In 1998, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) began the construction of what became the largest machine ever built in human history. It would have a circumference of 27 km and would cost approximately $9 billion to construct. It was a particle accelerator and it was called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It was designed to solve some of the greatest mysteries in physics and give us a better understanding of the universe and its creation.
During its construction, millions of people were opposed to this monumental project. They feared the creation of micro black holes that would stabilize and consume the entire planet. To some extent, these fears were correct. When two particles collide, a micro black hole is created, yet these black holes quickly lose mass through Hawking radiation. As a result, they only last for fractions of a second.
To satisfy the public, CERN commissioned the Large Hadron Collider Safety Study Group (LSSG) to analyze the LHC and assess any possible danger. In 2003, the Group released their report entitled, Study of Potentially Dangerous Events During Heavy-Ion Collisions at the LHC, which concluded that 'there was no basis for any conceivable threat'. In 2008, CERN organized the Large Hadron Collider Safety Assessment Group (LSAG), who was tasked with reviewing the report made by the LSSG and to take into consideration new information that was not available or known in 2003.
LSAG supported the conclusions in the 2003 report, reaffirming that 'there was no basis for any conceivable threat.' They wrote another report, called Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions, which was reviewed and endorsed by CERN's Scientific Policy Committee. The report addressed concerns about cosmic rays, strangelets, vacuum bubbles, magnetic monopoles, and microscopic black holes.
According to the Standard Model, a theory concerning nuclear interactions, the minimum required energy to stabilize a micro black hole is 1019 GeV (one GeV is a billion volts). To put this into comparison, an average toaster oven operates at approximately 200 volts. In order to reach the minimum required energy, one would need 5*10^28 toaster ovens. There aren't that many toaster ovens in existence. In addition to this, we would require a ring accelerator that, with our current magnetic technology, would have a diameter of 1,000 light-years.
There are many theories on how to simplify these requirements, yet these theories aren't possible either with our current technology. One theory (Choptuik & Pretorius, 2010, pg. 1) states that if we added an extra dimension, the required energy would go down by half. The problem with that idea is that we don't know how to control and manipulate dimensions.
But, how could we create one? What are the specific technological requirements to create a black hole? And what threat would it possess if we made one? This is a difficult, obscure topic with no easy or direct answer and for now, we will only be able to theorize over the answers.
Section 1: Black Holes
Subsection A. What is a black hole?
A black hole is an area whose gravitational force is so powerful nothing can escape. Anything unfortunate enough to come close to a black hole will be sucked in and will be unable to escape the pull of gravity. Even light cannot escape the grasp of a black hole, which explains its moniker, black hole.
At the center of a black hole is a singularity, which is a point at which matter is compacted to where it has infinite density and zero volume. Around it is an event horizon, widely considered to be the boundary of a black hole. Once an object enters the event horizon, it will be pulled into the singularity and crushed into such a miniscule object that it is difficult to fathom the size of it. Imagine an object the size of our Sun becoming the size of a marble. This event horizon is dictated by a formula (1916) created by German physicist, Karl Schwarzschild (pg.5), which is shown below.
In this equation, R is the Schwarzschild radius, G is Newton's constant, M is the mass of the black hole, and c is the speed of light. The event horizon of the black hole must fall within the Schwarzschild radius or the black hole cannot exist. If the event horizon doesn't fall within the Schwarzschild radius, then the power of gravity isn't enough to create a singularity and a black hole won't form.
At this time, it should be admitted that, in theory, it is possible to escape the event horizon of a black hole. However, due to current technological restrictions, it is impossible for us to achieve this. This is because the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light, which supports the fact that light is unable to escape a black hole. Considering that we have yet to reach the speed of light, we cannot reach the required escape velocity. Here are three variations of the formula for calculating escape velocity:
In this equation, Ve is the escape velocity, G is the Gravitational Constant, M is the mass of the body being escaped from, r is the distance between the center of the body and point at which the escape velocity is being calculated, g is the gravitational acceleration at that distance, and ?? is the standard gravitational parameter.
Some of these things should be explained, since they aren't topics of common discussion. Firstly, the Gravitational Constant is a constant of proportionality used to calculate the gravitational force of various objects and is also known as Newton's Constant. It is equal to 6.67??10'11 m3 kg'1 s'2. Next, the gravitational acceleration is the rate of acceleration induced on an object by gravity. At different points on Earth, this can vary from 9.78 to 9.82 m/s2. Lastly, the standard gravitational parameter is the measure of the capacity of a celestial body to apply a Newtonian gravitational force on another celestial body.
Here's an example of this formula at work. Let us consider a spaceship on the event horizon of a black hole. First, we need to calculate the Schwarzschild radius of our theoretical black hole, which is going to have a mass of 20 solar masses (20*the mass of our sun).
From this equation, we find out that the Schwarzschild radius is 59044.46645m or 59km. This will act as r in our escape velocity formula. Now we can calculate the escape velocity of our
After solving this, we are left with the required escape velocity to escape from our theoretical black hole, which is 299,792,458m/s. To put it into perspective, the highest speed the human race has ever achieved is 24,791mph. This was achieved by the crew of the Apollo 10 in May, 1969. The required speed to escape a black hole is 186,347 miles per second, or 670,849,200 miles per hour. That's approximately 27,000 times faster than we have ever traveled.
Keeping that information in mind, it is fair to say that, for the time being, we cannot escape a black hole, and anything unfortunate enough to get too close, is sure to face certain doom.
Subsection B. How are black holes formed?
A black hole is formed after the supernova of a giant star, typically a star with over 3 solar masses. A supernova occurs when a star has used up all of its nuclear fuel. The star then releases a massive wave of energy, which is roughly equivalent to the power found in a 1028 megaton bomb (or a few octillion nuclear bombs).
There are two main types of supernovae. They are Type I and Type II. Type I supernovae have three subcategories: Ia, Ib, and Ic, which are divided according to their spectra. Most Type Ia supernovae originate from white dwarf stars which have reached the Chandrasekhar limit (which is the maximum size for a stable white dwarf star), or 1.39 solar masses.
Type II supernovae occur when a massive star (usually between 8 and 100 solar masses) reach the end of their lives. The star has burned all of its nuclear fuel and begins to collapse in on itself. If the core is less than about 3 solar masses, then it compresses into a core that is approximately 20 kilometers across and consists entirely of neutrons. This core is called a neutron star, and is so dense, that a teaspoonful of this material weighs 50 billion tons on Earth. However, if the core is greater than 3 solar masses, then the core will continue collapsing on itself and create a black hole.
Section 2: Particle Accelerators
Subsection A: An Overview of Particle Accelerators
In its simplest definition, a particle accelerator is a machine that accelerates atomic and subatomic particles at high velocities in order to solve mysteries about the creation of our universe, validate string theory, and find the answers to many questions that we have about the world around us. They vary greatly in size, with the largest being the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland with a circumference of 27 kilometers, and the smallest being the Cornell device at Cornell University in New York that is only a few square centimeters.
There are several types of particle accelerators, including, but not limited to: cyclotrons, synchrotrons, and colliders. A cyclotron sends particles in a spiral path radiating outwards, while a synchrotron sends particles in a circle so that they almost reach the speed of light. A collider, which has no doubt become the most well known type of accelerator, sends atoms hurtling towards each other at high velocities and smashing them together.
Subsection B: Examples of Particle Accelerators
Since the dawn of the 20th century, there have been approximately 70 particle accelerators created in the world. A large portion of them receive no public attention whatsoever, despite many of them being large and expensive projects. The total cost of building them totals to several billions of dollars. Yet one accelerator has received more attention than the rest of them combined.
This accelerator is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. It cost $4.4 billion to make and is now the largest machine in the world. When it was being built, much of the technology required for it to perform its duties had not been invented. Therefore, multiple side projects had to begin in order for the LHC to be created.
Few machines have created as much controversy as the LHC has. People feared the creation of micro-black holes, strangelets, and cosmic rays. Many staunch Christians thought that it was sacrilegious since one of the tasks of the LHC was to verify the Big Bang Theory. More articles have been written about the LHC than any other particle accelerator in the entire world. It attracts the attention of a very eclectic crowd of scientists, Christians, atheists, science fiction enthusiasts, and authors.
There are many other accelerators spread through the world. For example, there's the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) at Cornell University in New York, the Beijing Electron-Positron Collider (BEPC) in Beijing, the ISIS Neutron Source at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford, and the Radioactive Ion Beam facility (RIBRAS) in S??o Paulo. All of these accelerators perform important and fascinating experiments that strive to define the boundaries of the world we live in.
Section 3: Creating a Black Hole
Subsection A: The LSAG Report
In 2003, CERN had received voracious attacks about the dangers of their project. People were terrified about the LHC being a doomsday machine that would bring about the end of the world. In order to bring these fears to a halt, they assembled a team of the most qualified physicists and astro-physicists in the world. This team was tasked with assessing the risks and dangers of completing the construction of the LHC. They were called the LHC Safety Study Group (LSSG). Their result was a report that directly stated that there was no threat of micro black holes, or strangelets.
In 2008, construction of the LHC had finished and in September, the first collision was performed. That same year, CERN organized another team of people to review the report written by the LSSG. This team was known as the LHC Safety Assessment Group (LSAG). They published a 15 page report entitled, Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions. This report supported the LSSG's conclusion that there was no danger presented by the LHC.
Subsection B: Required Energy and Formula
In 1974, famed physicist Stephen Hawking published a paper (Black Hole Explosions, 1974) about the existence of a new kind of radiation consisting of photons, neutrinos, and other particles, and emanating from black holes. This new radiation was named Hawking Radiation and is one of the largest obstacles for microscopic black holes seeking to become stable.
If a microscopic black hole were to be created in a particle accelerator, it would lose mass and evaporate. This would happen in less than a nanosecond. The lifetime of a black hole is determined by this equation:
where M is equal to the mass of the black hole in solar masses and the final result is in seconds. A micro black hole can have a mass of at least the Planck Mass (22 micrograms or 1.10602785*10^-38). If we put this into the equation, we find that the lifetime of a micro black hole with a mass of 23 micrograms is almost zero. Our theoretical black hole would evaporate almost instantaneously.
For the black hole to be created in the first place, the accelerator would have to collide the particles with 10^19 GeV of power. This is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 volts of energy. This is ten times more than the Planck energy, which is 1.2*10^19 eV or 1,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 volts. The most powerful accelerator in the world is the LHC and it produces approximately 7 TeV, or 7,000,000,000 volts. The required energy is 1.428571429*10^21 times larger than the power produced by the most powerful accelerator in the world.
Section 4: Building Requirements
Subsection A: Technological Requirements
Our current magnetic technology does not fit the requirements for the task of creating a micro black hole. The LHC uses magnetic dipoles and they are some of the most powerful magnets in the world, producing 8.4 Tesla when operating at a current of 11,700 amperes. Each one of these magnets is 14.3 meters long and the LHC uses 1,232 magnets in total. Each magnet costs $520,750 each, making the total value of all of the magnets $641,564,000.
If we were to use the same magnets to create a micro black hole, we would need enough for an accelerator with a diameter of 1,000 light-years. Were this project to be undertaken, it would certainly become the largest manmade structure in this solar system. However, it is extremely unlikely that we would have enough resources to complete the accelerator.
The more probable solution would be to advance our magnetic technology, but progress in this field is slow. It is possible to increase the magnetic field of electromagnets by increasing the current flowing through them, but there are limitations to this. There is a maximum limit of magnetic lines of force that can be passed through the core material of the magnet. Any increase in current will result in a small increase in the magnetic field.
Subsection B: Amount of Materials Needed
It can easily be expected that the theoretical particle accelerator described in the previous subsection will require a large amount of materials to construct. The following calculation operates under the following conditions: the tube that the particles are fired down is the same diameter as the tube used in the LHC and it is made of solid steel.
In order to create an accelerator with the same specifications above, we would need 8.5734*10^39 lbs of solid steel. The process of creating steel requires large amounts of iron, a mineral that is in limited supply on Earth. It is possible to mine the iron that the Earth's core is composed of, but it is impossible to extract this iron without compromising the integrity of the Earth's crust. An alternate solution to that problem would be to begin mining operations on Mars, whose surface contains massive amounts of iron. However, it is unknown whether the total amount of iron on Earth and Mars will be sufficient for the construction of the accelerator.
Therefore, due to the amount of uncertainty associated with this, it can be stated that we do not have the required amount of materials to begin such a project.
The road to manmade black holes is littered with obstacles. They vary from the energy required to the dimensions of the actual accelerator to the technology we need. The solutions include more powerful magnets, new energy sources, interplanetary mining, but many of these ideas require technology and knowledge that we haven't acquired yet.
A very good question that must be faced before hypothesizing and attempting to find solutions is: why? Given the risk of a growing black hole that can escape our control, what cause do we have for trying this dangerous feat? Is science worth the potential destruction that a black hole can ravage? And a question for the day when we reach this technological level is: Just because we can, should we? While that day is far from today, it is something scientists must ask themselves with every great idea.
The final analysis is simple: we can't create micro black holes in our particle accelerators with our current technology. The requirements are too great for our abilities. The fears that are spawned by particle accelerators are easily dissipated when information comes forth that disproves our beliefs. This does, however, provide religious fundamentalists with further reason to continue to question and disapprove of what goes on in our laboratories across the world.
Yet, one thing is true. We cannot become too sure of ourselves. Many theories and even validated scientific facts have been disproven before. We are human and therefore prone to error. We cannot shun the possibility that even the greatest minds on our planet can sometimes be wrong. Nor should we forget that science is unpredictable and quite often, we may find that what we believe is wrong.
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