Aug 15, 2011

Actually saving the Earth for a change

Posted by in category: asteroid/comet impacts

If the conspiracy theory content of this blog is getting you down — here’s a write up of a real science project to test a technique to divert an asteroid that might be on a collision course with Earth. All going well the Don Quijote mission will launch by 2015.

Steve Nerlich
Member of the Board


Comments — comments are now closed.

  1. Robert Houston says:

    Thanks for your valuable article on asteroid “impact mitigation.”

    Supposing a big science machine may generate useful research but could pull asteroids to Earth. Should we oppose it? What if it could pull primordial black holes? Supposing its own scientists say such a machine may produce black holes? Why would that be acceptable?

    There’s no “conspiracy” here, defined as secret cooperation for a criminal end. CERN scientists openly admit that the LHC may “become a black-hole factory” (Barrau and Grain, CERN Courier, Nov. 12, 2004).

  2. Glad you liked it Robert. The standard answer to your concerns is that much higher-energy collisions occur routinely in the upper atmosphere due to cosmic rays — and have been taking place for billions of years.

    Concerns about a ‘big science machine’ probably date back to the steam engine.

    Other colliders (e.g. the US’s Tevatron) have allegedly produced multiple micro-black holes which evaporate shortly after their creation. It would be cool if this could be positively proven — might get Stephen Hawking a Nobel prize.

  3. robomoon says:

    Are you talking about a theory in which the upper atmosphere receives two cosmic rays of one meter long proton bundles moving much slower but normal in circular motion 27 kilometers around in a direction opposite to each other? You must already earned two Nobel prizes for that.

  4. Robert Houston says:

    The “standard answer” for LHC safety — that higher energy cosmic rays hit the atmosphere — was found invalid by CERN analysts in 2008. Regarding neutral microscopic black holes, CERN’s public safety report now admits (p. 2): “Those produced by cosmic rays would pass harmlessly through the Earth into space, whereas those produced by the LHC could remain on Earth.” (And wreak havoc.)

    Higher energy cosmic rays would merely result in a more rapid exit of the products. Moreover, a cosmic ray particle would need 7,000 times the LHC’s energy just to equal the center-of-mass energy of the LHC collisions (see CERN’s LSAG report, Sec. 2).

    Contary to your unreferenced claim, there’s been no announced evidence of black holes or Hawking radiation at the Tevatron.

  5. Robert I just googled Tevatron + black holes and got quite a few references, e.g. cdsweb.cern.ch/record/531098/files/0112186.pdf

    It’s not a hard thing to research yourself.

    Nonetheless, I was clear these are theoretical claims — it would be cool if they can get unequivocal evidence that BHs really are being created.

  6. Robert Houston says:

    Steve, I found the same 2002 articles and noticed that their allusions to black holes at the Tevatron were in the nature of predictions, rather than evidence of production. As you say, “these are theoretical claims.” We are forewarned by such predictions, however, that powerful colliders may indeed produce black holes and other world-threatening phenomena.

    It seems so much wiser that research funding be put into projects that would help save mother Earth, such as the Don Quijote asteroid mission about which you wrote so well, rather than projects such as the LHC which could endanger her.

    In 2008, two of the authors of your first citation (Drs. Bleicher and Stocker), co-wrote a paper at arXiv.org that gave equations for the rate of accretion if “the LHC produced a…black hole which gets stuck somewhere in the middle of the earth.” They found that “with one extra dimension, the earth would be accreted into the black hole in 27 years.”

  7. How safe our Black holes if we can produce them? The obvious answer is none of us know for sure.

    The arguments that the forces are huge and our efforts miniscule, make sense. If Black holes can stop then there may be one or more in most stars and even planets, which are expanding far slower than something else destroying the planet, or star, first. However if they always traveled at the speed of light, then a colider making holes traveling in the opposite direction at collider speed, not the speed of light would be something brand new in the universe, and dangerous if care isn’t taken to keep the beams away from the sun.

    What is scary to me is no one as far as I can research has found any more reasons to expect them to be safe, than before the collider first started operating, and the general public and even some scientists falsely think that the fact that we see no evidence that the collider has yet set off a scenario that will destroy the earth, is an indication of safety. If the dormant micro black holes in all stars possibility is the actual story, we already destroyed the earth in a few trillion years or so, which might actually become much sooner as the collider produces millions more. It’s know that black holes that don’t evaporate would never be detected by a collider’s present instruments.

    It’s also important that we prepare to defend the earth from an asteroid with an exploration program and a self sustainable underground city or two. And another one as deep in the ground as possible in case a star explodes near by.

    It’s too bad that somehow this blog post and some comments have asteroid danger and black hole danger in competition for the readers attention.

  8. Robert Houston says:

    I agree with the main points of Richard Kane, but both he and Robomoon made confusing statements about speed. According to CERN, particles in the LHC would move at 0.999999991 the speed of light at top energy (7 TeV). Because the particles in the counter-rotating beams collide symmetrically (virtually head-on with identical speed and energy), their products — such as possible black holes — would be slowed down, some to below the Earth’s escape velocity.

    In constrast, cosmic ray collisions with the relatively stationary particles of the Earth or Sun are asymmetrical and so, by transfer of momentum, the products would speed away at near light speeds.