Black holes from the LHC could survive for minutes


There is absolutely, positively, definitely no chance of the LHC destroying the planet when it eventually switches on some time later this year.  Right?

Err, yep. And yet a few niggling doubts are persuading some scientists to run through their figures again. And the new calculations are throwing up some surprises.

One potential method of destruction is that the LHC will create tiny black holes that could swallow everything in their path including the planet. In 2002, Roberto Casadio at the Universita di Bologna in Italy and a few pals reassured the world that this was not possible because the black holes would decay before they got the chance to do any damage.

Now they’re not so sure.  The question is not simply how quickly a mini-black hole decays but whether this decay always outpaces any growth.

Casadio have reworked the figures and now say that:  ” the growth of black holes to catastrophic size does not seem possible.”

Does not seem possible? That’s not the unequivocal reassurance that particle physicists have been giving us up till now.

What’s more, the new calculations throw up a tricky new prediction. In the past, it had always been assumed that black holes would decay in the blink of an eye.

Not any more. Casadio and co say:  “the expected decay times are much longer (and possibly ≫ 1 sec) than is typically predicted by other models”

Whoa, let’s have that again: these mini black holes will be hanging around for seconds, possibly minutes?

That doesn’t sound good. Anybody at CERN care to clarify?

Ref: On the Possibility of Catastrophic Black Hole Growth in the Warped Brane-World Scenario at the LHC

237 Responses to “Black holes from the LHC could survive for minutes”

  1. Joe Coggiano says:

    We have already reached destruction of nuclei during Pi Meson and Muon discovery at Univ of MD during Dr Zern reignand 2 psi particles at SLAC.
    According to Cloud trails we will only find smaller versions of the same particles which will
    not leave black holes or rips. However they may
    blow themselves up.

  2. What? You still have a 401K after last fall’s market black hole?

  3. Tom Shore says:

    Stephen Hawking and others have proven that black holes have temperature and entropy. Ergo, they have energy. Ergo, the conservation of nonexistence is crackpot “science.”

  4. Dir Kirche says:

    There is math to support your thinking. Karl Schwarzschild’s radius determines that there must be a given mass for a radius for it to support itself. The earth itself would have to be the size of a peanut to maintain it’s blackhole status.

  5. Joe Coggiano says:

    We have already reached conditions using FFTF
    (Fast Flux Test Reactor).

  6. Will C. says:

    “I got tired of reading the comments. Do Not Feed the Crackpots, folks! It only encourages them, even though you may think you’re doing them a kindness.

    If we make black holes (and I hope we do, and that we can detect their decays), they pose an infinitesimal threat. I use infinitesimal in the following sense:

    If the threat of being killed by a single solar neutrino is considered significant (which it isn’t — you’re bombarded by 6E10/cm^2/s of them), the chances of any black hole created by the LHC taking in matter and growing would still be infinitesimal by comparison. Let’s do the math.”

    I think the worry is concentration and the vector of these particles. Solar neutrinos I would think eminate radially from the sun. But we’re talking about something that lines up particles in bunches and firing them at each other. Light from the sun doesn’t hurt us so much (sunburn) as the protons are also eminating radially from the center of the sun. But concentrate and give a single vector to the protons and you have a LASER, something that does significantly more damage to us. Just a thought….probably simplistic I know.

    I’m all for putting this thing on hold. Its not like we need it to survive on earth. Maybe put the money into creating better solar panels or something (non-destructive).

  7. [...] calculations suggest LHC black holes may not be so quick to decay. There’s only one way to find [...]

  8. Shuttle Worker says:

    Anyone ever heard of a guy named Murphy?????

  9. Chris P says:

    At least the French and other Europeans will be the first to go.

  10. vpinks says:

    Remember, theories are models. Experiments are reality. Make sure we are not mislead by theoretical results. The real world always wins! Better look at the theories a little closer. Too much is at stake here.

  11. Gary Comer says:

    I’m thinking tiny black holes may be good. We can toss our garbage in them.

  12. Russ Darensbourg says:

    While it is true that our planet is bombarded with neutrinos and cosmic rays constantly. These are not constrained to a narrow path which insures collision with a like particle at an equally terrific speed.
    On the other hand. I still do not understand what is so significant about this particular supercollider compared to the many other that came before it.

  13. David says:

    Isn’t this thing in France? Would france disappearing into a black be a bad thing?

  14. Peter424 says:

    Hey, while all you geniuses are debating the (quite?) possible EOW by this apparently ill-understood process, would it be possible for one of you to make a cgi or some type of cool looking simulation showing how it would look????

  15. Byron548 says:

    If any disaster was possible, why are we only hearing about it through blogs and minor stories on Seems to me that talk show hosts, tabloids, moneymakers, and politicians would be all over this story considering the attention they would get. (look at global warming)

    Since we know the media knows about this “threat,” and has chosen to ignore it, would it be safe to say that such fears are baseless?

  16. Derek says:

    Have you met my girlfriend and her sorority sisters?

  17. Bob T says:

    Hey chicken littles, your kidding? Right. Did any of you ever do any research in anything besides the tabloids?

    Stellar size black holes require a minimum of 1.5 to 3.0 solar masses to even be possible to exist. Our sun, when it runs out of fuel will most likely collapse into a brown dwarf star.

    As for black holes created by cosmic rays, ultra-high energy cosmic rays are most likely protons or other nuclei, not rays at all. These particles arrive on Earth once per square mile per century, making it highly unlikely one would ever hit a person. Now from that statement do any of you believe that the LHC could produce energy of that magnatude, and even if it did, the theory of Hawkin Radiation says that they will dissolve in fractions of a second into a gamma ray burst, and there would be no time to merge with any other material. Now kids, lets leave your fears and egos at the door. When mother nature has been performing these same experiments for billions of years, in a non-controlled environment, how do you expect us little tiny critter to be able to suck up the earth? Hmmm

    Current public school education has made morons out of most people now. You better go hide in your basement with aluminum foil covering your heads.

  18. RBH says:

    So, will the LHC redefine Pyrrhic Victory?

  19. Eric says:

    This paper really signifies an outrage of safety paper neglect!

    Did you know that the CERN safety group report and two other pro lhc-safety papers have relied on a method of interpretation of the Hawking radiation, for the micro black hole that has been considered by many physicists, including in a reference to it in a 1976 paper by Stephen Hawking, as inappropriate to apply here? It is called the ‘canonical’ approach.

    The relevant approach recommended by those who have analysed this, is used here by Casadio et al and is called the ‘microcanonical’ approach. As you can see, the results obtained are significantly different.

    However, this paper effectively ignores angular momentum because alteration of it averages at zero (between ‘-ve’ and positive) over a long time, even though it would have angular momentum most of the time. Therefor it excludes an argument of an earlier paper of his and Harms’ (Physical Review D,V64, 2001: Sect C), that angular momentum can reduce or perhaps annul compact extra dimension micro black hole evaporation.

    Note that, according to T G Rizzo in Classical & Quantum Gravity/23/p4263/2006, several different quantum gravity theories alongside Rizzo’s ‘ADD with Lovelock gravity’ have been analysed between 2000 and ‘06 by Bonanno/Reuter, Cavaglia et al, Bojowald et al and BFL Ward, each giving such longer micro black hole duration that they would eventually leave a remnant. I assume these arguments take the micro black hole in isolation, so do not accrete as the lhc mbh’s would.

    If there are possible criteria from any of these quantum gravity theories where the mbh could accrete quickly enough to a mass above the quantum gravity domain, then the Hawking Radiation for this mass would get hugely large – according to Hawking/Beckenstein’s formulae applied for luminosity to our ’semi-classical’ scale.

    All these alternative analysis do apply Hawking radiation to micro black holes, so the proponents would seemingly not disagree with the ’semiclassical’ Hawking radiation value being extreme if the mbh could grow to this scale of mass.

    Surely then, there would be enough basis to not operate the lhc.

  20. HMM says:

    So if the black hole destroys our planet and ourselves – so what? If other civilizations were destroyed the same way – so what? There is no prize for sustaining our existence and the universe will not notice our absence. There is a theory that the fitness potential of a universe is measured by the number of black holes it can produce and perhaps the friendliness of this universe towards life is thanks to life forms’ ability to enhance the production of black holes. If we’re ready for our share – why not? Still more likely than not we’ll just learn some more stuff about subatomic world. If we perish in the process – what better end could we ask for?

  21. 321 says:

    The LHC will be activated, no matter what. They’re going to do it no matter what any nay-sayers think. They’ve already said that on many occasions, and have dismissed all criticisms of potential danger as being “groundless.”

    Thus, there’s nothing we can do about it. If we live, we might learn something mildly interesting about quantum mechanics by confirming that the Higgs Boson does, in fact, exist. Or maybe all of the commonly accepted models of quantum mechanics are tossed out the window when the Higgs boson doesn’t make an appearance.

    The other alternative is we create a microscopic black hole that manages to grow, survive, and gobble the planet – we all die.

    No matter how it turns out, it’s a done deal, nothing can be done to stop it.

    Me, I’m stocking up on popcorn and beer. I fully intend to sit on my roof and watch the horizon when they fire it up. At least that way, if something catastrophic starts to happen to the planet, I’ll have a decent view of the light-show that follows to take with me into the afterlife.

  22. [...] Justin followed with a story of recess. We agreed that we all need a bit more play time. Then black holes at the LHC made a scene. And, non-lethal weapons for police are certainly killing a lot of people. [...]

  23. equinox says:

    Bob T is such a funny guy he should consider becoming a comedian, although perhaps he is not aware of how funny he is, how ironic !

    To quote “Current public school education has made morons out of most people now. You better go hide in your basement with aluminum foil covering your heads”

    And where was it you recieved your academic conditioning ? Perhaps it this institution that “educated” you with regards to newtonian thermodynamics ?

    Here’s something for you to chew on…. our sun will never “run out of fuel” because coronal ejections caused by nucluear reactions are non existent ! What you percieve with your unwise eyes at the point of a coronal ejection is infact the temporary revealing of the constant flow of electricity which is the “real” power source of the sun. Yes, the sun draws its energy from outside itself !

    Bet they did’t teach you that in your school, Bob.

    The Electric Universe… hey “do a google” !

    Or alternatively, buy some tin foil !

  24. MR D says:

    Well, these discussions are rather entertaining. I am no scientist and I am a big proponent of science. I think we should continue to crunch the number… again and again until we can be more sure before we start building these black holes. Remember one thing… hindsight is always clear and if their calculations are wrong…. well, it was fun while it lasted

  25. Joe Coggiano says:

    For all you Generalists: a String is twice half its length = the existence of a string.

    For all you specialists = Quantum variance.

  26. C'mon says:

    Fix the thing and turn it on already!

  27. John says:

    I find it interesting that there seems to be an absolution in the prejudice that science is somehow perfect, when in fact it is not.

    The problem doesn’t lay in the proven theory, but in the fact that it is being handled by a mere individual or group of imperfect human, whether by evolution or by “creation”.

    The assumption that the first set of agreed “numbers” as a consensus is appropriate takes a certain level of arrogance if the goal is to proceed right away and in the face of controversy or competing ideas.

    Where is the “precautionary principle”? Shouldn’t it at least be the most important consideration – meaning to side on that of caution?

    We have seen science claim certainty, only to find out that something was overlooked. In this case, we have no first hand experience with black holes, and the dynamics are still in consideration for theories.

    So who are we to assume that the math is right? What are the consequences if there is a mistake? Will it be a simple “well, we didn’t see that in the numbers?”.

    Are you so sure that you can be arrogant? Why?

    Or is this now just a matter of “I wonder what will really happen?”

    Here is my last point. If the science math is so certain that this is correct, then why the need to spend all of that money and “prove” it?

  28. jerry says:

    Now, this is the most intelligent comment I’ve read so far!

  29. [...] longer (and possibly ≫ 1 sec) than is typically predicted by other models" Here’s a brief synopsis of Casadio et al. from, but at the end, the blogger asks the obvious: "That doesn

  30. Dear KFC, the Casiado et al.-study, apparently first discussed here on Your blog, meanwhile makes the round:

    A report of msnbc also includes short ’soothing’ statements of the authors. (You will find some more, if You google for the last week: “LHC CERN Casiado”)

    Also see “The Tech Herald” from today:

    Could LHC black holes still carry an Earthly threat?

    by Stevie Smith – Jan 29 2009, 11:52

    “New claims concerning the controversial Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator have this week suggested that microscopic black holes created by the gigantic atom-smashing machine could, contrary to official safety reports, will not vanish quite as quickly as they form.”

    The new CERN-direktor Rolf-Dieter Heuer plans to run the LHC at 5 TeV this year already. This is about 2.5 times as much as the present record. This does not sound cautious at all!

    You will find an interesting critique by ‘Eric’ of this still very ‘optimistic’ study of Casiado et al. at our homepage (click my name above, I erased the urls in the posting, it seems they are not accepted)

    By the way, Prof. Otto Rossler also published a newly revised study, another approach concerning stable mBHs at the LHC (see there).

    Best regards,

    Markus Goritschnig
    (’LHC-Kritik’ filed the complaint against CERN at the European Court of Human Rights)

  31. Creditmunch says:

    Don’t worry everybody, I’ve invented a new piece of hardware called a FLUX CAPACITOR that will combat any black holes or problems arising from this!

    In all seriousness..seriously this is crazy..the problem with all theories is that they are just that….theories..noone knows what will happen for sure, is it not better to err on the side of caution. I’d rather know a little less about the universe and be alive than destroy the Earth all for the sake of a bit more knowledge about sub atomic particles etc, etc, yawn!

  32. Anne Malendex says:

    Why does it have to be called a BLACK hole instead of a WHITE hole. Seems to me like these scientists are racist. I mean now that we have a BLACK hole in the WHITE house can’t we all just drop this obsession with race. Next thing we know the scientists will be saying that the BLACK hole sells crack.

  33. equinox says:

    The reason why the “scientists” call them “black” holes is because they cannot see them… isn’t that rather convenient considering the panoramic scenery is dark due to lack of light ? Difficult to prove that a black hole doesn’t exist when it cannot be observed, which is precisely why our current “scientific” progress is being completely stunted.

    The truth is that the “scientists” mathematics are 90 % wrong, based on their current level of proof, yes folks thats 90 % wrong. Instead of accepting that the mathematics are 90 % wrong, some gentleman with a rather fertile imagination devised the brainchild that is “dark matter” (notice the theme here, “black” holes & “dark” matter) :)

    So instead of accepting that the “knowledge” that “they” have dervied via historical “scientific” rigour is quite simply wrong, “they” decided that it cannot be that the mathematics are 90 % wrong…. it must be that there is another force at work to account for why the mathematics are 90 % wrong ! Kind of clever when the creation one speculates to account for the missing 90 % of the universe is “dark” matter, something that cannot be observed !

    So, we have “dark” matter which is complete speculation and has never been proven to exist, we have “black” holes that have never been observed nor proven to exist, and we have the mathematics that are 90 % wrong based on estimates between the relationship of gravity and the mass of the universe.

    Trust the scientists folks, they ain’t 90 % wrong ! :)

    Oh, btw if you are unable to understand what Ive said here, there is no need to worry about “mini black holes” being created, because they don’t exist. The scientists are WRONG, “black holes” are nothing more than unobserved speculation that assist the “scientists” to come to terms with the FACT that the mathematics are 90% wrong, and they don’t have the slightest idea where the missing 90 % of mass is. Kind of difficult to ever find the missing mass when the newtonian model is just simply wrong. I’m sure “they” may wake up one day :)

  34. Sam says:

    I’m a very science minded guy, BUT…
    unless this can absolutely be proven as safe it should not be allowed to continue.

    We are here on this wonderfull planet and that is all that matters. How we got here really is of no importance. None of you over-educateed morons wanted money spent on war…exactly what is the world going to get out of the billions invested in this project? More food? more land? more water? more atmosphere? what? All you are doing is gobbling up money and wasting MASSIVE amounts of energy and resouces so that a handful of big brained scientists can get there “fix” and try to prove the “beginning of the universe”

    Your overstimulated curiousity will kill us all.

    ever heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat” ?

  35. equinox says:

    Forgive me for offering yet another observation… but what is “big brained” about being 90 % wrong ?

    All this displays is a lack of philosophical capacity on the part of those that are unable to think for themselves, resulting with the psychological dependence upon academic dogma in conjunction with externally derived “empirical” data, in order to create/maintain the illusion that “they” have an awareness of what is going on… It is what the philosopher refers to as being “misdirected by the self created reflections of the ego”

    Don’t listen to the “crazy” folk, believe those that are 90 % wrong !

  36. equinox, you don’t think that the Bullet Cluster observations, and those of others since, are compelling?

    Sometimes it’s good to accept incomplete understanding and slap a label like “dark matter” on it and things pan out pretty much like most of the scientists think they will.

  37. I like black hole better than the original term, “frozen star,” which just conjures up images that are even more wrong.

  38. Brad Adams says:

    This is a response to Barry’s theory above about the conservation of non-exisitance. This question you raise about the conservation of energy not being observed in a blackhole is quite puzzling. It’s hard to think anything in the universe wouldn’t obey this seemingly universal law, I’m not saying your theory is incorrect but how would explain blackbody radition emitted from a blackhole. Stephen Hawkins proposed this theory years ago that energy is indeed conserved in a blackhole through thermal radition on the edges of the event horizon. I haven’t read up on his theory in quite awhile but I believe I have the basics down, and it would seem energy is conserved through this process. Not saying your theory may not have some beauty to it but giving a solution of non-exisitance, to me, is like Europe saying the world is flat and if you sail to the edge you just fall off.

  39. Mr. Fozzie Bear says:

    well, heck!

    i’m game! let’s give it a shot! we won’t know if it’s gonna gobble us up unless we try, right?


  40. They told us, the LHC IS SAFE!

    They had a press that followed quite hermetically the publicly non written rules of NO CRITIC. There was just chance to discuss the risks by using the boulevard and the few private websites that engaged themselves.

    Now they find, that proton-proton collisions could create quasistable blackholes and immediatly they say: even-if there will result quasistable MicroBlackHoles they would leave the earth …

    but – quasistable MicroBlackHoles won’t have to leave … they could be standing still for seconds … and into those quasistable MiniBlackHoles there will happen another 600′000′000 Quark-Gluon-Collisions/second …

    If there will be a single MiniBlackHole remaining at the very location where the QuarkGluonCollisions are happening, than this 600′000′000 Collisions/second will feed this tiny MiniBlackHole with the enormous Energie that is put in the protons by accelerating them to 99.999% of the speed of light.

    The natural cosmic particle bombardemnt in earth’s stratosphere and onto the sun is absolutly incomparable with what CERN is going to do because never since 4′500′000′000 years there have been 600′000′000 collisions/second taking place in the very same small space of less than 0.03 cubical milimeters!

  41. J D M says:

    I suggest, before we turn it on, that someone leave a note for future generations: “For God’s sake – DON’T TURN ON THE LHC!!!”

  42. Tony says:

    Here’s what bothers me. Most of the interviews with LHC personnel go like this:

    Question: “Can the LHC produce black holes that could swallow the Earth?”

    Scientist: “No. Absolutely not. That’s nonsense”

    Question: “So, what do you expect to find when you activate the accelerator?”

    Scientist: “We have no idea but it will be exciting!”


  43. Dave says:

    It’s best not to sh*t in one’s own backyard. If this comes to pass, it will be an even greater mess than their ex-Physicist Wall St “quant” bretheren have managed to foist on the world thus-far with their systematic mis-modelling of systemic financial risk. Way to go.

  44. Dave says:

    PhysicistPoser writes: “I’m wiling to bet anyone one million dollars that the LHC experiment doesn’t produce a mini-black hole that destroys the earth.”

    Err, great idea mate. If you’re right, here’s your million. If you’re wrong, chances are neither you nor I will be around to find out, right? You don’t need a Ph.D. in game theory to figure out your downside is rather, ahem, “limited” here.

    Heads you win, tails I lose? Thanks “quant”.

  45. Dave says:

    You know … I’ve been a fan of particle physics and fundamental science for a long time. (I did Physics and Engineering degrees at uni). But the more I think about this, the more I believe the unknowns and the finite but non-zero probability of something significant going wrong potentially exceeds my risk threshold.

    It sounds like this experiment is a bit like the particle physics equivalent of smashing pieces of uranium together … works okay when the pieces are small, but when you put too much uranium into each hand, whammo. Viz:

    With the science so poorly understood (even out cream-of-the-crop modern-day scientific geniuses like Hawking and Smolin could only begin “guess” at the potential effects here), I think there is a strong argument for this kind of research being conducted in an extra-terrestrial venue.

    Even the “dark side of the moon” is not a particularly hot option. If it goes “bang” there and matter starts to get “slurped”, you end up disturbing the Earth’s local gravitational situation and presumably this may have a significant impact on Earth orbit.

    There are no easy answers here. Man’s desire for new knowledge is strong. I share that desire. But how many of us, as a kid, never fell over or did damage to ourselves while “exploring” the world around us? This could be the same thing on a grand scale.

  46. Zephir says:

    Isn’t the safety of main concern of LHC experiments by CERN experts? Isn’t this safety predicted by mainstream theories by CERN experts? And isn’t the main purpose of LHC experiments to test these theories by CERN experts?

    From this follows, by CERN experts the main purpose of LHC is to test its own safety. Which may not be enough for everyone.

  47. A. Scientist says:

    Don’t worry. I checked with my lucky mood-ring and it says that we will all be O.K. To you people who think you are Paul Revere, you’re not! You’re mostly ovezealous morons. Get a life!

  48. Zephir says:

    For example, during recent experiments on Tevatron in Fermilab strange events were observed: a pair of heavy muon particles have appeared well ouside of collider tube. Standard Model has no explanation for formation and stabilization of heavy products of collisions. Furthemore we have some evidence of tetraneutron, pentaquark, glueballs and some other dense particle clusters from previous experiments.

    AWT proposes a single explanation: at higher energie elementary particles are trying to condense into tiny clusters, where strong surface tension force takes place by the same way, like at example of tiny water droplet. The point is, hydrostatic pressure inside of water droplets if micron diameter corresponds the hydrostatic pressure at the 170 meter depth. For example, neutrons aren’t stable under normal pressure, because they’re decompose into electron and protons. But inside of atom nuclei theyre stable or even nuclear fusion occurs under formation of larger atom nuclei. As we know, neutrons are stable inside of core of neutron stars, so that one explanation can be, the neutrons are stabilized by hydrostatic pressure, which is formed by small curvature of small atom nuclei.

    As the result, the introduction of tiny neutron clusters (alpha particles) into system of tiny atom nuclei an avalanche chain reaction under formation of another alpha particles followed by release of large amount of heat. The point is, the very same thing can occur even at the level of elementary particles like neutrinos and quarks. When we introduce many particles in mutual contact, they can form a very dense state of matter, so called strangelet, which would behave by the same way, like neutron clusters in contact with another particles: it would remain surprisingly stable, so it can travel at distance. Until it decompose, it can interact with another particles of matter under formation of another dense clusters by the same way, like neutron clusters.

    Now we have an repeated evidence, such stable particles can be formed even at Tevatron energy levels well bellow the energy of LHC planned. What would you propose after then? To say, we are just trolls? The unbelivers were always eaten by crocodilles first, so that the people has developed precautionary principle. This silly principle helps them to survive in simmilar uncertain situations.