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Another Way The LHC Could Destroy The Planet

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes | more than 5 years ago

Security 7

KentuckyFC writes "Just when you thought it was safe to switch on the LHC, another nightmare scenario has emerged that some critics believe could cause the particle accelerator to explode. The culprit this time is not an Earth-swallowing black hole but a "Bose supernova" in the accelerator's superfluid helium bath. Physicists have been playing with Bose Einstein Condensate or BECs for almost 20 years now. But in 2001, one group discovered that placing them in a powerful magnetic field could cause the attractive forces between atoms to become repulsive. That caused their BEC to explode in a Bose supernova, which was little more than a novelty when it was no more than a microscopic blob of cold matter. But superfluid liquid helium is also BEC. And physicists have suddenly remembered that the LHC is swimming in 700,000 litres of the stuff while zapping it by some of the most powerful magnetic fields on the planet. So is the LHC a Bose supernova waiting to go off? Not according to the CERN theory division which has published its calculations that show the LHC is safe (abstract). It also points out that no other superfluid helium handling facility has mysteriously blown itself to pieces."
Link to Original Source

7 comments

Not a BEC (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 5 years ago | (#25192847)

I have a hard time believing you could get that much liquid He to be superfluid all at the same time. More likely, plain ol' liquid Helium with maybe some pockets of He superfluid.

Re:Not a BEC (1)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 5 years ago | (#25193229)

So these pockets wouldn't be a BEC then? Wouldn't that already give pretty big explosions?

Also FWIW, I think even with 700,000 liters it seems overstated to say the entire planet would be destroyed.

Re:Not a BEC (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25194491)

It might not be enough to literally blow the planet to bits, but it's a lot easier to simply wipe out life on the planet.

It's even easier to wipe out humanity.

It's even easier than that to wipe out human civilization.

It's even easier tan that to make life a lot harder for those of us remaining after the explosion.

It doesn't take that much to make life pretty miserable on this little spec of dust. That said, I would like to know what kind of explosive force we might be dealing with here, and what kind of timescale is required for such a reaction. If it is a fairly slow reaction, or doesn't go off evenly, we would probably get a small explosion that would disable the magnets well before we got to the point of a planet shattering event.

Perhaps it would behoove us as a species to try this out on a larger scale than has been tested to date, but well below that of the LHC system to see if it would in fact explode when they switch the thing on.

[citation needed] (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#25195207)

But in 2001, one group discovered that placing them in a powerful magnetic field could cause the attractive forces between atoms to become repulsive. That caused their BEC to explode in a Bose supernova[...]

TFS should have linked a reference for that [sciencedaily.com].

I was going to make someone else find one, but impatience and curiosity somehow managed to beat laziness...

Where does the energy come from? (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25195619)

If this could create enough energy to seriously threaten life on this planet, it must be tapping some reserve of energy that we have never harnessed for power production. I wonder if we couldn't create a massively powerful (clean?) generator with such technology?

Consider (1)

wagr (1070120) | more than 5 years ago | (#25197921)

Consider how we get there. Atoms condense to create a BEC. A few atoms condense then, since they are in the magnetic field, go nova. If they go nova, why won't they go nova until there are enough atoms in the condensate to cause a noticeable explosion? Wouldn't there just be some number of really tiny novas?

Consider how hard it is to make a BEC. Are we to believe that BECs are going to be common enough to make this a threat without someone really trying?

Consider that it may have already happened. Inside a liquid helium chamber, what would an explosion look like? A lot of heat? http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/09/24/1451233 [slashdot.org]

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