Martin Rees, a respected English cosmologist, made a very bold statement on the topic of particle accelerators: there is a small but real possibility of a catastrophe. Particle accelerators, like the same Large Hadron Collider, shoot particles at incredibly high speed, push them together, and scientists look at what remains of them.
These high-speed collisions helped us discover many new particles, but according to Rees, this is fraught with risks. In his new book, ‘On The Future: Prospects for Humanity’, he shares disappointing forecasts.
How dangerous particle accelerators
“Maybe a black hole will form and it will suck everything around,” he writes. “There is also a variant of the fact that quarks will rebuild themselves into compressed objects – strelki”.
“This in itself will be harmless. But in some hypotheses, a strapel could infect everything around and transform matter into a new form, turning the whole Earth into a superdense sphere one hundred meters across. ”
This is an approximate length of a football field.
And that’s not it. The third way particle accelerators can destroy the Earth, according to Rees, is “a catastrophe that absorbs space itself.”
“Empty space – which physicists call a vacuum – is not completely empty. This is an area in which anything can happen. It contains all the forces and particles that control the physical world. The existing vacuum can be fragile and unstable. ”
“Some believe that the concentrated energy that occurs when particles collide with each other can lead to a phase transition that will tear the fabric apart. It will be a cosmic catastrophe, not even just an earth one. ”
Sounds scary. But should we really worry? In my opinion, smart people at the Large Hadron Collider do not eat their bread for nothing.
“The BAC Safety Assessment Team (LSAG) confirms and expands the 2003 conclusions that collisions at the LHC are not dangerous and that there is no cause for concern,” writes CERN on its website.
“Whatever the LHC did, nature has already done this many times throughout the existence of the Earth and other astronomical bodies.”
And this is an important nuance – cosmic rays are essentially a natural version of what LHC and other particle accelerators do. And these rays are constantly firing on the Earth.
The BAK team has an answer to the question about the strapleks.
“Can strapleks merge with ordinary matter and turn it into a strange one?” This question was raised before the start of the RHIC collider in 2000 in the USA, ”they explain.
“At that time, the study showed that there was no cause for concern, and the RHIC had been working for eight years now, looking for the streples and not finding them yet.”
Even Stephen Hawking has blessed particle accelerators.
“The world will not come to an end when the LHC turns on. BAK is absolutely safe. Collisions release more energy and occur millions of times a day in Earth’s atmosphere, and nothing terrible happens, ”says Hawking.
In a sense, Rhys is right. We cannot be 100% sure and never will. But, as he explained, many scientific advances involve a risk that we cannot eradicate by 100%.
“Innovation is often dangerous, but if we give up the risk, we can give up the benefits,” he writes in his book. “In any case, physicists must be careful in conducting experiments that create unprecedented conditions, even in space.”
“Many of us dismiss these risks as science fiction, but some consequences cannot be ignored, even if they seem highly unlikely.”