The truth about the LHC

The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) is a giant particle accelerator, the largest in the world; a 17 mile long circular tube buried about 100m underneath the French/Swiss border designed to fire subatomic particles at each other very fast and detect what comes out of the wreckage.

Bottom line is that it is a big physics experiment, pure and simple. A very important one, for sure, but that is all it is. However there has been much misinformation and nonsense circulating the internet about the LHC and some unhelpful misrepresentation in the media which as probably fuelled it. Here are a list of some of the claims circulating about the LHC and why they are not true.

1 - The LHC is the "Big Bang Experiment"
This is a misrepresentation in the media, particularly it has to be said, the BBC! The implications, whether intended or otherwise, are that the LHC proves or will prove the Big Bang Theory - this is not true. What they actually mean is that the conditions generated in the LHC collisions may be a close approximation to the theoretical conditions very soon after the Big Bang as predicted by that theory.

However even this is a misrepresentation, because the LHC is all about experimental particle physics, whereas the Big Bang theory is a speculative theory of cosmology. The link is very tenuous, and is about the amount of energy created. The logic is as follows - In the Big Bang (if it happened!) all the energy in the universe was in a very small place at one time - the LHC will create a very large amount of enery in a very small space at one time - therefore the LHC is like the Big Bang! It is silly and unhelpful journalism. It would be like me running a bath and hailing it as the "Atlantis Experiment" because it will recreate the conditions immediately below the surface of the waters above the lost city of Atlantis!

2 - The LHC is looking for God
This is not true. The LHC is not trying to prove or disprove God. It's a science experiment. It's main purpose is to try and establish one of the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics. This model predicts a hitherto undiscovered particle that is needed to give other elementary particles mass: the Higgs Boson.

Although this particle is sometimes referred to as the "God particle" proof of its existence or non existence says nothing about the existence of God himself. In fact the name has nothing to do with theology or divinity, but is a contraction and a euphemism of the "Godd*mn particle" - because it has proven so hard to track down.

3 - The LHC is wasting money to find something that can be discovered by reading Genesis 1
I do wish Christians wouldn't say things like this. Science is science - faith is faith. They tell us different things about different subjects in different ways. I believe Genesis chapter one, but I don't read anything in there about the Higgs Boson. The LHC is an important and valuable science experiment, and since points 1 and 2 above are not true there is absolutely no reason for Christians to give this kind of knee-jerk reaction to it.

4 - The LHC could create a black hole that will destroy the world
This is scaremongering at its worst. Scientists know that collisions of similar energy to the LHC happen all the time in the Earth's upper atmosphere as cosmic rays collide with the particles there. (Incidentally this also rubbishes the BBC's claim that the LHC will recreate conditions not in existence since the Big Bang)

Even if a black hole did form, it would not be the all consuming monster we know from astronomy. These would be subatomic in size, and so governed primarily by quantum theory. This predicts (in a theory put forward by Steven Hawkins) that the particle-antiparticle fluctuations around the event horizon of the black hole would lead to a net flow of anti-matter into the black hole and a net flow of matter away from it. The result being it would "evaporate" - very fast. If you don't understand any of that, don't worry, just rest assured that the LHC is not going to cause the world to end!


carl thomas said...

You quote Seven Hawkings? You don't believe the Bible is the final word on everything? You seek extra Biblical revelation and even turn to science for answers? (Insert next crazy accusation here)

I have really enjoyed the last few posts. Don't really have any conversation just want to encourage you to keep up the writing.

Chris HH said...

Thanks, Carl!
I appreciate the encouragement... and the humour.

Good to have you as a Twitter buddy too :-)

starbar said...

but i dont think so. i mean how can all media be wrong?!they report what they hear. so i know big bang theory is absolutly correct what so ever; that is why cosmolgists believe it is the only explanation of the universe. This experiment will prove big bang can occur and thus compare it to the observations of big bang leftover and prove it matching. Why dont other scientists say the same thing as you???? guess ur wrong

James Jr said...

Unfortunately Hawking Radiation is debunked conjecture[1][2][3], even Dr. Higgs questions Dr. Hawking's scientific credibility[4].

Dr. Hawking made a blunder, anti-matter is energy not anti-energy, quantum fluctuations could only cause black hole growth.

Most scientists agree high energy collisions at the LHC might create slow moving micro black holes. Nature does not create slow moving micro black holes on Earth but CERN theorizes these would evaporate extremely quickly or grow extremely slowly and thus not pose a danger. Other scientists believe micro black holes might eventually cause a catastrophe on Earth and propose CERN slow down and conduct additional safety reviews.[3][5][6]


[1] xxx.lanl.gov/abs/gr-qc/0304042 Do black holes radiate?. Dr. Adam Helfer (2003)

[2] arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0607137, On the existence of black hole evaporationyet again, Prof. VA Belinski (2006)

[3] www.wissensnavigator.com/documents/OTTOROESSLERMINIBLACKHOLE.pdf Abraham-Solution to Schwarzschild Metric Implies That CERN Miniblack Holes Pose a Planetary Risk, Prof. Dr. Otto Rossler (2008)

[4] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4727894.ece Peter Higgs launches attack against Nobel rival Stephen Hawking, TimesOnLine, Sep 11, 2008

[5] arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0808/0808.1415v1.pdf On the potential catastrophic risk from metastable quantum-black holes produced at particle colliders - Rainer Plaga Rebuttal (2008)

[6] www.lhcdefense.org/lhc_legal.php US Federal Lawsuit Filings - Walter L. Wagner (2008)

starbar said...

so chris hh arent you going to answer me back?? or justify your answer. really, i mean how can the news reporters misrepresent about LHC inncorrectly??

Chris HH said...

Hi starbar. I will answer you back... but if you don't mind I'll wait for my lunch break so I can give you proper response. Thanks.

Chris HH said...

OK... I have things I want to say in response to both starbar and james jr... but let's start with starbar first...

starbar has asked me to justify my claim of media misrepresentation which I am happy to do.

First lets clarify: I'm not saying all the media has got it wrong, I'm not even saying that all the media have misrepresented... but that certain sections of the media - and the BBC in particular - have misrepresented the link between the LHC and the Big Bang.

For starters lets have a look at the Wikipedia article on the LHC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider which is a helpful article on the subject. It also contains many links to media articles on the same subjects.

You will find that "Big Bang" is only mentioned briefly towards the end of the article in relation to two of the detectors.

If you look at the media links you will find that of the 6 links that use "Big Bang" in the title, 5 of them link to the BBC and the other one is an article from the Sunday Times... which is about the BBC's coverage of the LHC!

In the Sunday Times article, written by a journalist with a scientific background states:

a gigantic particle collider on the French-Swiss border, replicating that billionth of a second after the original, hypothetical Big Bang that supposedly set the universe in motion.
[Emphasis mine]

Now lets look at the information on the LHC from CERN itself:


You'll find on this offical info on the LHC from CERN itself the words "Big Bang" are only mentioned once and then not until the second paragraph.

Now follow the links to the experiments themselves:

ATLAS - No mention of Big Bang
CMS - No mention of Big Bang
LHCb - No mention of Big Bang
TOTEM - No mention of Big Bang
LHCf - No mention of Big Bang
ALICE - Does mention Big Bang, but says...

"The data obtained will allow physicists to study a state of matter known as quark‑gluon plasma, which is believed to have existed soon after the Big Bang."
[Emphasis mine]

So you see there is no problem with the scientists telling the difference between theory and unquestionable fact, or between experiments in particle physics and speculative theories in cosmology.

Given the Big Bang only plays a minor side role in the LHC experiments and that it is still an unproven theory I would say that the BBC's labelling of the LHC as the "Big Bang" experiment and presenting it as unquestionable fact was misrepresentation wouldn't you?

If you want my opinion on why many hold the Big Bang theory to be unquestionably true I refer you to my previous post on the "Conan Doyle" principle - it is not on the basis of irrefutable data, but because they have written of the alternatives as impossibilities.

Chris HH said...

@james jr

Then there is the curious incident of the earth-eating black holes in the upper atmosphere... ;-)

Following on from my previous comment on misrepresentation... I think on reflection you must agree that you have somewhat overstated your case!

A rival theory does not "debunk" a previous theory. If any "debunking" has been going on in the scientific community it is of the theories that you have linked to here.

There is no such thing as "anti-energy" and you can't really expect anyone to believe that professor Hawking would make such an elementary mistake.

Anti-particles have positive mass - yes. But they annihilate with ordinary matter producing energy which has no mass. So a flow of antimatter into a black hole would result in a conversion of the black hole's mass into energy and thus a reduction in mass.

Dr. Higgs' public spat with Prof. Hawking in no way undermines Hawking's scientific credibility. Higgs is just irked that Hawking is so dismissive of his greatest contribution to theoretical physics. (Hawking has placed a $100 bet that the Higgs Boson will not be found!)

You also fail to mention that in the same article Higgs is even more scathing about those who predict the LHC will produce an earth-eating black hole.

starbar said...

ok appreciate what ur tryin to say. BUT in Simon Singh's (famous physicst) site he mentions that cosmologists are confident that it (big bang) is an accurate description of the universe. And also some sites say that cosmologists think it is the only possible explation of universe. Moreover,why do u think that they built thi BIG BANG macine if they werent sure it was correct, also it will complete big bang "holes" as some may say like, antimatter, supersymtery, dark energy mysteries. and even if the word big bang wasnt mentioned in all 5, it doswnt mean what u say. MY QUWSTION HERE IS HOW THE BB MACHINE WONT PROVE ITS THEROY??. i have some several good sites to mention it.

Chris HH said...

OK starbar, now I see why you are so confused! It seems it's not just the BBC who can't tell the difference between particle physics and cosmology! If anything the science on those sites is even more messed up!!

Can I recommend that if you want an accurate scientific explanation you go to a scientific site where the articles are written by scientists and not by journalists who have obviously just come out of a press conference that went way over their heads!

Read this article from New Scientist:

Then come back if you have any questions.

Chris HH said...

Just to spell it out...

* The LHC is a particle accelarator not a "Big Bang machine" (whatever one of those is!)
* The purpose of the LHC is to conduct experiments in particle physics at energies never obtained before, not to prove or disprove the Big Bang theory (I can't believe some mainstream news companies are actually reporting this!!)
* The only connection with the Big Bang is that it will generate conditions that are believed to be similar to those that this theory predicts occurred fractions of a second after the hypothetical event.

James Jr said...

Hello Chris,

Actually many physicists who study Dr. Hawking's theories conclude similar to Dr. Higgs but most are more polite.

You state "There is no such thing as "anti-energy" and you can't really expect anyone to believe that professor Hawking would make such an elementary mistake."

Unfortunately that is exactly what many physicists believe Dr. Hawking did, made a fundamental mistake then tried to prove the theory correct rather than acknowledge the apparent error.

Dr. Hawkings 1975 paper explaining Hawking Radiation includes this quote:

"Just outside the event horizon there will be virtual pairs of particles, one with negative energy and one with positive energy."[1]

Matter is energy, Anti-matter is energy... Negative energy?

Dr. Hawking's theory requires that dark energy does not exist to feed black holes and he includes other equally weird alternate conjecture that the anti-matter particle would travel back in time "one could regard them as positive energy particles crossing the horizon on past directed world-lines and then being scattered on to future-directed world-lines by the gravitational field."

CERN's Dr. Ellis recently defended Hawking Radiation with a slide containing "time reversal" as an argument defending Hawking Radiation.[2]

Scary, this theory has been called poorly reasoned and CERN does not feel the need for proper vetting of their safety theories?

I'm concerned.

[1] http://projecteuclid.org/DPubS/Repository/1.0/Disseminate?view=body&id=pdf_1&handle=euclid.cmp/1103899181, Particle Creation by Black Holes, S. W. Hawking (12 Apr 1975)

[2] www.lhcfacts.org/?p=72 CERN?s Dr. Ellis tells only half of the story - LHCFacts.org (2008)

starbar said...

ok. but i dont think so the media would just say something not true just simply (several of them- RELIBLE NEWS COMPANY) they can also be sued for giving inaccurte news. By the way there is a person who has website and & finished his master degree in astronomy and he says i quote "The presence of the Higg's will help in proving the Big Bang theory". So umm dont think he made a mistake like the media?!!!! As for proving big bang theory,u urself mentiond it lastley, the LHC would mimic big bang theory. so and thus the data can be compared to the left over of real big bang and prove it. and also i concluded that ur not sure that big bang happened but why is it almost all cosmologists and pysicists think it as an accurate/only best possible description of universe as i said in simon singh and other sites wrote.
for source of the astronomical person visit: http://astronomyonline.org/aoblog/
ALSO WHY IS IT THAT YOUR OPIONION ON LHC WASNOT OR STILL ISNT SAID BY SCIENTISTS [lhc wont prove big bang]?! nonetheless if youre right and have proof(relible) then i would be more than happy to see it.

Starbar said...

AND.... here is it written by "A PROFESSOR" or an expert opinion as u want it.....ur right one of its main purpose is to find higgis boson BUT.... It can also prove BBT....hopefully it will. here is the link:



Chris HH said...

starbar, I have no idea why this professor claims that the LHC will prove the Big Bang - he doesn't explain - he just asserts it will. That's not very scientific.

Let me try to explain to you why it CANNOT prove the Big Bang.

The argument goes as follows.

1) If the Big Bang theory is true then the universe would have been in certain conditions.

2) The LHC will generate such conditions, therefore Big Bang theory must be true.

This is a logical fallacy known as Affirming the Consequent

For example:
1) If it rained an hour ago the ground would be wet.
2) The ground is wet, therefore it must have rained an hour ago.

This is a false proof.

Likewise it is a false proof to assume that because the LHC will reproduce conditions expected by the Big Bang theory that this constitutes a proof - it does not.

It is also a logical fallacy to consider that because a science professor or a reputable news company says something it must be true: Appeal to Authority

What you have to remember is that all though the history of science very respectable scientists have claimed certain things to be true that have later turned out to be false - there is no reason to assume our current moment in history is any different.

starbar said...

The example u gave is unrelated and poor (no offence) big bang observtions to confirm it was tremendous of proof and considered only possible explation. And there was no other explantion of expanion, inflation.....etc except big bang
Actually you just cannot say that some of respectful scientits made false of things (proof??) but even if wat u said i true it must b only for THEORIES, but this is a clear aim of LHC and aims can be determined true before experiments unlike theories. Plus, he doesnt need to explain he is a famous professor (Check google) eventough if he dosent explain it is obvious that it will mirror big bang theory to prove it. I DONT THINK IT IS WRONG ASSERTION BECAUSE HE MENTIONED IT TWICE AND COME ON HE IS A PROFESSOR AND KNOWS WHAT HE SAYS.. FINALLY I MEAN IT WAS SAID BY A PROFESSOR, MEDIA NEWS,AND OTHERS CAN IT ALL BE JUST A "SAY"??? UNLIKELY. U CANT MAKE EXUSES!
this is the end of this discussion to me, as it was finally said by an expert. if ur not sure u can email article.

Chris HH said...

You can lead a horse to water...

Ricky Carvel said...

OK, so I don't work in particle physics, but I do work with Professors on a daily basis (in one of the UK's top universities), and in my experience they are quite frequently wrong.

The 'appeal to authority' really doesn't work. Especially if the autority in question is a statement made in an interview. Even if it was a statement in a peer-reviewed journal, the authority should only be taken lightly.

All scientific advances are made on the understanding that what the leading professors of the last generation asserted is - in all likelihood - imperfect, partial or downright wrong.

And if you want your comments or opinions on particle physics to be taken seriously, please learn how to spell and present your thoughts in a logical manner.


Matthew said...

I've always thought the big bang theory was a big step towards the biblical description of creation compared to previous theories on the beginnings of the universe.

Timescales - now that's a different matter.

Chris HH said...

What amuses me about the current state of Big Bang theory is that the variations in background radiation and the rate of the Universe's expansion don't work unless over 95% of matter is "invisible undetectable stuff" (dark matter) and there are "invisible powers" (dark energy) holding it apart.

So those who reject God on the basis of only accepting what can be seen and measured - are still forced to accept that there is an invisible realm that is greater than what we can observe.

God has a great sense of irony!

Christian Sciberras said...

Chris Hamer-Hodges,

It's all ok except [4]. I have no idea which fundamentalist idiot said that, but being a Roman Catholic, I clearly say it's false.
And an answer to any other such idiot; learn your Religion! The Bible doesn't talk about Science, at most, gives some things against science! But this is because of bad interpretations. The Bible is far from factual/realistic, but it does have it's purpose.

Lastly, LHCFacts.org is a fraudulent website, posting nothing more false headlines that make them popular. Please, do not fall for this dirty trick.

Another thing Chris, we seem to enjoy at least two common interests: The LHC and programming!

I feelat peace knowing Google shows this when searching on these matters. Hopefully common people won't get to the dirty frauds first :).

Christian V. Sciberras

James Jr said...

I am the co-author of LHCFacts.org and I stand behind everything on this web site as factual (or factual representation of the opinions of scientists) to the best of our ability to determine and support the facts where-ever that leads. A search for the honest truth.

There is much disinformation and censorship, but you may be surprised to learn that it is CERN who is accused of this propaganda campaign![1][2][3]

[1] twomosquitoes.blogspot.com/2008/09/cern-wins-battle-at-wikipedia-lhc.html CERN wins battle at Wikipedia, LHC history scrubbed, TWO MOSQUITOES

[2] http://www.lhcdefense.org/pdf/Sancho%20v%20Doe%20-%20Affidavit%20of%20Luis%20Sancho.pdf AFFIDAVIT OF LUIS SANCHO IN UPPORT OF TRO AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

[3] www.lhcfacts.org/?p=72 CERN?s Dr. Ellis tells only half of the story - LHCFacts.org (2008)

Anonymous said...

misleading blog; you have no real proof of what you're claiming "LHC wont prove big bang theory".

Christian V. Sciberras said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris HH said...

@Christian V. Sciberras

I have deleted your comment, because I don't want this thread to become about LHCFacts.org. I don't like to host accusations against a third party either, whether I agree with them or not.

I let your first comment stand because James had already provided a reply.

Both you and James are welcome to continue to comment as long as it is concerning the material on this site, and not any other.

Christian V. Sciberras said...

@James Jr - You call LHC propaganda when you just post links all around the net (literally) pointing to "facts" in your site?

@Chris HH - Ok. Earth will fall. It will be destroyed, blown to pieces, disintegrated, eaten up...
Because someone says so.

You don't have to remove *this* comment, it's obviously not about someone in particular.

Christian Sciberras.

Anonymous said...