Avoiding black holes

Apr 8th, 2008 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Sitting in a line of traffic on the way to a school assembly, where no-one would pay the slightest heed to anything said, channel hopping  brought BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  It was just after 8.30, but the coast was clear of politicians – a nice piece of popular science instead, the CERN Project.

In July this year a huge underground machine on the borders of France and Switzerland will be started up and cause atomic particles to collide with each other, in an effort to understand the beginning of the universe.  The particles colliding are intended to produce conditions resembling those moments after the Big Bang. The Large Hadron Collider sounds like something straight out of the pages of a comic, the invention of an evil genius intent on world domination.  Much of the inspiration for the work comes from Peter Higgs, a Scottish scientist, who returned from the Cairngorms in 1964  with his “one big idea” about how the Universe got its mass.

Professor Higgs doesn’t seem like a dark and dangerous villain with plans to destroy the whole universe, so it is probably wiser to ignore the stories that the Large Hadron Collider will create a black hole into which the world will be sucked.

A black hole would be inconvenient in our house, as the school examinations will have been taken and the results not will not yet have been published, but the prospect of a black hole might be interesting, particularly if it brought with it wormholes allowing the Earth to jump through the space-time continuum.  Where could we go?

Bertie Ahern could go to the day before the lodgment to the bank account was made and just keep the cash.  Thousands of Leaving Certificate candidates could go to a couple of days before the exams.  President Kennedy could decide it was too cold for an open car in Dallas.  Archduke Ferdinand could decide summertime in Sarajevo was uncomfortably warm.  Abraham Lincoln could stay at home and read a book.  King Harold could decide not to look up at the wrong moment.  Julius Caesar could decide that the Ides of March was a good day to go for a picnic.

Infinite possibilities arise.  Of course, given the density of black holes: even if wormholes exist and are associated with black holes, the Earth and everyone in it would be crushed to nothing in a tiny fraction of a second.

Of course, as any nine year old will tell you, the way to move from one world to another is not to find holes in the space-time continuum, but to capsize the Black Pearl with The Pirates of the Caribbean (which would have made a much more interesting assembly talk).

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  1. Dan Brown based his book Angels and Demons on what was going on in the CERN institute. Somebody steals a cannister of antimatter. That’s all I remember. It probably wasn’t the best book in the world. Now, where would I travel if I could go through a worm hole. It’s easier to think of where I wouldn’t go.

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