View Full Version : November Entry - Real Science

11-15-2009, 05:14 AM

I was going to hold out a bit on this one, but euio has forced my hand with his LHC disaster. Although we picked the same specific theme, it looks like our approaches were light years apart, so that's a good thing.

I began work on Real Science about two weeks ago with research and style experiments. My first map focused on the area around Meyrin, which is the Swiss town that is considered to be the home of CERN. For those of you unfamiliar with CERN, it is the European entity concerned with nuclear research

The big fun at CERN these days is the LHC or Large Hadron Collider. This enormous underground "pipe" is used to accelerate particles to just under the speed of light and then continue to add energy. When matter approaches the speed of light and is further accelerated, instead of gaining velocity, it gains mass. The LHC at CERN can theoretically do this better than any other particle accelerator around, if they can get it to work.

In September of 2008, not long after the collider was brought online, something went wrong and a great deal of damage was done by arcing electricity from a bad circuit that caused a breach in the helium containment system. Great quantities of liquid helium flooded the area and caused massive damage. After much time and many safety improvements, the collider is back online, and slowly making it's way up to its rated capacity, which is 7 TeV (tera electron volt).

Some fun facts about the LHC: It is the last stage of a five-stage particle acceleration process. The LHC has a circumference of 27 kilometers or 17 miles. The great majority of the LHC is not in Switzerland, but rather in France. There are four "collision points" in the LHC: Atlas, LHC-b, Alice and CMS. The pictures you see of massive machinery is typically from these collision points.

Finally before I start talking shop, I'd like to say that I am not a scientist, and I don't believe or wish anyone else to believe that this map is a reflection of the possible. It is fiction. I believe that LHC is dangerous because of the huge machines and amounts of energy required to make it work, but no more so than any other mechanism would be under similar circumstances.

Okay, on to the mapping.

My first go at this focused on the Meyrin area south of the actual collider. It was more of a satellite view at that point, with all of the fields and roads made to look as real as I could. I had begun working on buildings when I started to doubt myself. I was perhaps half way finished when I reluctantly decided that I was missing out on a lot of good science by not covering the whole thing. So I scrapped it and started over. At this point, I was not sure that I'd be submitting this for the challenge. It was just an experiment still.

So I restarted, this time capturing the area of the collider and that immediately around it. I've used probably 30 maps and diagrams to assemble and understand all of the physical relationships, but Google earth was my guide for the roads and features of the LHC area. By maintaining a constant eye altitude, I was able to stitch together the many pieces needed to capture the entire area. The methodology is pretty self-evident, but the trick is to use transparency to align the pieces properly.

Once I had a frankenstein moster of a background layer, I was able to start tracing the roads, rail and Franco/Swiss border. There are no tricks to this either, just hours of long, tedious work. The bad news is that the labeling takes much longer than the tracing. I'm just glad I didn't have to name everything.

The airport was done as a separate element, and the singularity itself was cobbled together using elements that I couldn't reproduce to save my life.

The collider has taken up a great deal of time by virtue of the difficulty in trying to assemble bits of information from a wide variety of sources. CERN has been around for a long time and each stage of acceleration was developed for its own purposes at different times. There are a few good sources that give excellent overviews if you're willing to look, but I dare say that nothing available to the general public covers the physical relationship of the collider to the area it is in nearly as well. If you find anything, please let me know! I'd like to see how well I did.

As always, suggestions and criticism are welcome.

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11-15-2009, 10:39 AM
That's beautiful!
An interesting style choice, too - closer to what I usually do. That singularity looks amazing, though it doesn't seem to blend well with the rest of the image.

11-15-2009, 11:22 AM
I have to say that I'm liking these entries. That map is all very familiar (I'm a theoretical physicist working on predictions for the LHC). I've spent many hours of my life walking the road from Saint Genis to CERN and back.

I was going to say that the black hole would be created at ATLAS or CMS rather than in the center of the ring, but I see from the text that you've got the magnetic fields as an argument for why it's in the center. I don't know if you'd want to have a trail of destruction from it's birthplace to it's resting place? As it stands you have a story about lots of scientists dying in the cataclysm but all of CERN has remained intact!

If you want to go into truly fun sci-fi, an accreting black hole has jets of energy around it. You'd have a circulating ring of matter falling into it (including bits of Meyrin unfortunately) and as it gets closer to the black hole it would jet out matter top and bottom. Conceivably that could be a power source. So, throw waste in, get energy out.

Obviously to accrete matter, the black hole's gravitational pull would have to overcome that of the earth - so not possible for stuff further away, but certainly possible close enough to the event horizon. Now if the earth was a black hole it would only have a Schwarzchild radius of 9mm. Now say you had 1000 tonnes of matter thrown into the black hole, (10^6 kg) you'll still only have a Schwarzchild radius of 10^-21 m. Now that's way smaller than an atomic nucleus. To get up to the size of an atomic nucleus you'd need to throw in 10^12kg (a billion tonnes - roughly 20,000 aircraft carriers). If you dump all of the world's water in (roughly 3.8 x 10^16 kg) then you still only get a schwarzchild radius of 60 picometers - about the size of a light atom. As it gets more massive, the radius at which it's gravitational pull overcomes the electromagnetic forces will grow, increasing the radius at which it can pull stuff in to eat. That's the radius that you're interested in as that's the sphere of destruction that would surround it. Not a number i have off the top of my head though.

All science aside - this is a great map! I love the concept and the attention to detail is fabulous.

11-15-2009, 12:45 PM
Thanks for the excellent review and scientific critique Torstan. I had no idea that you had this type of first-person familiarity with CERN or I would have had more fun adding the details than I did :). As it was, my goal was more to educate than tickle anyone's memories.

I have throught about the "path of destruction" issue with my non-scientific mind on many occasions. In my vague, fuzzy way, the singularity starts small--a few dozen meters--in scale to how it interacts with the surrounding matter, and though it increases to it's "stable" size very quickly, it also moves quickly, mere matter providing no discernible impediment.

While it is true that most of those involved are in Meyrin and the satellite stations around the LHC, my thought was that the level of destruction was pretty complete within the Atlas apparatus itself, but did not extend far enough to breach the surface. I figured a lot of people would be near the collider during this experiment, but I admit that might be silly from an insider perspective.

Where the singularity sits, it did manage to tear off a huge chunk of the CERN site de Prevessin, and although the map doesn't reflect it yet, the "event horizon" (I know I'm hopelessly mangling the purpose of that term :)) would have been easily sufficient to chew up (accrete!) the rest of it considering it's trajectory.

For the rest of you, take a look at this graphic (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_viXLELpXe1s/SGO2_zcJLdI/AAAAAAAAADU/UCUxPJTDW7c/s400/0108001_01-A5-at-72-dpi.jpg) and you can see that by tracing a line from point one (Atlas) to the center of the LHC, Prevessin isn't a happy place.

As far as the size of the beast is concerned, my assumption is that it would be larger than what I have represented , but obviously much larger would not work for me, so I wave the magic wand of god and it stablizes where I want it to. I think most people's idea of black holes is that they are sucking maws of destruction that will eventually consume all matter, everywhere, and I admit that I somewhat thought the same, to the extent I thought about it. But after reading David Brin's "Earth", my conceptualization altered dramatically. I don't know if the sciene supports a singularity orbiting the earth deep in the inner regions beneath the planet's crust, but it sounds cool.

euio: thanks for the kind words. Style has been the greatest struggle on this project since the minimalist approach means that style will have a larger impact than normal. I agree that the singularity doesn't really synch with the rest of the map and I'm not happy with it as-is. But your noting it is helpful in that now I know it isn't "just me".

11-15-2009, 03:15 PM
This is really looking great Immolate, I can see you vying for another compass here.

As regards to the not synching problem... why don't you draw it in a style similar to the rest of the map? As in, an outline using some nice thick, precise brown lines similar to your roads to draw some concentric circles and then some twisty stuff going on using the same colour and size brush.
The thing is, this is a map, and I'm not sure you'd get a nice rendered computer effect in the middle of such a minimalist layout.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll sort it. You always do. :)

11-15-2009, 03:38 PM

You could always represent it by a burned hole in the middle of your paper.

As for the details - yes, any singularity would be so small as to not have any appreciable effect as it moved to its stable point. So no trail if destruction. Indeed, there wouldn't be any effect on the ATLAS (or CMS - I'm not allowed to be biased) detectors, but this is science fiction, so there's no harm in saying that ATLAS got totalled too.

As for people - there won't be anyone in the cavern when the LHC is running. It's a bit radioactive with all those particles whizzing around. The scientists and engineers will be on the surface (roughly 100m further up if I remember rightly?). So if you have dead scientists then you'd also have surface damage.

As for the size, the event horizon would be close in size to the Schwarzchild radius I mentioned earlier. So the black hole itself would be really very tiny indeed - much smaller than an atom. However you could claim that the radius of destruction could be much larger - though that really has no basis from the science.

Think of it this way - black holes accrete matter by their gravitational pull. Say it has the mass of a house then it has the gravitational pull of a house. Now you don't get pulled across the street by a house's gravitational pull. So, you wouldn't get pulled across the street by a black hole. The interesting bit comes when you consider that the force of gravity goes as 1/r^2. As r->0, this goes to infinity. So the force of gravity will get very large when you get very close. It's the very fact that a black hole is so small that gives it that enormous pull. So a very small black hole will suck in things very close by. But by very close by I'm saying other atoms. It will take a very long time to build up to molecules and larger stuff. A radius similar to the one you show would require if to have been given more mass than it could get from the surrounding area (by a lot!).

But ignore the science. It's still a great map. I just have a professional duty to try and keep some of these things in perspective (oh, and of course it would Hawking radiate and evaporate before it became stable - sorry, I had to say it to avoid the inevitable outcry about the LHC endangering human existence).

11-15-2009, 05:20 PM
So in effect you're saying that a black hole of the most most basic sort--one that was just born and as small as one could be--could not accrete sufficient matter while remaining in a single spot to make up for the energy it was shedding and therefore would burn itself out? That I did not know, nor did I know that it takes a lot of time for them to eat enough to begin exerting pull at any distance.

What I'm hearing is that a black hole needs to be fed in order to survive, and therefore stability would require a steady source of intake relative to the output, which my disaster / eighth wonder of the world / theme park scenario does not allow. Although the nuclear, biological and chemical trash collectors across the world now have a bottomless garbage pit, not to mention all of the conventional waste disposal companies in a large radius, it would not be enough or really regular enough to allow stabilization.

So if I didn't completely misunderstand what you said, Brin's fiction of a singularity sub-orbiting the planet could only cause planetary destruction by slowly gobbling up all of the liquid rock as it zips around, eventually causing the crust to begin to collapse, bit by bit. I'm not saying this would be devastating and probably quite fatal to life on earth... just not quite the dramatic and sudden end envisioned in the book.

I guess the reason Brin had the singularity orbiting is that he learned enough about the science to know the little guy had to move to survive.

[edit] I was ready to move the offending experiment from Atlas to CMS because I couldn't bear the thought of destroying the PSP, but from what you're saying, the singularity wouldn't really do any detectable damage on its way to the center point of the collider because it would still be tres tiny... correct? If that is the case, I can leave it as it is (in my head) and just stick with the fiction of growing the black hole faster and bigger than it could actually grow. Also, only the slowest scientists would be unable to evacuate the Pressin site before the singularity grew large enough to get to them (a period of months in my alternate unreality).

11-15-2009, 06:37 PM
If a black hole is created then it'll have the mass of whatever produced it. So if we create one from proton collisions then the most mass it's going to have is equal to the energy of the collision - so 7TeV on the current version. Actually we'd expect that only a small fraction of the energy would be caught in a black hole. Now that's the equivalent to the mass of only 7000 protons. When you're relying on gravitation to pull in new matter for it to grow, 7000 protons is really a very small mass.

This is to be compared to the mass of a star which is what astrophysical black holes are created from. Now their gravitational force is truly fierce because they contain the mass of the star that formed them. If one of those was orbiting the earth, then it would tear the planet to shreds.

Now the complication is that Hawking radiation says that black holes emit energy and lose mass. For a big black hole this energy loss is negligible compared to the speed at which it accretes new matter. However for a small black hole the energy loss is greater than the mass it gains by sucking in new matter and the black hole would evaporate. However as we haven't seen Hawking radiation people have argued that black holes might not evaporate and might instead grow larger and gobble up the world.

Even if the black holes don't evaporate through Hawking radiation, they would gain mass extremely slowly, and wouldn't pose any threat to the earth until well after the sun had exploded.

So you could say that the black hole is created and travels to the center of the ring. As long as you say that Hawking radiation doesn't exist, the black hole will be stable. It will slowly eat up all the matter around it, until it's sitting in a hole. The stuff around the edge of the hole will be too far away to be pulled in so the black hole would just sit there, slowly eating up any passing air molecule that gets too close. Obviously if you throw more garbage in there then it will grow. But you need to throw a lot of stuff in there for it to get big. And by a lot we're talking continents and suchlike.

So you need to say there's no Hawking radiation, that it stays in the middle of the ring and that for some reason it's gravitational pull is much larger than we'd expect (perhaps some weird quantum gravity effect, extra dimensions or something like that) so that it sucks in matter from further away than we'd expect. With those three things you'd get yourself your disaster.

On a side note, people are very serious about looking for black holes at the LHC. If we saw one it would be very cool indeed and would revolutionise particle physics. It would not pose any threat to anything.

11-15-2009, 06:45 PM
Suggestion: The black hole pulled additional mass seemingly "out of nowhere". Scientists are still vigorously arguing where this mass came from, with explanations ranging from time travel to dark energy to dimensional rifts. More exotic explanations from non-scientists have included divine retribution and alien interference.

11-15-2009, 06:48 PM
Pulling mass from a parallel universe separated by an extra dimension would work.

11-15-2009, 07:04 PM
What if I just throw Hawking under the bus and ignore the fact that it would take a planet or two of mass to bulk up the black hole? I learned from Wiki today that a sustainable black hole requires something like the mass of three of our suns. Well there's no way to import that kind of mass into my pet disaster, and if there were, it would consume the entire earth in a milibleep (Orkan form of temporal measurement). So in spite of my desire to conform to the laws of physics to the extent that I sorta-kinda understand them, it looks like the magic wand will be required in liberal doses.

11-15-2009, 07:11 PM
Wave away :)

11-15-2009, 11:23 PM
I am positive I posted an update earlier but it doesn't seem to be here.

Updated narrative, black hole and a few other, minor adjustments.

I am no more willing to do away with Hawking than I am the SPS. I even gave him a guest appearance.

Thanks rdahenry and Ramah for weighing in. Your suggestions are always on point and helpful.

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11-16-2009, 04:58 AM
Beautiful design work, Imm! Love it!

11-16-2009, 05:21 AM
I am positive I posted an update earlier but it doesn't seem to be here.

Maybe the black hole accreted your previous map post and would account from some more matter to enlarge it a bit.... heh!


11-16-2009, 05:38 AM
I'm sure there's a range of black holes between "blink and you miss it" and "stable over the long term" which would be relatively small, but hang around long enough for human beings to notice. You don't need a black hole that will be "sustainable" in astrophysical terms. Something that'll erode away in as short a time as a decade would still be significant event in our mayfly existence. Certainly, it could have less mass than the Earth and still be yanking stuff nearby into itself. As long as there's stuff falling in, that'll help balance energy radiated away (radiation strong enough to erode a black hole large enough to notice probably produces problems of its own).

11-16-2009, 09:18 AM
Great work. I love the added text.

A couple of minor edits :)

nuclear physicist -> particle physicist
Atlas collider -> ATLAS detector
disipate -> dissipate.

Love the note about the tourists.

11-16-2009, 11:21 AM
The style is unusual for the material you are presenting, but I can't say I dislike it. I rather think that it's quite impressive.

Steel General
11-16-2009, 02:15 PM
I like it, but everytime I look at it I see an LP Record for some reason. :)

11-16-2009, 05:16 PM
But wherever would we find a phonograph big enough?

11-16-2009, 07:26 PM
One of the hazards of mucking about with someone else's specialty is that you're going to screw up the lingo. One of the hazards of being me is that you're going to screw up the spelling :)

I should not have screwed up the detector vs. collider though. I should have thought that through. Ever watch that time-lapse movie of them putting Atlas together? Very cool. That sucker is enormous. If you had a vehicle that big, monster trucks would scream like little girls and wet themselves.

Thanks wormspeaker for the encouragement!

SG: that's because you are among the dozen people left that are old enough to remember LP's. Apparently so is wormspeaker. My kids think they are musical instruments used at dance clubs.

11-16-2009, 07:41 PM
Couldn't resist it:


Look at the size of the ladder in the middle to get an idea of scale. This was from a couple of years ago when I was lucky enough to get in.

And I thought this might amuse you. CERN was given a statue of Shiva by the Indian government and the shadow is projected on the side of the ATLAS building. Now in your scenario, that would be truly horrifying foreshadowing....

11-16-2009, 09:03 PM
Inspiration thought the budding cartographer!

11-16-2009, 10:45 PM
Thank you Torstan for showing me the obvious (although somewhat jarring) centerpiece to any CERN disaster... the gift from India!!! You can't undertake a study of CERN, no matter how brief, without encountering this oddity. In a world of 1950's architecture and cold war era technology (on the surface that is), to encounter an exotic, delicate and thoroughly evil piece of far eastern art is just a bit disconcerting, but the brainiacs seem to love it as they always proudly feature it in any overview of CERN. I think it gets more press than the dome and certainly more than the piece of the old collider on display before the dome.

When Torstan threw her up, I immediately knew what I was missing and where she belonged. Seeing the evil radiate from her sinuous form is enough to convince the most hardened Hawking detractor of the error of their ways.

Again Torstan, thank you!

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11-16-2009, 11:40 PM

Happy to help. I think they were going for the whole change and renewal from chaos aspect rather than the more conventional destroyer, but yes it is a little disconcerting.

Looking really excellent.

11-18-2009, 12:03 AM
A minor update. Built a sizable road around the danger zone to service massive dome building operations and other industrial purposes such as dumping toxic and nuclear waste into the black hole.

The way I see it is that at a certain point, the gravitational pull of the black hole is greater than that of the earth. At that point, anyone or anything is in danger of sliding off and being crunchified (that's a technical term). That point is indicated by the inside of the circular band surrounding the singularity. The point where all of the earth has been eaten up is a bit further in, and not perfectly even. Some rock and earth is better anchored to the surrounding area and resists being drawn in.

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11-21-2009, 07:47 PM
For those of you who were not impressed that my disaster was disasterously disasterous enough, never fear. These last techniques took some study, plus a bit of trial and error to get them right. This isn't "done" of course until the 25th or whenever the moderators decide the challenge is done, but it is functionally complete.

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Steel General
11-22-2009, 09:07 AM
Dammit! Someone scratched up and melted a whole in my favorite record! :D

Seriously though, this is looking pretty cool.

11-22-2009, 10:20 AM
I preferred the non-scratched up version. It's nearly impossible to read the text on this one.

All looking good though. And we now have had beams going in opposite directions around the LHC. First low energy collisions expected within 2 weeks.

11-24-2009, 08:25 PM
I'm up at my mom's house in southeast Alabama. There is a large German population here because so many German wives of career Army personnel convinced their husbands to retire here. We're a stone's throw from Fort Rucker, the Army's helicopter training facility. My mom is, of course, German. She was born near Mannheim in 1942. Her father, my grandfather (opa), fought against the Russian's in WWII and was taken prisoner during the war.

My father was stationed in Lampertheim in Germany between his combat tours in Korea and Vietnam, where he met my mother. It is common for German women to marry American soldiers, or at least it was still common when I was stationed in Frankfurt in 81-83.

I came up for Thanksgiving and for my Aunt and Uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. My uncle is also career Army as is my other Aunt's husband, although they live out in Texas. I haven't had a lot of time to work on the maps between luncheons and helping my mom rearrange her computer room and fix her fireplace.

I finally slowed down enough to make some changes to the map. I hear you Torstan, and decided to use a less-busy broken glass pattern and more translucent blood splatter. I also emphasized the text with some inner shadow to keep it from being too obscure.

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11-25-2009, 12:27 AM
I'm a bit late to the party, been off the grid for a couple weeks, but this is looking good. It's saying the latest attachment's invalid, though.

Steel General
11-25-2009, 07:47 AM
Yup, definitely something wrong with the attachment.

11-25-2009, 03:27 PM
My mum's internet connection is cantankerous.

Try this:

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11-25-2009, 04:46 PM
Nice. Hmmm...wonder if I can rep you yet. Yep, guess so

11-25-2009, 06:26 PM
Much better.

11-25-2009, 07:06 PM
Thanks for the rep! It is my custom to rep everyone in the challenge who put good effort into their entry. I like to wait if I'm near a breakpoint so I can maximize the rep.

Thanks for the thumbs up on the change. I think the blood effect is more interesting than it was before