The Large Hadron Collider goes online
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located in the border area between Switzerland
and France, took nearly 20 years to complete and cost six billion Swiss francs
(3.76 billion Euros or 5.46 billion dollars) is one of the costliest and most
complex scientific experiments ever attempted. The machine uses over 1,600 superconducting
magnets, cooled by 96 tons of liquid helium, to accelerate beams of protons
in opposite directions in a circular tunnel with a circumference of 27 kilometres
(17 miles). The protons achieve about 99.999999% of the speed of light, then
smash into each other with a collision energy of 14 TeV (trillions of electron
At 13:06h Central European Summer Time the LHC achieved its first record-breaking
collisions: with both beams up and running at 3.5 TeV – several times
any previous collision energies achieved – the proton streams were carefully
moved to cross in the detector arrays. Physicists in the control room of CERN
broke into applause when the human race's first 7 TeV collisions appeared on
the monitors (above, below).
Scientists all over the world joined in the celebration. Typical were the Skype
messages we received from a friendly physicist Vera
Spillner: "It's working, first collisions! – I am SO excited!!
– I can see first results and they are UNKNOWN events!!!!! – I have
never seen such events before: two muons recorded, and not coming from a J/psi
decay!! This is historic! I am almost crying." Now you know what really
turns on pretty young girls today.
The above image, supplied by Taylor Childers, a colleague of Vera at LHC,
shows particle tracks in the inner detector of the ATLAS experiment, recorded
within the first running hour of the LHC beam at 7 TeV.
Large Hadron Collider – how it works
The micro black holes discussion
The problem discussed by a number of grandmasters was the following: experts
have expressed concerns over the safety of the LHC, since the collider experiments
have the potential to create low velocity micro black holes that could grow
in mass, leading to doomsday scenarios, such as the destruction of the Earth.
There are many web sites dedicated to this possibility, and you can google them
with LHC + black holes. An extreme view on the subject is shown in the video
Vivid video footage of the doomsday scenario
Magnus Carlsen contemplating the future of the world after the LHC is switched
Participants in a round table discussion on potential dangers emanating
from the Hadron Collider: Marina and Boris Spassky, Armenian GMs Levon
Aronian and Gabriel Sargissian, Boris Radjabov, GM Teimour Radjabov.
Teimour Radjabov was quite concerned with the implications of the LHC experiment
Physicist Vera Spillner explaining collisions and black holes to Aruna and
...during a Champions' Dinner at the Mainz Chess Classic
Vera told Anand and his wife that there are very good arguments for the safety
of the LHC experiments. Micro black holes may indeed be generated, but if they
are they will be very hot and soon evaporate due to Hawking
radiation. "Very hot" in the language of physicists is 10^50 degrees
(ten with 50 zeros tagged on) and "soon" is one octillionth of a nanosecond.
In addition Vera sought to allay their fears by reminding them that hundreds
of micro black holes are produced every day by high energy cosmic particles
colliding with protons of our atmosphere. "If the man-made mini black holes
are the same as the cosmic-made ones, then what's the probability that the few
extra black holes produced in colliders will eat up everything, whereas the
trillions of holes produced since the formation of our planet didn't?"
Finally she reminded us that cosmic rays from the universe have been creating
micro black holes on the surface of white dwarf and neutron stars for billions
of years, and would be captured by the density of these bodies. The fact that
we still observe white dwarfs and neutron stars means that this did not happen,
the micro black holes evaporated. Everyone slept a little quieter that night.
Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez with his girlfriend Yisel Martinez
Our first conversation with this remarkable young lady ran as follows: "So
where are you from, Yisel?" – "Cuba. Actually from the same village as Leinier."
– "And what do you do? What is your profession?" – "I am an atomic physicist."
– "You are a WHAT?" – "You know: atom? Boom!" – "Yes, I know what an
atomic or nuclear physicist is. But are you really one?" – "Sure, why not?"
– "Okay, sorry to do this, but can you tell me what a Large Hadron Collider
is?" – "You mean the LHC? Well, I actually worked at CERN..." There followed
an intense exchange in which we told Yisel about our fears that the LHC might
be a deadly threat to humankind. "No, no, don't worry," she said. "On the one
hand it is highly unlikely – practically impossible – that dangerous black holes
will be produced, the kind that last longer than microseconds before they evaporate
due to Hawking radiation. And secondly they will probably never get
it to run. The whole machine is too complicated, it will keep failing until
they give up." Yisel was wrong on the second point – we can just hope
she is right on the first.
John Nunn, from whom we have received most of our physics and astronomical
Naturally the all-round scientifically interested grandmaster Dr John Nunn
as been following the development of the LHC closely and commented on the first
successful collisions. He believes the machine will be shut down for another
year because the final energy levels cannot be currently achieved. We have discussed
the subject of micro black holes and life in the universe with John, who after
reading the book Where
is Everybody – Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem
of Extraterrestrial Life, concludes that intelligent life in our galaxy
must be rarer than we thought. "Perhaps there are many planets with bacterial
life forms," John says, "but probably very few with multi-cellular
creatures and even fewer with intelligent societies."
This is a subject we have also discussed extensively with Henrik Carlsen, father
of Magnus, who agrees with John and has adjusted the parameters of the Drake
Equation to make it fairly unlikely for alien intelligence to exist in our
The Fermi Paradox – a proposed solution
By Frederic Friedel
The Fermi Paradox is a thought experiment that was conducted by the physicist
Enrico Fermi in 1950 and raises the question why, in spite of overwhelming statistical
odds for intelligent civilisations in our galaxy, we have not encountered any
alien artifacts or creatures. It is unreasonable to believe that the 300 billion
stars in the Milky Way have spawned less than many thousands of civilisations,
and even slow interstellar travel, which is nearly within the reach of Earth
technology, requires just five to 50 million years to colonize the entire galaxy.
So if we are not the only life form (monumentally unlikely) then hundreds of
alien civilisations should have already visited earth, a fact that should, of
course, be immediately obvious to us. But this is not the case. At the very
least we should be receiving microwave communications from them. But again this
has not occurred.
Various solutions have been proposed to the Fermi Paradox, which are mainly
based on the assumption that extraterrestrial life may not be as abundant as
we are assuming; that intelligent life and civilisation may be extremely rare;
that technical civilizations tend to destroy themselves; or some combination
of these factors. Technological civilizations may invariably self-destruct with
nuclear or biological warfare, nano-technological catastrophe, badly-programmed
super-intelligence, or a Malthusian catastrophe after the deterioration of a
planet's ecosphere. Still, even if a few civilisations did not fall prey to
such such catastrophies, they should be crawling around our planet.
We would like to propose the following specific solution to the Fermi Paradox:
in our galaxy and in this universe in general, intelligent civilisations at
some stage invariably start building large hadron colliders. Once these achieve
a critical energy level (perhaps 14 TeV?) the scientists start generating miniature
black holes, naively assuming that they will disappear due to Hawking evaporation.
They don't, and a number migrate to the gravitational centre of their planets,
where the pressure is large enough to lead to an exponential accretion process.
And thus do all fledgling civilisations, all over the galaxy, end, a short time
before it would have been possible to undertake interstellar space travel and
colonisation of the galaxy: in the aftermath of an LHC experiment. Every time.
A vexing new paradox arises from this proposal: if our theory is wrong we will
be rightfully ignored; if we are right, we stand to win major academic awards.
But then we will no longer be around to actually receive them, right? It's a
The Russian Wooden Collider
We cannot end this article without mentioning that while the rest of the world
was waiting with bated breath for the start of the large hadron collider at
CERN, the Russians built a prototype of the collider on their own. "As
for the choice of the material," say the scientists, "there was not
a big choice. We decided to follow local traditions and make it out of wood.
Why not? " Here are some pictures taken during the construction of the
Large Wooden Collider:
"This project is a big leap forward in using renewable materials in particle
physics," says the Wooden Physics expert. "Just imagine no need for
the shielding against dangerous Alpha Beta rays, no need for high voltages and
pollution of the environment caused by all the plastics and metal parts production.
And all those rumours about the possibility of opening black hole portal to
fourth dimension when the particles collide is bull, especially it’s not
worth any speculation in our case, when the wood is used – it won’t
contradict nature itself, and nature as you know, is a great power.”