On a casual read of the appraised work of Duncan R. Lorimer on Binary and Millisecond Pulsars (2005) last week, I noted the reference to the lack of pulsars with P < 1.5 ms. It cites a mere suggestion that this is due to gravitational wave emission from R-mode instabilities, but one has not offered a solid reason for such absence from our Universe. As the surface magnetic field strength of such would be lower (B ∝ (P ˙P )^(1÷2)) than other pulsars, one could equally suggest that the lack of sub millisecond pulsars is due to their weaker magnetic fields allowing CR impacts resulting in stable MBH capture… Therefore if one could interpret that the 108 G field strength adopted by G&M is an approximate cut-off point where MBH are likely to be captured by neutron stars, then one would perhaps have some phenomenological evidence that MBH capture results in the destruction of neutron stars into black holes. One should note that more typical values of observed neutron stars calculate a 1012 G field, so that is a 104 difference from the borderline-existence cases used in the G&M analysis (and so much less likely to capture). That is not to say that MBH would equate to a certain danger for capture in a planet such as Earth where the density of matter is much lower — and accretion rates much more likely to be lower than radiation rates — an understanding that is backed up by the ‘safety assurance’ in observational evidence of white dwarf longevity. However, it does take us back to question — regardless of the frequently mentioned theorem here on Lifeboat that states Hawking Radiation should be impossible — Hawking Radiation as an unobserved theoretical phenomenon may not be anywhere near as effective as derived in theoretical analysis regardless of this. This oft mentioned concern of ‘what if Hawking is wrong’ of course is endorsed by a detailed G&M analysis which set about proving safety in the scenario that Hawking Radiation was ineffective at evaporating such phenomenon. Though doubts about the neutron star safety assurance immediately makes one question how reliable are the safety assurances of white dwarf longevity – and my belief has been that the white dwarf safety assurance seems highly rational (as derived in a few short pages in the G&M paper and not particularly challenged except for the hypothesis that they may have over-estimated TeV-scale MBH size which could reduce their likelihood of capture). It is quite difficult to imagine a body as dense as a white dwarf not capturing any such hypothetical stable MBH over their lifetime from CR exposure – which validates the G&M position that accretion rates therein must be vastly outweighed by radiation rates, so the even lower accretion rates on a planet such as Earth would be even less of a concern. However, given the gravity of the analysis, those various assumptions on which it is based perhaps deserves greater scrutiny, underscored by a concern made recently that 20% of the mass/energy in current LHC collisions are unaccounted for. Pulsars are often considered one of the most accurate references in the Universe due to their regularity and predictability. How ironic if those pulsars which are absent from the Universe also provided a significant measurement. Binary and Millisecond Pulsars, D.R. Lorimer: http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0511258v1.pdf
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster in 1912. What better time to think about lifeboats?
One way to start a discussion is with some vintage entertainment. On the centenary weekend of the wreck of the mega-liner, our local movie palace near the Hudson River waterfront ran a triple bill of classic films about maritime disasters: A Night to Remember, Lifeboat, and The Poseidon Adventure. Each one highlights an aspect of the lifeboat problem. They’re useful analogies for thinking about the existential risks of booking a passage on spaceship Earth.
A Night to Remember frames the basic social priorities: Should we have lifeboats and who are they for? Just anybody?? When William McQuitty produced his famous 1958 docudrama of the Titanic’s last hours, the answers were blindingly obvious – of course we need lifeboats! They’re for everyone and there should be enough! Where is that moral certainty these days? And whatever happened to the universal technological optimism of 1912? For example, certain Seasteaders guarantee your rights – and presumably a lifeboat seat – only as long as your dues are paid. Libertarians privatize public goods, run them into the ground, squeeze out every dime, move the money offshore, and then dictate budget priorities in their own interest. Malthusians handle the menu planning. And the ship’s captain just might be the neo-feudal Prince Philip, plotting our course back to his Deep Green Eleventh Century.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat deals with the problems of being in one. For a very long time – unlike the lucky stiffs on the Titanic, who were picked up in 2 hours. Specifically, it’s about a motley group of passengers thrown together in an open boat with short provisions, no compass, and no certain course. And, oh yes, the skipper is their mortal enemy: The lifeboat is helmed by the U-boat commander who torpedoed their ship. He overawes them with seafaring expertise and boundless energy (thanks to the speed pills in his secret stash) and then lulls them by singing sentimental German lieder. At night, the captain solves his problems of supply and authority by culling the injured passengers while everyone’s asleep. He tells the survivors they’re going to Bermuda. They’re actually headed for a rendezvous with his supply ship – and from there the slow boat to Buchenwald. The point of Lifeboat is simple: What can you do in your life and environment so you never, ever end up in one?
Risk avoidance is the moral of The Poseidon Adventure. A glorious old ocean liner, the Poseidon, is acquired by new owners who plan to scrap it. But these clever operators maximize shareholder value by billing the ship’s final voyage as a New Year’s cruise to Greece. They take on every paying passenger they can find, barter with a band to get free entertainment, and drive the underloaded ship hard and fast into the stormy winter Mediterranean over the protests of the captain and seasick travelers. At this point an undersea earthquake triggers a 90-foot tsunami, and despite ample warnings this monster wave broadsides the top-heavy liner at midnight, during the New Year’s party. First the ball drops. Then the other shoe drops. The result is the ultimate “Bottoms Up!”
And the takeaway of The Poseidon Adventure applies to all of the films and to life in general, not to mention the next few generations on the planet. As David McCollough’s famously concluded in The Johnstown Flood, it can be a fatal assumption ‘that the people who were responsible for your safety will act responsibly.’
You can have a ripping good time watching these old movies. And as futurists, sociologists, planners, catastrophists, humanists or transhumanists, you can conjure with them, too. Icebergs and U-boats have ceased to menace – of cruise ships, I say nothing.
But the same principles of egalitarianism, legitimacy, non-beligerence and prudential planning apply to Earth-crossing asteroids, CERN’s operations and program, Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno manipulations, monetary policy and international finance, and NATO deployments present and future.
Or do they? And if they do, who says so?
CC BY-NC-ND Clark Matthews and The Lifeboat Foundation
Earth’s Titanic Challenges by Clark Matthews is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://lifeboat.com.
High energy experiments like the LHC at the nuclear research centre CERN are extreme energy consumers (needing the power of a nuclear plant). Their construction is extremely costly (presently 7 Billion Euros) and practical benefits are not in sight. The experiments eventually pose existential risks and these risks have not been properly investigated.
It is not the first time that CERN announces record energies and news around April 1 – apparently hoping that some critique and concerns about the risks could be misinterpreted as an April joke. Additionally CERN regularly starts up the LHC at Easter celebrations and just before week ends, when news offices are empty and people prefer to have peaceful days with their friends and families.
CERN has just announced new records in collision energies at the LHC. And instead of conducting a neutral risk assessment, the nuclear research centre plans costly upgrades of its Big Bang machine. Facing an LHC upgrade in 2013 for up to CHF 1 Billion and the perspective of a Mega-LHC in 2022: How long will it take until risk researchers are finally integrated in a neutral safety assessment?
There are countless evidences for the necessity of an external and multidisciplinary safety assessment of the LHC. According to a pre-study in risk research, CERN fits less than a fifth of the criteria for a modern risk assessment (see the press release below). It is not acceptable that the clueless member states point at the operator CERN itself, while this regards its self-set security measures as sufficient, in spite of critique from risk researchers, continuous debates and the publication of further papers pointing at concrete dangers and even existential risks (black holes, strangelets) eventually arising from the experiments sooner or later. Presently science has to admit that the risk is disputed and basically unknown.
It will not be possible to keep up this ostrich policy much longer. Especially facing the planned upgrades of the LHC, CERN will be confronted with increasing critique from scientific and civil side that the most powerful particle collider has yet not been challenged in a neutral and multidisciplinary safety assessment. CERN has yet not answered to pragmatic proposals for such a process that also should constructively involve critics and CERN. Also further legal steps from different sides are possible.
The member states that are financing the CERN budget, the UN or private funds are addressed to provide resources to finally initiate a neutral and multidisciplinary risk assessment.
German version of this article published in Oekonews: http://www.oekonews.at/index.php?mdoc_id=1069458
Related LHC-Critique press release and open letter to CERN:
Typical physicist’s April joke on stable black holes at the LHC (April 1 2012, German): http://www.scienceblogs.de/hier-wohnen-drachen/2012/04/stabiles-minischwarzes-loch-aus-higgsteilchen-erzeugt.php
Latest publications of studies demonstrating risks arising from the LHC experiment:
Prof Otto E. Rössler: http://www.academicjournals.org/AJMCSR/PDF/pdf2012/Feb/9%20Feb/Rossler.pdf
Thomas Kerwick B.Tech. M.Eng. Ph.D.: http://www.vixra.org/abs/1203.0055
Brief summary of the basic problem by LHC-Kritik (still valid since Sep. 2008): http://lhc-concern.info/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/lhc-kritik-cern-1st-statement-summary-908.pdf
Detailed summary of the scientific LHC risk discussion by LHC-Kritik and ConCERNed International: http://lhc-concern.info/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/critical-revision-of-lhc-risks_concerned-int.pdf
We wish you happy Easter and hope for your support of our pragmatic proposals to urgently increase safety in these new fields of nuclear physics.
LHC Critique / LHC Kritik — Network for Safety at nuclear and sub-nuclear high energy Experiments.
Tel.: +43 650 629 627 5
New Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/LHC.Critique/
Info on the outcomes of CERN’s annual meeting in Chamonix this week (Feb. 6–10 2012):
In 2012 LHC collision energies should be increased from 3.5 to 4 TeV per beam and the luminosity is planned to be highly increased. This means much more particle collisions at higher energies.
CERN plans to shut down the LHC in 2013 for about 20 months to do a very costly upgrade (CHF 1 Billion?) to run the LHC at 7 TeV per beam afterwards.
Future plans: A High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) is planned, “tentatively scheduled to start operating around 2022” — with a beam energy increased from 7 to 16.5 TeV(!).
One might really ask where this should lead to – sooner or later – without the risks being properly investigated.
For comparison: The AMS experiment for directly measuring cosmic rays in the atmosphere operates on a scale around 1.5 TeV. Very high energetic cosmic rays have only been measured indirectly (their impulse). Sort, velocity, mass and origin of these particles are unknown. In any way, the number of collisions under the extreme and unprecedented artificial conditions at the LHC is of astronomical magnitudes higher than anywhere else in the nearer cosmos.
There were many talks on machine safety at the Chamonix meeting. The safety of humans and environment obviously were not an official topic. No reaction on the recent claim for a really neutral, external and multi-disciplinary risk assessment by now.
Official reports from the LHC performance workshop by CERN Bulletin:
LHC Performance Workshop — Chamonix 2012:
Feb 10 2012: COMMUNICATION directed to CERN for a neutral and multidisciplinary risk assessment to be done before any LHC upgrade:
More info at LHC-Kritik / LHC-Critique: Network for Safety at experimental sub-nuclear Reactors:
Famous Chilean philosopher Humberto Maturana describes “certainty” in science as subjective emotional opinion and astonishes the physicists’ prominence. French astronomer and “Leonardo” publisher Roger Malina hopes that the LHC safety issue would be discussed in a broader social context and not only in the closer scientific framework of CERN.
(Article published in “oekonews”: http://oekonews.at/index.php?mdoc_id=1067777 )
The latest renowned “Ars Electronica Festival” in Linz (Austria) was dedicated in part to an uncritical worship of the gigantic particle accelerator LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at the European Nuclear Research Center CERN located at the Franco-Swiss border. CERN in turn promoted an art prize with the idea to “cooperate closely” with the arts. This time the objections were of a philosophical nature – and they had what it takes.
In a thought provoking presentation Maturana addressed the limits of our knowledge and the intersubjective foundations of what we call “objective” and “reality.” His talk was spiked with excellent remarks and witty asides that contributed much to the accessibility of these fundamental philosophical problems: “Be realistic, be objective!” Maturana pointed out, simply means that we want others to adopt our point of view. The great constructivist and founder of the concept of autopoiesis clearly distinguished his approach from a solipsistic position.
Given Ars Electronica’s spotlight on CERN and its experimental sub-nuclear research reactor, Maturana’s explanations were especially important, which to the assembled CERN celebrities may have come in a mixture of an unpleasant surprise and a lack of relation to them.
During the question-and-answer period, Markus Goritschnig asked Maturana whether it wasn’t problematic that CERN is basically controlling itself and discarding a number of existential risks discussed related to the LHC — including hypothetical but mathematically demonstrable risks also raised — and later downplayed — by physicists like Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek, and whether he thought it necessary to integrate in the LHC safety assessment process other sciences aside from physics such as risk search. In response Maturana replied (in the video from about 1:17): “We human beings can always reflect on what we are doing and choose. And choose to do it or not to do it. And so the question is, how are we scientists reflecting upon what we do? Are we taking seriously our responsibility of what we do? […] We are always in the danger of thinking that, ‘Oh, I have the truth’, I mean — in a culture of truth, in a culture of certainty — because truth and certainty are not as we think — I mean certainty is an emotion. ‘I am certain that something is the case’ means: ‘I do not know’. […] We cannot pretend to impose anything on others; we have to create domains of interrogativity.”
Disregarding these reflections, Sergio Bertolucci (CERN) found the peer review system among the physicists’ community a sufficient scholarly control. He refuted all the disputed risks with the “cosmic ray argument,” arguing that much more energetic collisions are naturally taking place in the atmosphere without any adverse effect. This safety argument by CERN on the LHC, however, can also be criticized under different perspectives, for example: Very high energetic collisions could be measured only indirectly — and the collision frequency under the unprecedented artificial and extreme conditions at the LHC is of astronomical magnitudes higher than in the Earth’s atmosphere and anywhere else in the nearer cosmos.
The second presentation of the “Origin” Symposium III was held by Roger Malina, an astrophysicist and the editor of “Leonardo” (MIT Press), a leading academic journal for the arts, sciences and technology.
Malina opened with a disturbing fact: “95% of the universe is of an unknown nature, dark matter and dark energy. We sort of know how it behaves. But we don’t have a clue of what it is. It does not emit light, it does not reflect light. As an astronomer this is a little bit humbling. We have been looking at the sky for millions of years trying to explain what is going on. And after all of that and all those instruments, we understand only 3% of it. A really humbling thought. […] We are the decoration in the universe. […] And so the conclusion that I’d like to draw is that: We are really badly designed to understand the universe.”
The main problem in research is: “curiosity is not neutral.” When astrophysics reaches its limits, cooperation between arts and science may indeed be fruitful for various reasons and could perhaps lead to better science in the end. In a later communication Roger Malina confirmed that the same can be demonstrated for the relation between natural sciences and humanities or social sciences.
However, the astronomer emphasized that an “art-science collaboration can lead to better science in some cases. It also leads to different science, because by embedding science in the larger society, I think the answer was wrong this morning about scientists peer-reviewing themselves. I think society needs to peer-review itself and to do that you need to embed science differently in society at large, and that means cultural embedding and appropriation. Helga Nowotny at the European Research Council calls this ‘socially robust science’. The fact that CERN did not lead to a black hole that ended the world was not due to peer-review by scientists. It was not due to that process.”
One of Malina’s main arguments focused on differences in “the ethics of curiosity”. The best ethics in (natural) science include notions like: intellectual honesty, integrity, organized scepticism, dis-interestedness, impersonality, universality. “Those are the believe systems of most scientists. And there is a fundamental flaw to that. And Humberto this morning really expanded on some of that. The problem is: Curiosity is embodied. You cannot make it into a neutral ideal of scientific curiosity. And here I got a quote of Humberto’s colleague Varela: “All knowledge is conditioned by the structure of the knower.”
In conclusion, a better co-operation of various sciences and skills is urgently necessary, because: “Artists asks questions that scientists would not normally ask. Finally, why we want more art-science interaction is because we don’t have a choice. There are certain problems in our society today that are so tough we need to change our culture to resolve them. Climate change: we’ve got to couple the science and technology to the way we live. That’s a cultural problem, and we need artists working on that with the scientists every day of the next decade, the next century, if we survive it.
Then Roger Malina directly turned to the LHC safety discussion and articulated an open contradiction to the safety assurance pointed out before: He would generally hope for a much more open process concerning the LHC safety debate, rather than discussing this only in a narrow field of particle physics, concrete: “There are certain problems where we cannot cloister the scientific activity in the scientific world, and I think we really need to break the model. I wish CERN, when they had been discussing the risks, had done that in an open societal context, and not just within the CERN context.”
Presently CERN is holding its annual meeting in Chamonix to fix LHC’s 2012 schedules in order to increase luminosity by a factor of four for maybe finally finding the Higgs Boson – against a 100-Dollar bet of Stephen Hawking who is convinced of Micro Black Holes being observed instead, immediately decaying by hypothetical “Hawking Radiation” — with God Particle’s blessing. Then it would be himself gaining the Nobel Prize Hawking pointed out. Quite ironically, at Ars Electronica official T-Shirts were sold with the “typical signature” of a micro black hole decaying at the LHC – by a totally hypothetical process involving a bunch of unproven assumptions.
In 2013 CERN plans to adapt the LHC due to construction failures for up to CHF 1 Billion to run the “Big Bang Machine” at double the present energies. A neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment is still lacking, while a couple of scientists insist that their theories pointing at even global risks have not been invalidated. CERN’s last safety assurance comparing natural cosmic rays hitting the Earth with the LHC experiment is only valid under rather narrow viewpoints. The relatively young analyses of high energetic cosmic rays are based on indirect measurements and calculations. Sort, velocity, mass and origin of these particles are unknown. But, taking the relations for granted and calculating with the “assuring” figures given by CERN PR, within ten years of operation, the LHC under extreme and unprecedented artificial circumstances would produce as many high energetic particle collisions as occur in about 100.000 years in the entire atmosphere of the Earth. Just to illustrate the energetic potential of the gigantic facility: One LHC-beam, thinner than a hair, consisting of billions of protons, has got the power of an aircraft carrier moving at 12 knots.
This article in the Physics arXiv Blog (MIT’s Technology Review) reads: “Black Holes, Safety, and the LHC Upgrade — If the LHC is to be upgraded, safety should be a central part of the plans.”, closing with the claim: “What’s needed, of course, is for the safety of the LHC to be investigated by an independent team of scientists with a strong background in risk analysis but with no professional or financial links to CERN.”
Australian ethicist and risk researcher Mark Leggett concluded in a paper that CERN’s LSAG safety report on the LHC meets less than a fifth of the criteria of a modern risk assessment. There but for the grace of a goddamn particle? Probably not. Before pushing the LHC to its limits, CERN must be challenged by a really neutral, external and multi-disciplinary risk assessment.
Video recordings of the “Origin III” symposium at Ars Electronica:
Presentation Humberto Maturana:
Presentation Roger Malina:
“Origin” Symposia at Ars Electronica:
Communication on LHC Safety directed to CERN
Feb 10 2012
For a neutral and multidisciplinary risk assessment to be done before any LHC upgrade
More info, links and transcripts of lectures at “LHC-Critique — Network for Safety at experimental sub-nuclear Reactors”:
Experts regard safety report on Big Bang Machine as insufficient and one-dimensional
International critics of the high energy experiments planned to start soon at the particle accelerator LHC at CERN in Geneva have submitted a request to the Ministers of Science of the CERN member states and to the delegates to the CERN Council, the supreme controlling body of CERN.
The paper states that several risk scenarios (that have to be described as global or existential risks) cannot currently be excluded. Under present conditions, the critics have to speak out against an operation of the LHC.
The submission includes assessments from expertises in the fields markedly missing from the physicist-only LSAG safety report — those of risk assessment, law, ethics and statistics. Further weight is added because these experts are all university-level experts – from Griffith University, the University of North Dakota and Oxford University respectively. In particular, it is criticised that CERN’s official safety report lacks independence – all its authors have a prior interest in the LHC running and that the report uses physicist-only authors, when modern risk-assessment guidelines recommend risk experts and ethicists as well.
As a precondition of safety, the request calls for a neutral and multi-disciplinary risk assessment and additional astrophysical experiments – Earth based and in the atmosphere – for a better empirical verification of the alleged comparability of particle collisions under the extreme artificial conditions of the LHC experiment and relatively rare natural high energy particle collisions: “Far from copying nature, the LHC focuses on rare and extreme events in a physical set up which has never occurred before in the history of the planet. Nature does not set up LHC experiments.”
Even under greatly improved circumstances concerning safety as proposed above, big jumps in energy increase, as presently planned by a factor of three compared to present records, without carefully analyzing previous results before each increase of energy, should principally be avoided.
The concise “Request to CERN Council and Member States on LHC Risks” (Pdf with hyperlinks to the described studies) by several critical groups, supported by well known critics of the planned experiments:
The answer received by now does not consider these arguments and studies but only repeats again that from the side of the operators everything appears sufficient, agreed by a Nobel Price winner in physics. LHC restart and record collisions by factor 3 are presently scheduled for March 30, 2010.
Official detailed and well understandable paper and communication with many scientific sources by ‘ConCERNed International’ and ‘LHC Kritik’: