Have you noticed the seemingly unending stream of articles and conjecture concerning the celebrated particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider? The most recent comes from the UK Telegraph, and concerns a teenaged schoolgirl who sought to have underage sex and to lose her virginity before the Collider brought about the end of the world. She didn't want to die without at least trying it. Makes sense.
Prior to starting up the LHC in 2008, Stephen Hawking and other scientists pointedly denied claims that the accelerator would produce a black hole which would annihilate the planet. "Ridiculous!" you say. But the revered and distinguished physicist Albert Einstein set forth some principles that reinforce that Armageddon-inducing possibility.
The Hadron Collider is a 17-mile long circular tunnel in Geneva, Switzerland, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) to magnetically propel small gold particles to a speed approaching the speed of light, this in a vacuum environment at cold space temperatures — temperatures near absolute zero. The small particles would be moving at those light speeds, in opposite directions, with the intent of a collision, which would be photographed and studied, to provide information related to the Big Bang, black holes, and various other theoretical phenomena.
During September of 2008, the Collider ran into a problem when a faulty electrical connection between two of its magnets caused a malfunction in the cooling system that subsequently led to a helium leak. Now, after extensive repair, we are told the Collider will again be up and running by the end of 2009, possibly during this month of September.
What, you may ask, is all this talk about Armageddon? The 21st century scientists who developed the colossus tell us we have nothing to fear from banging particles together at light speeds. I fail to be calmed. When scientists first split the atom there was concern that we may burn a hole through the planet. Now that we are colliding particles head-on, instead of splitting, some have registered similar fears.
The notorious scientists have taken pains to still our fears. They point out that no two particles of matter can exceed the speed of light in relation to one another. If two chunks of matter were racing away from one another, each at very near the speed of light, by some complex process only explainable in mathematical lexicon (is that an oxymoron?) the calculable relative speed is still below the speed of light — about 186,000 miles per second.
These same scientists assure us that all the matter in the universe was once contained in a space so tiny as to be nearly nonexistent. About the size of the tiniest part of the atom. Some of these scientific theories fail to instill me with confidence.
Einstein theorized that the energy produced by splitting atoms equals the mass of the assembled atoms, multiplied by the speed of light squared; that is to say, multiplied by itself.
CERN, who have conceded that one of their lessor goals is to debunk some of Dr. Einstein's theories, say that the mass of the particles involved in the proposed collision is so small that the energy produced would be a mere sneeze in the wind. But Einstein said that a particle moving at 186,000 miles/second has "infinite mass." Infinite mass. What, then, does that do to our equation? Two particles with infinite mass, being smashed together, at the speed of light (maybe twice the speed of light!), should produce energy equaling infinite mass times the speed of light squared (at least).
If someone suggests that such a man-made collision could in theory bring about the end of the entire universe, all matter, all time — is that justifiable?
"Like two universes coming together, and everything flying apart!"
The collision will be recorded by an array of cameras capable of taking 2000 photos every second. This is the speed of light we are talking about, folks. To my thinking, that is not unlike a Renaissance painter in oils trying to record the takeoff of a single hummingbird on a single specific occasion.