A resurrection this week, in light of the recent sub-atomic discoveries. Remember when everyone thought the world was going to end?

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Discussion (49)¬

  1. Alfie Noakes says:

    Funny, I was reading about this yesterday:

    Couldn’t believe it (actually, I could, knowing that most people on this planet reside in nutsville).

  2. Necessary Evil says:

    I always get eschatology and scatology muddled up. Maybe it’s cause they’re both about shit!

  3. OccamsMachete says:

    Typo in the first bubble of the second frame. “The” should be “There”.

  4. Alastair says:

    Cleverly observed as always. BTW your link to is broken.

  5. Author says:

    Thanks for the typo + link warnings. Corrected now.

  6. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Hurray the oracle of Cern
    Announce the colander did it’s first burn
    It almost proved something
    Is made out of nothing
    Send more money so they can something less learn.

  7. “Remember when everyone thought the world was going to end?”

    Not everyone. Not that I’m so smart, but not me. Of course it’s always a possibility, at any time, LHC or not.

    Fun hearing the boys sounding rational. But of course it couldn’t last. 🙂

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I do remember that Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle was genuinely worried about what he called the ‘black hole machine’. He said that the scientists’ reassurance that there was less than a billionth of a billionth (or some other unfeasably small number, I forget exactly what) of one percent chance that the LHD would create a Universe-swallowing black hole, was no reassurance at all; in his opinion, a miniscule chance is still a chance.
    Mind you, he’s got a real fear of China, too. The country, not the tableware.

  9. jerry w says:

    It should be noted that the world has ended for many people, but as yet no connection to the LHC has been found. Of course the odds of the LHC ending the world are +/- the same as my chances of winning the lottery, but I still buy a ticket now and then…

  10. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Jerry W, has the world ended for many people, or have many people ended whilst the world’s gone on spinning?

  11. Gretchen says:

    I still see the typo but I love the cartoon anyway!

  12. KeithC says:

    AoS: given I have difficulty with the concept of Frankie Boyle as a comedian (it needs more than the ability to insult people to be a comedian, IMO), it doesn’t surprise me that he has that sort of irrational fear

  13. Daoloth says:

    It wasn’t just religious types and Frankie Boyle. The bloody astronomer royal–Martin Rees– said something about the possibility of the LHC destroying the world which casts serious doubt on his ability to think like a grown-up who can do sums.
    Of course he also covered himself with glory going on the radio to opine about how evolution does not apply to human beings.
    Just sayin.

  14. jerry w says:

    The study of particles leads to knowing more and more about less and less until we know everything about nothing, and some will call this progress.
    @AOS, If you believe in an afterlife, I suggest you ask the people that the world has ended for… Or as a German friend says, “macht nichts”.
    “has the world ended for many people, or have many people ended whilst the world’s gone on spinning?”

  15. durham669 says:

    So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!

  16. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Jerry W, if I believed in the afterlife, I wouldn’t be here taking the piss out of those who do, or indeed pedantically suggesting that people end whilst the world goes on spinning.

  17. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Of course there’s an afterlife. It’s here. It’s just the dead are not aware of it.

  18. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Could we be looking on creation in progress with the LHC? An atomic collision creates an infinitesimally small black hole which begins to grow. Once detected, it’s too late to do anything about it. It swallows CERN, Switzerland, sucks out the Earth’s core then devours the debris of the planet, on through the Solar Sysytem it goes, eating the local stars, engulfing even the black hole at the centre of the galaxy. After a few tens of billions of years eating its way from galaxy to galaxy, it will have swallowed every atom in the Universe, and the immense gravitational forces at work will cause the black hole to begin collapsing in on itself faster and faster untill the pressure at the core becomes unsubstainable, then BANG!
    And we start all over again.

    Or are we merely witness to some really cool science, and nobody dies?

  19. Daoloth says:

    AofS. Err no. There is not enough mass in solar system to break the Ahandrasekhar limit

  20. Daoloth says:

    Chandrasekhar. Oops

  21. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Isn’t it that if the world were to shrink to a dot, and thus become a mini black hole, its gravitational field would remain essentially the same, as its mass has not changed? So the moon would continue in its orbit about the earth and the earth in its orbit about the sun. Of course we’d all be totally in the dark about it.

  22. FreeFox says:

    @Fuzzy: If gravity was the only force, maybe, but I kinda doubt that molecular biology still works if you eliminate the space between the electron cloud and the protron core… and actually… if the mass stays the same then the orbits should stay the same, too… but if you reduced the size of the planet, the moon, and everything else, without reducing the mass, “subjectively” (ie. in comparison to the size of the objects) the orbits suddenly should increase by several powers, it would be as if the moon or even the sun simply disappeared.

  23. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth, re: Chandrasekhar Limit – Even if you “jump started” it by creating a first micro-black hole? Or would that change the game? I mean, sure, the total mass of the solar system would stay the same, but couldn’t it initiate some kind of collapse reaction that would then be sufficient to keep collapsing matter around it? (If it would have a slow start and only increase it’s “devouring speed” exponentially, it would make for a neat short story about the last day on earth with the tiny black hole already in existance under the mountains of Switzerland, and those in the know living the last day on earth, savouring all it’s beauty and grieving the “senseless” horrors, knowing that however many hours everything would cease to exist… Thinking along the same lines, I always liked the line from “Schindler’s List” that he who saves one life, saves the world. It may be the the objective world keeps on ticking if our personal one ends, but since all we can ever experience is just a model of the world re-created by our senses, this continued existance of “everything else” has a bit of a theoretical and almost unreal aspect to it. The actual world that we experience does end with each of us.)

  24. theGreatFuzzy says:

    @FreeFox:”but if you reduced the size of the planet, the moon, and everything else, without reducing the mass, “subjectively” (ie. in comparison to the size of the objects) the orbits suddenly should increase by several powers, it would be as if the moon or even the sun simply disappeared.”

    I dont think I’m getting what you’re getting at!
    I’m pretty sure the sun, planets and moons are treated as mass points (with the mass concentrated at the centre of the planet) when calculating orbits. The force of attraction is k*m1*m2/r^2, the size of the planets don’t come into it.
    But maybe you’re thinking the size of the orbits change with the size of the planets?

    PS. It may even be true that the gravitational field a foot above the earth is the same whether you calcualte it assuming the mass is all at the centre or spread throughtout the sphere, but I can’t swear to it.

  25. FreeFox says:

    @Fuzzy: Maybe we just misunderstood each other. I understood your first comment on this as meaning that if everything shrank equally from the perspective of the earth’s surface everything would seem to stay the same. Hence: “We’d be in the dark about it.” And I only meant to say that from that perspective it would seem as if the moon and the sun suddenly zoomed unbelievably far away (by everything “shrinking” but, as you said, the core points actually staying the same distance from each other), and in effect simply vanishing visually, while the masses and orbits kept as they are.
    And only now I get the idea (that you may have had all along) that only the earth would collapse into this imaginary new black hole and seem to vanish, but remain as a gravity point and keep the moon in orbit around us (though we’d be squished to a pinprick and “in the dark” about the rest) and this pinprick earth and its still large moon would keep orbiting around the sun…
    Kinda weird though… would that actually happen… a teeny-tiny planet with normal satellites and a normal orbit around a normal star… hehe… like something from Gulliver’s Interstellar Travels…

  26. theGreatFuzzy says:

    FreeFox, yes, I’m thinking just the earth shrinks to a point, everything else remains the same. I don’t know whether that’s physically possible or not.
    Anyway, glad we cleared that up, and sorry if I wasn’t clear in my first post. Part of the reason for me posting is to get better at expressing myself – so until I do you lot are going to have to suffer!

    Interesting stuff on Chandrasekhar limit on wikipedia. The history of it shows Eddington being somewhat dogmatic, and holding back progress just like a high priest, to the point that Chandra’s work was almost forgotten!

  27. hotrats says:

    from Wikipedia:
    ‘The Schwarzschild radius (sometimes historically referred to as the gravitational radius) is the distance from the center of an object such that, if all the mass of the object were compressed within that sphere, the escape speed from the surface would equal the speed of light.’

    An object smaller than its Schwarzschild radius is a black hole, and the radius is the event horizon. The radius can be calculated for any given mass – for the earth it is about 8mm, the size of a pea; for Mount Everest, less than a nanometer.

    So you can’t have a microscopic black hole – there is a finite limit to density and any object smaller than a tiny Schwarzschild radius would have to be almost infinitely dense. Any mass lower than the Chandrasekhar limit won’t generate a black hole in any case.

    The actual size of the black hole inside the event horizon is undetectable – it is after all a singularity, and could be anything from a dimensionless point to something only slightly smaller than the event horizon itself. We’ll never know, and after all, what difference could it make?

  28. Mahatma Coat says:

    GF, Eddington was being more than just dogmatic. He was being a complete jerk, in that he didn’t let on to Chandra what he was going to say following Chandra’s presentation. Another case of an argument relying on authority rather than reason. The wonder is that Chandra simply went on to doing something else and didn’t garotte Eddington.
    FF, it is the case about gravitation fields depending on the distance between centres of gravity and if I’m remembering properly, it was pondering whether this was so or not which caused Newton to discover integral calculus. About to become po-faced. There is far more wonder in the achievements of great minds – mathematicians and physicists – than in the claimed wonder of a god created universe.

  29. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I used to have a kleptomaniacal old aunt. We called her handbag the black hole; it swallowed anything of value, and once in, nothing ever escaped from it.

  30. theGreatFuzzy says:

    AoS, I first read that as “nymphomaniacal old aunt”, so “black hole that swallowed anything” conjured up all sorts of thoughts!

  31. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    GreatFuzzy, the family don’t talk much about that aunt. It’s been said that her whole body was an erogenous zone. She even had an orgasm every time she sneezed.
    She spent a small fortune on pepper.

  32. Daoloth says:

    FF. Squished isn’t what would happen. Spaghetified would be closer to the mark as the front of you would be accelerated to near light speed while the back of you was going considerably slower.

  33. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Daoleth, that’s a real ‘stretch’ of the imagination 😉

  34. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Where the Hell is everybody? Surely the Olympics aren’t that fascinating? Well, maybe the beach volleyball – possibly the only event that Boris insisted on seeing. And before anybody calls me sexist, there are both men and women in that discipline.

  35. Speaking of which, the drama over the Japanese pommel horse decision was intense.

  36. hotrats says:

    ‘If the world does come to an end here (Meggido) or wherever, or if it limps into a future decimated by the effects of a religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let’s remember what the real problem was; we learned how to precipitate mass death before we got over the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That’s it – grow up or die.’
    Bill Maher, ‘Religulous’

  37. HaggisForBrains says:

    @Daoloth – Thank FSM it hasn’t happened.

  38. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    D.H., I have noticed a distinct lack of women’s football teams from the more -let’s say – devout Islamic countries. It’s almost as though the women from those places have a built-in dread of football stadia. Can’t for the life of me think why……

  39. hotrats says:

    ‘Two flats, two pointy ones, and a packet of gravel.’

  40. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Hey, AoS, we’re here, just I’ll equipped to contribute to discussions about black holes, let alone quantum physics. I can tell it is exciting tho. And as ever these comments find a way of lifting the most ordinary stones to find the most extraordinary perspectives.
    I did have a fair collection of outrageous great aunts but that’s as much as I could have contributed …
    But I do enjoy reading two or more posters misunderstanding each other though – although the one above was the swiftest make up and shake so far.

    Oh! and Saudi did concede to allow two woman to compete at the olympics so there might yet be hope for humanity; from little things big things grow.
    Very little things though; aparantly the Judo competitor will remain headcovered and the thought of someone sprinting in a chador really does bring back memories of the Meaning of Life.

  41. Sach says:

    Have you guys considered making an iPad app? And Android to go with it? You should, probably.

  42. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Ill equipped! Bloody autocorrect …

  43. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Walter, I suspect that there are at most a handful of people on the planet that really understand black holes, not to mention quantum physics; the rest of us just muddle through.
    Who was it that said “If you think you understand quantum physics then you don’t understand quantum physics”?

    And I’m waiting for the Saudi enties for the women’s swimming. Just imagine the 200m freestyle in full ‘bin-bag and mask’ attire. Speaking of which, one of the most sinister things I’ve seen at any Olympics – save for the Israeli team massacre of course – was the Iranian women’s shooting team at Beijing; they looked like nothing less than jihadist snipers!

  44. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Damn, Saudi entries (or even entrants)!

  45. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    A bit confusing that, D.H. The link suggests she’s commenting on the 9/11 (or 11/09, as we Brits would have it) terrorist attacks yet she’s actually talking about Hurricane Katrina. What hope of reading anything sane from people who can’t differentiate between terrorism and natural disasters. Unless of course they’re admitting that God is the ultimate terrorist. Any way round, she’s clearly as batshit-crazy as her dad.

  46. Brother Daniel says:

    Re black holes: Several misconceptions here, I think.

    First of all, I don’t believe there’s any theoretical lower limit on the size of a black hole, in the sense that the mere existence of such a black hole would be contrary to established theory. (There isn’t really an upper limit of density, when you’re talking about black holes — and if there were, that would be as much a problem for the big ones as for the little ones.) What’s still in question is whether there are any processes by which a small black hole could be created. One possibility is that there could be some small “primordial” black holes left over from the Big Bang.

    The least controversial way to create a black hole is by stellar collapse. A typical stellar collapse involving a remnant under the Chandrasekhar limit leads to a white dwarf star. Above the Chandrasekhar limit but below the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkhov limit, you get a neutron star. Above the TOV limit you get a black hole, unless there are other as-yet-unknown ways for matter to resist further collapse.

    The fact that the solar system contains less mass than the Chandrasekhar limit doesn’t say anything about whether a small black hole — assuming, for the sake of argument, that such a thing could be created by the LHC — would eat up everything. That limit is only relevant to questions of stellar collapse, which is a different scenario.

    Now, could the LHC possibly create a black hole? We’re well within the realm of the unknown here. “Here be dragons.” I don’t know of any strong theoretical argument to say that it *couldn’t* create a black hole. But on the other hand, the idea that it *could* create a black hole is wildly speculative at this point, to say the least, so I’d lean heavily toward saying it won’t happen.

    And if it did? Well, there’s this thing called Hawking radiation. Small black holes tend to evaporate. They emit more than they swallow. And the really tiny black holes that we might imagine (wildly speculatively) as possible products of LHC collisions would last such a short time that they probably wouldn’t even be recognized as black holes, at least not on a case-by-case basis. (Perhaps after millions of such collisions and a huge amount of number-crunching, it would become possible to say that such-and-such a percentage of the collisions within a certain range of parameters created a short-lived black hole.)

    The idea that there’s any *danger* from an LHC-produced black hole is based on some pretty severe cherry-picking. Aside from the fact that any production of black holes by the LHC is still a wildly speculative idea (did I mention that already?), why would anyone who trusts physicists enough to worry about the existence of black holes then dismiss the phenomenon of Hawking radiation? That makes no sense to me.

    Now, just for the sake of argument, I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation to estimate the growth rate of an LHC-produced black hole, with Hawking radiation ignored. The silly paranoid fear-mongering scenario. 🙂

    Given that these things couldn’t start out with more mass than the LHC collision energy (divided by c^2, yadda yadda), their gravitation wouldn’t be particularly noticeable. I’d be surprised if one of those little guys could double its mass in less than 10^15 years, even under the crazy fear-mongering assumptions.

    Now, at the risk of contradicting myself: Maybe there is a lower limit after all. The event horizon radius of an LHC-produced black hole would be at least 18 orders of magnitude smaller than the Planck length, which is widely accepted as a limit below which we know absolutely nothing!

  47. AofS, sorry about that. My last comment was intended for the recent strip, where it makes perfect sense, but I had this one open on another tab and put it on the wrong string.

  48. Pussycat says:

    Euphrates is flowing through that part of the world where IS is now throwing their end of the world party, right?


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