No, Particle Accelerators Will Not Destroy the Planet, But Humans Might

Bild: LHC Genf
The future could be glorious or grim, and the gust of wind that tips things one way or another is us — the humans of the 21st century.

By Yasemin Saplakoglu |

„The stakes are very high this century,“ said British cosmologist Martin Rees. „It’s the first century when human beings … can determine the planet’s future.“ [10 Technologies That Will Transform Your Life]

For the past couple of days, news outlets have been reporting that Rees‘ new book „On the Future: Prospects for Humanity“ (Princeton University Press, 2018) makes a rather spectacular claim: If things go wrong, particle accelerators that slam subatomic particles together at immense speeds — like the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland,— could turn Earth into a dense sphere or black hole.

In fact, Rees told Live Science in a recent interview, his book claims the opposite: The probability of this happening is very, very low. The idea of the LHC forming mini-black holes has been circulating for a while and is not something to worry about, he said.

„I think people quite rightly thought about this question before they did the experiments, but they were reassured,“ he said. The reassurance mainly comes from the fact that nature already performs such experiments — to an extreme.

Cosmic rays, or particles with much higher energies than those created in particle accelerators, frequently collide in the galaxy, and haven’t yet done anything disastrous like rip space apart, Rees said.

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