You will have seen the headlines about the possibility of destroying the Earth now that we are able to provide such extremely high energies in our super-colliders. Grief – the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is to be upgraded to give a collision energy of 14TeV (14 x 10^12 electron volts) what unbelievable destruction could such energy release upon us tiny humans? Time to get things into perspective.
There is a beautiful line in “The Forbidden Planet” where they have just been attacked by a monster from the Id and it withstood a blast of a Billion electron volts – WOW!! A billion electron volts (American Billion) is a thousand million electron volts. An electron volt is equivalent to 1.6 x 10^-19 Joules, so a Billion electron volts is around 1.6 x 10^-09 Joules, or a nano joule. How much energy is a nano joule? Well if it takes 4.2 Joules to raise the temperature of 1 gramme of water 1C, then I guess you can work out for yourself that a nano joule ain’t gonna do much.
Let’s go back to the LHC as that is providing a LOT more energy – here we’re talking 14 x 10^12 electron volts! So that is 2.26 x 10^-6 Joules or 2.26 micro joules. Still not exactly knocking your socks off is it? But hey, in electron volts it sounds pretty good doesn’t it!! We are playing with energies we shouldn’t be playing with – surely? Well not quite. Nature as you might expect makes our greatest efforts look pretty puny.
Cosmic Rays – those high energy particles coming in to us from every direction in space. What sort of energies have they been accelerated to? Well the high energy Cosmic Rays come into the upper atmosphere carrying a very respectable Joule’s worth of energy, that’s 6.25 x 10^18 electron volts in Forbidden Planet money, or half a million times the energy the LHC might be giving out in 2015. Our efforts are pretty pathetic. Does it end there? Of course it doesn’t. On Tuesday 15th October 1991 the “Oh My God” particle entered our upper atmosphere carrying? How much? 50 Joules!! Yes that’s 50 Joules of energy in a single particle. Now if that ain’t gonna create Black-Holes, rifts in space time or God knows what else – then what will? It is estimated that several particles carrying this amount of energy hit our atmosphere EVERY DAY. Oh and another thing – they have been doing this for the last 4 Billion Years.
So – can we please – give up this crap of destroying the Earth with our piddling inconsequential particle accelerator experiments and perhaps consider much more likely Earth destroying scenarios that have been around since the end of World War 2??