It seems like, this time, the largest particle accelerator in the world, the LHC - Large Hadron Collider will actually start working. With a budget of 4 billion euros, it is the largest machine on the planet, with a perimetre of almost 27km and a total of 9 300 superconducting magnets in its interior.
It isn't only the biggest particle accelerator, but also one of the biggest cryogenic systems, in which the temperature of the magnets will reach almost -271ºC, using almost 10.080 tonnes of liquid nitrogen and 60 tonnes of liquid helium. However, the LHC is also a machine of extreme heat, because when two protons collide, it generates an amount of heat 100 000 times bigger than the sun's core.
The LHC will also have the biggest detection system ever built. It will be able to detect and save about 600 million proton collisions per second and measure the movement of particles and time with astounding precision. Just so you have a general idea of the metric and time resolution, you would have to divide the metre into several millions and the second into several billions, to match the LHC's capacity.
Furthermore, a system of such magnitude will also have the biggest computational structure ever gathered. The amount of information produced by each of the major experiments done at the LHC would occupy about 100 000 double layer DVDs a year (see datacenter below).
Among many other things, one of the main goals of the LHC is to try to explain the origin of mass in elementary particles. For it, it will count upon about 2 thousand physicists from 35 countries and two independent laboratories, the JINR (Joint Institute for Nuclear Research) and the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire).
A few scientists believe that this equipment can cause a catastrophe of cosmic dimensions, such as a black hole that would eventually destroy the Earth. There is even a law suit taking place in Hawaii that is trying to stop the experiment until there is further evidence that the risks don't exist. Others accuse the CERN of not having done enough studies on the experiment's environmental impact. Another theory is that it could cause the formation of strange quarks; producing a chain reaction that would generate "strange matter", which could be able to convert ordinary matter into strange matter, thus producing another chain reaction that would completely transform the planet.
In spite of the catastrophic allegations, world renowned theoretical physicists, such as Stephen Hawking and Lisa Randall, as well as several other physicists and engineers, state that such theories are merely absurd and that these experiments were meticulously studied and reviewed, and are, as such, under control.
In the meantime, if a black hole were to be produced inside the LHC, it would be the size a million times smaller than a grain of sand, and wouldn't last longer than 1x10^−27 seconds, because, being a black hole, it would emit radiation and dissipate. But, supposing that it would remain stable, it would still be harmless. This black hole would have been created at the speed of light (300 thousand kilometres per second) and, in less than a second, it would escape the walls of the LHC and move towards space. The only way it would remain on Earth would be if its speed decreased to 15 km per second. Supposing that were to occur, it would go to the center of the planet, due to gravity, but it would still not be threatening. In order to represent any danger, it would have to aquire mass, but, with the size of a proton, it would go through the Earth without touching anything, finding a proton to add to its mass at a rate of 30 minutes to 200 hours. To reach a miligram of mass, it would need more time than the actual age of the universe.
Additional information and reports about the security of the LHC have obviously been produced and can be read at CERN.
What's you opinion? Will this be the judgement day machine or one of the most amazing and expensive scientific projects?