The End of the World is Nigh; But Bonus, We Found the Higgs Boson!

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It’s always in the last place you look.

Re: the whole will-it won’t-it question about the Large Hadron Collider, an e-mail from commenter dennitzio reminded me that Larry Niven has a short story called “The Hole Man” about something like this. It’s a murder mystery, where the murder weapon is a quantum black hole that some demented scientist has managed to capture and stabilize with some magnetic field thingy. The scientist releases it from its magnetic cradle so it can chew a hole in somebody. (It’s the SF equivalent of Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter.”) The black hole then wanders off and settles at the center of Mars, numming up matter as it goes:

“A nucleus here, an electron there … and it’s not just waiting for atoms to fall into it. Its gravity is ferocious, and it’s falling back and forth through the center of the planet, sweeping up matter. The more it eats, the bigger it gets, with its volume going up as the cube of the mass. Sooner or later, yes, it’ll absorb Mars. By then it’ll be just less than a millimeter across. Big enough to see.”

Niven guesses it’ll take around 40 years for the black hole to eat Mars. 40 years … Earth is bigger than Mars … I’m already 39 … I figure I’m safe. I usually trust Niven on the math.