Thursday, September 11, 2008

Large Hadron Collider 101: Black Hole Production

Over the past few days there has been a lot of buzz about black hole production at the Large Hadron Collider. Its been largely debunked. But is it scientifically possible to produce black holes at the Large Hadron Collider? The answer is YES.

A black hole will be formed when enough mass or energy is concentrated into a small enough volume of space. The Large Hadron Collider will be concentrating large amounts of energy into small volumes of space, so in principle it is possible to create a black hole. Any black hole that would be created would be tiny, microscopic-so for a lot of reasons its nothing to worry about. The actual probability of creating a black hole is uncertain at this point. One reason is that to know how likely it is to form a black hole under those conditions, you have to know something about physics beyond the standard model. Right now people aren't all that sure about those sorts of things. In particular, the uncertainty comes about because we don't understand gravity at TeV energy scales, and there is a lot of uncertainty about quantum gravity. To really predict what will happen you have to know a lot about quantum gravity.

One possibility is in the realm of string theory. It may be that if string theory is true, or on another related front large extra dimensions exist, it might be easier to generate black holes. Here are some posted papers that explore this possibility.

Calculations for Black Hole Production at the Large Hadron Collider

Microcanonical Treatment of Black Hole Decay at the Large Hadron Collider

Black hole production at Large Hadron Collider

One thing we do know is that black holes radiate or decay (evaporate). The smaller the black hole, the faster it decays. The microscopic black holes produced at the LHC, if there are any, will decay almost instantly. This is one reason they are not a threat. But make no mistake: It is possible to produce black holes at the LHC.

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