Manmade Black Hole Risk is Extremely Small

Posted on October 20, 2006

Greg Landsberg at Brown University in Providence, R.I. told LiveScience that the risk of destruction from a manmade black hole or "black hole factory" is "totally minimal." Apparently, a group called The Lifeboat Foundation considers black holes that could be created by particle accelerators, like CERN's Large Hadron Collider, a risk to humanity.

A number of models of the universe suggest extra dimensions of reality exist that are each folded up into sizes ranging from as tiny as a proton, or roughly a millionth of a billionth of a meter, to as big as a fraction of a millimeter. At distances comparable to the size of these extra dimensions, gravity becomes far stronger, these models suggest. If this is true, the collider will cram enough energy together to initiate gravitational collapses that produce black holes.

If any of the models are right, the accelerator should create a black hole anywhere from every second to every day, each roughly possessing 5,000 times the mass of a proton and each a thousandth of a proton in size or smaller, Landsberg said.

Still, any fears that such black holes will consume the Earth are groundless, Landsberg said.

For one thing, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking calculated all black holes should emit radiation, and that tiny black holes should lose more mass than they absorb, evaporating within a billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, "before they could gobble up any significant amount of matter," Landsberg said.

Landsberg also said that the vast majority of any black holes that were created would escape Earth's gravity.
CERN spokesman and former research physicist James Gillies also pointed out that Earth is bathed with cosmic rays powerful enough to create black holes all the time, and the planet hasn't been destroyed yet.

"Still, let's assume that even if Hawking is a genius, he's wrong, and that such black holes are more stable," Landsberg said. Nearly all of the black holes will be traveling fast enough from the accelerator to escape Earth's gravity. "Even if you produced 10 million black holes a year, only 10 would basically get trapped, orbiting around its center," Landsberg said.

Let's hope the CERN, Hawkings and the other experts are correct and we aren't doomed. has more about black holes here including a list of dozens of recent articles about black holes.

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