Saturday, August 1, 2009

Who is Afraid of the Black Hole?

By Alexandre Couto de Andrade

Experiments that will be conducted in the world's largest particle accelerator (Large Hadron Collider), located in the northwest suburbs of Geneva, have been the subject of much controversy in recent times.

The gigantic particle accelerator (27 kilometers in circumference), that is part of the Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), will hopefully help scientists to understand some great mysteries of the universe. If their expectations are fulfilled, the scientists will not only change the way we understand reality, but may also allow the development of revolutionary technologies.

The particle accelerator will recreate conditions that existed just after the Big Bang. The experiments will probably create tiny black holes, that are supposed to almost instantly evaporate. And that is what all the controversy is about. Some scientists, like Prof. Dr. Otto E. Rössler (video below), state that one of these black holes could eventually grow and destroy our planet. The majority of the scientific community, however, does not agree with him. According to most scientists, there are radiation sources in the cosmos that naturally accelerate particles that are constantly colliding with each other all around us. Although the energy involved in such collisions can be much higher than that that will be produced by the experiments, Earth have never been destroyed in billions of years.

Prof. Rössler, however, says that the conditions that occur naturally are different from those that will be created in laboratory. This introduces new variables that may lead to unpredicted consequences.

As a non-scientist, I can only wonder how many of the “certainties” these scientists have go beyond unconfirmed mathematical models. In science, humility should have as much value as skepticism and inquiry.

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