What happens when science goes wrong and the technological arrogance of humanity causes global disasters? Usually, as the captions rotate, this type of script is almost always science fiction. But as it is week of black holes at NASAwe thought we would have a little fun imagining the complete and accidental destruction of our planet.

Already in the 30s of last century there were short moment when some of the physicists working with Einstein on the atomic bomb stopped wondering if the explosion of such a device would eventually ignite the Earth’s atmosphere and destroy the entire planet.

The team did a quick calculation and decided it wasn’t likely, and that was the end of it.

But that hasn’t stopped some people in the media from spreading the story after one of the men in the conversation shared it as an anecdote to the press.

Today, more than 80 years later, it is not uncommon to come across hyperbolic retellings of history that involve zero-hour panic and last-second prayers.

The same thing happened when the Large Hadron Collider went online in 2008. Scientists aroused the curiosity of the media by placing the potential ability of the laboratory to create microscopic black holes.

Can these black holes destroy the planet? Are we in trouble?

Of course, the answer to these questions has been and remains very strong: almost certainly not. Maybe the LHC will eventually create microscopic black holes and maybe not. What is important here is that theoretically, if so, it would mean that microscopic black holes are more common than previously thought.

Like this article from Forbes points out that we live with greater threats to our solar system than the LHC is likely to produce, and there are probably small black holes everywhere anyway:

Of course, we have never before created particles of this energy in the laboratory. But at the highest energies – energies more than a hundred million (100,000,000) times greater than what we create in the LHC – the particles hit the Earth constantly: the great cosmic rays that bombard us from all directions in space.

These black holes, if they existed, would have bombarded the Earth (and all the planets) throughout the history of our solar system, as well as the Sun, and there is absolutely no evidence that any body in our solar system ever became a black hole or eaten by one.

So here it is. You have almost nothing to fear from black holes. Of course, “almost” nothing is the same as absolutely Nothing. And that means, theoretically, there’s at least a greater than zero percent chance that scientists will accidentally create a dangerous black hole in a laboratory.

The most commonly cited reason why the LHC is unlikely to produce a dangerous black hole is this not enough power. But what if we imagine a super-large collider capable of generating a dangerous amount of energy?

Currently, scientists are using analogues of black hole to study quantum gravitational effects. Unfortunately for our purposes, they usually include lasers, cold atoms and strange metals.

The experiments are super cool and give physicists an amazing new idea of ​​our universe, but they are very unlikely to create some kind of cosmological anomaly or even a baby black hole.

No, if we want to imagine a paradigm in which Earth scientists accidentally create a black hole large enough to engulf an entire planet (or even the entire Milky Way!), Then we will have to think much, much bigger.

It is generally believed that black holes of this size form when a large star collapses within itself. The mass of the star becomes so densely packed that it begins to acquire exotic properties.

But a star has to be quite massive for that to happen. Salt, the star we call our sun, for example, will more than likely just go out if it collapses – it’s just not powerful enough to maintain the properties needed for a black hole to appear.

And that means scientists will have to fuck up so badly in an endeavor to create an implosion more powerful than our own sun, which is collapsing within itself. It is difficult to imagine that such a thing is happening on our relatively small planet – but it is not impossible.

A chain reaction of cold fusion is one possibility. This goes back to those not-so-scientific World War II concerns about igniting the atmosphere. The essence is this room temperature nuclear fusion can cause a chain reaction that instead of exploding to engulf the planet, it would lead to chain failures. Essentially it would be like a mini-Big Bang or a very mini-Big Bang.

But cold fusion is still hypothetical, and there is no reason to believe that it would be inherently dangerous, which makes it doubly doubtful to suggest that its discovery could immediately precede the destruction of our entire galaxy.

In fact, there aren’t many possible ways for Earth scientists to do so much damage.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re doing a great job destroying the planet with the technology we have. But the idea of ​​an innocent experiment in some fantastic research laboratory that would lead to the immediate erasure of our planet is a little beyond our technological knowledge at the moment.

However, don’t let that spoil you. One hundred years ago, the LHC would have looked like science fiction.

With a little luck and some good old-fashioned human determination, we will be able to destroy our entire galaxy in no time.


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