Mailbag: Who Could've Imagined the End of the World Was So Interesting?
Earlier this week, I talked about the new
atom collider in Switzerland
that some scientists think will create microscopic
black holes that will swallow our world. The topic was clearly controversial,
as I got nearly as many letters as when I talk about Vista or the Mac. Have
I am a science buff, not a scientist, so I can't "do the math"
on the risk of black holes going postal. I doubt that anyone can. Arguments
against permanent black holes are persuasive but they are anecdotal, not objective.
Picture the Manhattan Project with massively (no pun intended) greater energies
involved. I did not sleep very well last night.
The same henny-penny scenario was discussed when the first fission experiments
happened under the University of Chicago in the '40s. Look how well that turned
Wouldn't it be the ultimate irony if the scientists, the same ones that
have been telling us that we are destroying the planet through global warming,
beat us to the punch?
But it won't happen. Technically (if I understand it correctly), all
black holes are much smaller than microscopic. They are infinitesimally small
points of mass. It is the size of their gravitational influence that grades
their size. If their gravitational influence is microscopic, then the likelihood
of them swallowing anything is as unlikely as the black hole at the center
of our own galaxy reaching out and swallowing us. These things will most likely
disappear as quickly as they are created. The scientists' biggest problem
will be to pull useful data from them before they do disappear. I'd be real
interested in hearing from someone with the proper credentials on this topic.
Want to see what the experts think? Go here.
Anyway, if one of the scenarios listed there or some unknown scenario occurs,
we probably won't be here immediately afterward.
I'd be more worried that after all that money has been spent, humanity is
no closer to understanding how the universe is put together at the subatomic
level. We should all hope that new understanding is gained from the CERN experiments.
Nine thousand physicists could be wrong, but what are the odds of that?
The collider has the potential to create microscopic black holes. It's
not worth the risk of destroying a billion-plus people on the Earth because
a very small minority wants to be God. It's totally ridiculous.
It's just a bunch of people practicing their religion, nothing more.
I think there's an opportunity to see the bright side on this one. If
we're ever going to get the chance to see the inside of a black hole first
hand, it'll be tomorrow. Certainly no one wants the Earth to be swallowed
up, but at least it would be a more interesting demise than many alternatives
-- like being hit by a bus. Eat, drink and be merry (and you know the rest).
And Dave also chimes in on the slightly more sobering topic of backward compatibility:
the Mailbag writer who rightly worries about access to electronic documents
in the future, here's
an article I found interesting. It's about the PDF/A format for archiving
PDFs. One of the more interesting points is that converting a PDF to PDF/A
can result in loss of fidelity to the original.
And John, try to dream of more pleasant things, remembering that it might
be all over after tomorrow, anyway.
Got something to add? Let me know! Leave a comment below or drop me a line
at [email protected].
Posted by Doug Barney on September 10, 2008