Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hawking Talk...

Stephen Hawking gave his usual annual talk at Caltech this week. The Caltech Alumni Association had a lottery to get reserved seating for the event. Sadly I did not win the lottery, and I was too lazy to camp outside of the auditorium and try to get into general admission.

The LA Times reports his answers to student questions. I below is his answer to a question about the end of the world scenario in the collider experiment being carried out this summer in Geneva which I wrote about earlier.

If black holes are created in the Large Hadron Collider, will we be in danger of getting eaten up by them?

[This question refers to the construction outside Geneva, Switzerland, of the world's most powerful collider, which is expected to begin operations this summer. Some skeptics fear it will generate such powerful energies that it could create mini-black holes.]

The LHC is absolutely safe. There is no danger that collisions between particles at the LHC will cause a rip in space-time and destroy the universe. Particles from collisions far greater than those in the LHC occur all the time in cosmic rays, but nothing terrible happens.

The story ended with the following:

After his talk, Hawking was wheeled out of Beckman Auditorium to a standing ovation. He then took a victory lap in his wheelchair around the building, while the crowd snapped pictures and shouted: "We love you, Stephen."

Truly Hawking has gained super star status with the general public. Go read some of his books.