the middle. The scientists at CERN believe that everything we can observe is only made up of 4% of the matter that exists. A theory has evolved that a further 25% is made up of the legendary dark matter. The LHC could explain and highlight this type of matter; however it could also create a micro black hole. These are formed when matter is compressed into a point of infinite density which is called a singularity. These black holes would only be able to survive for 1 second and then decay thanks to thermal radiation (Hawking) which would make the hole lose its mass. Black holes survive through consuming matter and so losing more than gaining would mean the hole would shrink and dissipate. Even though there are safety procedures, the scientists are playing with substances and theories that are destructive. Knowledge is power, but creating black holes is dangerous and could in theory destroy the Earth. If something went wrong the black hole would expand slowly, consume Switzerland, the continent, Earth, The Solar System and then finally the Sun. Unfortunately we can’t even build a city on the moon so I doubt we would out run a black hole.
…as unleashed it would literally unmake everything…
Another interesting downside to the Higgs boson particle is the hypothetical and incredibly dangerous substance known as strangelets. The idea behind this substance is that it disassembles any matter it comes into contact with and reassembles it into strange matter. This could have diabolical repercussions on the world as, unleashed, it would literally unmake everything.
The Higgs boson particle is a breakthrough, but scientists should heed the warnings of sci-fi films and shows. We aren’t even masters of our own world yet. New technologies and acts of villainy are rife and with the possibility now open to create these life changing and possible dangerous particles/substances, perhaps it’s time to step back and have a long think about what is really important for the human race rather than pressing a button and hoping for the best.
Image courtesy of National Geographic