Science Friday: Doomsday Edition

This week on Science Friday, get updated on the latest antics of the Large Hadron Collider, a now void contract for NASA’s next-gen space suits, how Hubble is solving galactic mysteries, and an advance towards “micro-spacecraft”. All this plus our gadget of the week: The Ultimate Music Box, and our video of the week: Lightning in Slow-Mo!

Doomsday Debate Over Large Hadron Collider
Earlier this month, TrekMovie reported the upcoming launch of the world’s largest atom smasher (who’s launch date is now Sept. 10th). Since then, speculation that the LHC has the potential to “destroy the world” has been building, and has escalated to a civil lawsuit by former nuclear safety official Walter Wagner and science writer Luis Sancho, who say the officials in charge of the LHC at the CERN particle-physics center have not fully considered the possibility that the collider could create globe-gobbling black holes or other catastrophes of cosmic proportions. The defendants, including CERN and the U.S. Department of Energy, say the doomsday worries are pure science fiction – and have cited a series of safety reports concluding that the Large Hadron Collider poses no global threat. The hearing is scheduled to begin in Hawaii on Sept. 2, just a week before the atom smasher’s official debut.

A simulation shows the pattern of particles that could be produced by a microscopic black hole.

NASA Voids Contract For Next Generation Space Suits
In June, TrekMovie reported on the $745 million contract between NASA and Oceaneering, the company slated to design the next generation of NASA space suits to protect astronauts during Constellation Program voyages to the International Space Station and, by 2020, to the surface of the moon. Now, however, it appears that a complaint concerning NASA’s bidding process will bring the deal to a halt. No word yet on what NASA plans to do for future space wear.

No more awesome looking space suits from Oceaneering

Hubble Images Solve Galactic Filament Mystery
NGC 1275, 235 million light-years from Earth, has posed a puzzle: How have these filaments, made of gas much cooler than the surrounding intergalactic cloud, persisted for perhaps 100 million years? Why haven’t they warmed, dissipated or collapsed to form stars? Images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, with 10 times the resolution of earlier photographs, reveal that the filaments, about 1,500 light-years wide and hundreds of thousands of light-years long, are themselves made of finer threads. The cold gas is pushed out by waves of radiation emanating from the super massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Small is relative, of course. Each thread contains as much mass as one million Suns.

The HST image of galaxy NGC 1275

Sniffing for cancer
Over a million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the US alone. It is already known that dogs are able to sniff out melanomas and now new research has identified the distinct organic chemicals that indicate cancer. According to WebMD, scientists are now hoping for a ‘Star Trek tricorder-like device’ that can detect (or electronically sniff out) the cancer. Such a device would negate the need for often-painful biopsies, which is the current method of diagnosis.

New beach pickup line: "I am just scanning for readings"

Key Advance Toward ‘Micro-spacecraft’
Fleets of inexpensive, pint-sized spacecraft are one giant leap closer to lift off. Researchers at the 236th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society describe a new, razor thin temperature-regulating film that brings this sci-fi vision of “micro-spacecraft” weighing barely 50 pounds and 10-pound “nano-spacecraft” closer to reality. “We don’t have the processes in space to remove excess heat or keep the spacecraft warm in excess cold,” says Prasanna Chandrasekhar, Ph.D. “It may sound very trivial, but controlling the temperature of a spacecraft is absolutely crucial.

New ‘Micro-spacecraft’ could be about the size of an average birthday cake

Gadget of the Week: The Ultimate Music Box – KDDI AU’s transforming concept phone
Always keeping one eye on the future, Japan’s KDDI AU Design Project has a fresh batch of concept devices on display in Tokyo. Perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch is a phone called the Box To Play. The sleek concept phone combines a cell phone (with all the normal calling and camera features you’d expect) along with a sort of music device which appears to include a tiny embedded turntable that allows you to scratch the music playing on the phone. Via AU Design Project.

The Japanese transforming music phone

Video of the Week: Lightning in Slow Motion

Science Quickies
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.

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Slo-mo lightning looks amazing.

Thank God someone is trying to stop CERN from flipping the switch on their planet eating supercollider! If someone doesn’t do something we’re all going to die!! AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!

While their concerns for not destroying the world are admirable, I think I’ll trust the near-decade work of over 8000 scientists and hundreds of research facilities and universities across 85 nations over a few sensationalists. This isn’t the first enormous particle accelerator to be built and this isn’t the first time these same folks have petitioned against it.Seriously, science is our friend! I’ll speak for the rest of these folks while quoting Futurama’s very own Al Gore on destroying the Universe. “As an environmentalist, I’m against that. “Besides, a bunch of nerds wouldn’t risk destroying the world when a new Star Trek movie is about to be released!

Japanese Music Box: The very first Transformer :)

Does anyone else remember a time when cell phones could only make calls?

Soooo, when are they going to make the Next Genn. tricorder into a super Cell phone???? with GPS, music, movies, Doc. to Go, Excel, ect… and with all the sound effects one would expect from ST and LCARS screens. We are waiting….

So, let me get this straight. If’n thuh Earth becomes a giant black hole, will this push back Star Trek’s opening day even further?

I think the Hadron is a waste of time and money. I also think it is dangerous. I don’t think our little blue planet is going disappear into a black hole but I do believe that the experiments over time will effect the magnetic field. Say in about fifty years time the earth will be fucked.

And as for the test scientists they’ve safely done, they’ll anything to make you think it’s safe.

At the end of the day scientists like government do as the damn well please.

That lightening slowed down is amazing.


Actually, we’ll all be transported back in time to August 1966.

Maybe my understanding of black holes is a tad behind, but doesn’t a black hole only have the mass of the original object? If you took a golfball, made a black hole out of it, it would still only “weigh” as much as a golfball, right?

Bunch of Chicken Littles… “The Earth is collapsing, the Earth is collapsing:

How am I gunna’ fit into one o’ them wee little spacecrafts when tha’ world is gobbled up by a black-hole? And what will I wear now that NASA nixed tha’ new suits?
Wit’ no on left, who am I gunna call wit’ me transformin’ phone? At least I’ll have me bikini pics ta’ keep me company as I scan fur life in tha’ flatulent threads (“…cold gas is pushed out by waves of radiation…”)


Correctomundo, DAK23. A scientific nicety that the know-nothing pinheads behind this lawsuit seem unable to grasp.


The problem though, the golfball black hole would have an immense gravitational pull that a golfball itself wouldn’t have. The idea is that matter around the golfball black hole would start falling in on it. The more matter falling it, the bigger the golfball black hole gets and the more influence it will have for more matter to fall into it. Eventually, the golfball black hole would have enough influence for the whole Earth to fall into it.

Now, the problem with the alarmists is that apparently the black holes that could be formed in the LHC are so small that they wouldn’t have the time for matter to fall in on them before they blink out of existence because of Hawking Radiation. These black holes are way smaller than a golfball.

Forget black holes…

…Some scientists think that the LHC can produce a theorectical partical called the “strangelet”.

Theoretically, if a strangelet comes into contact with normal matter, it may convert that normal matter into “strange matter” — i.e., another strangelet. And those particles can convert other noraml matter — and so on, and so on — until all of the Earth has been converted into a bunch of hot “strange matter”.

I’m not saying I think this will happen, but the fact that scientists DON’T REALLY KNOW if this could happen or not is a little scary.

…The issue over the new Space Suits is more of a case of sour grapes from the contractors who didn’t submit the winning bid. Same thing happened during the early days of the Mercury Program, when it was pretty obvious that IBM was the only mainframe company at the time who could produce the special systems needed for what was then called “Mercury Control”. NASA director Jim Webb heard that some of the other manufacturers were going to get Congress involved, so he pulled them all in and explained to them that the only way to beat the Commies to the Moon was if they shut the frack up and let IBM build the machines. When he put it that way – using a bit more diplomatic language, I should add – everyone stepped back and IBM got the contract *and* wound up bringing the systems in cheaper than the other guys could have anyway.

Bottom Line: Its a bull$#!+ game contractors play these days called “if you can’t beat’em, sue’em”, and all it does is keep the scumbag lawyers employed and rich.

OM I have warned you before and I am now finally warning you again. Keep your anger issues off this site. No more flaming of groups, many trek fans are lawyers

#15 On behalf of John Edwards, who is 99% offended with your final comment… ;) hehe

Interesting news on the LHC… but #13, you’re quite wrong. A golfball mass black hole, would have exactly the same gravitational field of a golfball. As a matter of fact, all of Newtonian physics at the surface of the Earth works with the assumption all of the Earth’s mass is a point mass at the center of the Earth.

At least you’re exactly right with Hawking radiation: that’s why black holes didn’t win out in the early universe: they evaporate. Ones as small as a golfball in mass wouldn’t last long enough to absorb anything: being that close to other matter, the stream of virtual particles that make up Hawking radiation only increase in the presence of other mass, not decrease.

wireless power broadcasting! Yes!!

One microscopic black hole can ruin your whole day. But, if you sweat about it too much, you might as well throw yourself to the SasGrouper (or is that Big Fin?)

Thanks Kayla.

16 – Hi Anthony. As someone who has visited your site for some time but who is fairly new to posting, and who is not familiar with certain terms that are used such as “trolling” and “flaming,” would you mind my aksing if you could supply brief definitions of these terms?

There are a lot of fans who post comments here who have a pretty good sense of humor, I like to think that I have one also. But I certainly do not wish to make any comments that would anger or offend other folks who comment here or who read these comments. I am under the impression that these refer to writing posts that are almost looking to pick a fight or start unnecessary controversies or arguments. Am I fairly on track with these interpretations?

I hope you wouldn’t mind writing a brief entry of definitions of these terms for me, or perhaps other newer “posters” like myself, so that we will be certain to post our ideas and opinions in a respectful and non-inflammatory manner. So far, I have just tried to practice common courtesy to others, but a brief definition of these terms or the rules and guidelines for respectful posting for us “newbies” would be very helpful and very appreciated.

BTW, you and your staff are simply doing a wonderful job with this site. I love visiting it, and I appreciate all the hard and great work you and your staff are doing. Keep up the terrific work!

Hi again, Anthony. I meant to write “asking” in my first sentence in my post, #20, not “aksing.” I’m not from “Futurama” if anyone “aks” — but I do love the cartoon — especially Shatner’s “Slim Shady.” :)

Oh, and if anyone is interested, today is Ray Bradury’s 88th birthday…

I would like to thank everyone on the thread so far today. I consider myself a person of average to above average intelligence and I am learning some great stuff that I have never had the opportunity to be exposed to before. Great opposing viewpoints black holes, mass, Newtonian theory. I am learning about Hawking radiation and strange matter and getting inspired to do a bit of internet research on all this stuff.

Ya’ learn something new every day. On a related note, I read today that Intel has made great strides in wireless power transmission. Tesla Lives!

On review:

I am apparently below average intelligence as I see wireless power linked in the tiny bits above.

I shall now go back to my cave and attempt fire starting.

24. THX

Be sure to take TWO sticks with you.



If you ever need help researching pictures for a tricorder, let me know. =)


Sticks? I should use sticks? Ack, no wonder! I was using trout.

27 – Good thinking! There’s enough good fish oils in trout that they should light up like a road flare once you produce a good spark. Try scuffing up the scales a little first.


I tried scuffing them up, but the danged fish kept wriggling out of the bench vise before I could get one of my palm sanders. Maybe I’ll duct tape them to my new Italian shoes. I guarantee I’ll scuff those within two feet of my front door.

Yes, the lighting is awesome! I know that a lightning bolt lasts what, micro-seconds? I’d like to see that in real time… But, I guess I’d have to quit being lazy & look it up myself. (sigh).

By the by, I love this site, and many thanks to those who run it!

29 – Good idea. I’m from Vermont and we fix everything with duct tape here! Sometimes even marriages!


Here-a-bouts they use duct tape as the preliminary step to marriage. You know, to secure the bride and keep her from gettin’ away.

I can’t believe people are making such a big deal out of the LHC. Any worthy scientific experiment contains (and restricts) the presence of risk. Otherwise, there’s not any point in going to Mars because who knows? Somebody could die on the mission. For that matter, why ever send anybody to space again? It’s dangerous!

Just watch: Someday when we finally have a chance to make first contact with another race, somebody will try to interfere for fear that the aliens might try to take over our bodies or something. Good grief people, stop watching those old black and white movies and get away from you tv sets for a little while!!!!


LOL That was priceless!

hmmm wireless power transmission…bird flies into power stream you get another northeast blackout….in addition the more advances develop in wireless power transmission, the more likely development of electromagnetic pulse bombs becomes, which would reduce scifi to ashes if ones detonated here in the usa…

and would give birth to hell on earth and a future more resembling dark angel or terminator minus the cyborgs

32 – Not to mention it’s great use as a baby-sitting tool. Keeps the kids in their seats and quiet. ;)

The one fact that doomsayers of the LHC don’t know is that the same physics that would allow for micro-black holes to form in it also would allow these objects to immediately evaporate.

It pays to be informed.

Great stuff! As always…can’t wait to see more from CERN.

I find it funny folks are so alarmed over these experiments when I suspected most would freak out learning antimatter exists in the lab in the first place.

Perhaps the big freak out will happen after the movie, ‘ Angels and Demons’ comes out and worldwide audiences are informed.

It is getting interesting.

Space suits: Perhaps it is a good thing considering all the new nano-clothing being developed. It would be nice seeing the money go towards that kind of suit technology.

Micro-spacecraft! Finally!! Whew!
o.k. D.A.R.P.A.(DoD)/DoE/CERN/FERMI/JPL… …Bring on the Star Trek ‘Micro-Machines!’