Black Holes or Bust

This article was originally published on Humorality, on September 10, 2008.

Black is the new destruction

By the time you read this, the earth and all of its inhabitants will already have been sucked into a black hole. I hope you were ready for it because, according to the Surgeon General, getting sucked into a black hole has been known to cause a variety of medical disorders, including instantaneous death. Also, lung cancer.

A black hole is an extremely dense chunk of matter that is created by the sudden collapse of a very large star, such as Céline Dion. Far from being empty gaps in space, they actually contain a high amount of mass crammed into a very small area. This gives black holes their typical “fat lady in a dress” look, making them prime candidates as spokes-holes for Jenny Craig. They are among the natural wonders of the universe, but getting too close to one can prove fatal, as the gravitational forces emitted by black holes are so strong, not even gravitational forces can escape.

Black holes normally exist thousands of light years from earth (or hundreds of regular years). Fortunately for mankind, scientists have gathered in Geneva,  Switzerland from all over the world to create one of these universe-eating death traps right here on our planet. The big event will happen on Wednesday, September 10, 2008, at the brand-spanking new Large Hadron Collider. The project is being managed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN for short, an organization know for, among other things, its inability to figure out the right letters for its acronym.

CERN’s new “particle accelerator” is a 17-mile-long circular underground tube that straddles the French/Swiss border. In experiments that require enough electricity to power a small town, scientists will send streams of highly-charged protons through the tunnel at near light-speeds before colliding them in a brilliant smash of sub-atomic particles. The $2.25 billion device also makes great coffee.

By searching through the scattered remains within the site’s dark, underground caverns, the Europeans hope to discover the elusive Ark of the Covenant. No wait, that’s the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Scientists are actually looking for the “Higgs boson,” the so-called “God particle” that may hold the key to the Big Bang. It is hoped that, by better understanding the beginnings of our own universe, scientists will be able to discover improved methods of blowing things up.

This need to blow things up is deeply ingrained in the mindset of all scientists, as exemplified by The Scientific Method. This method provides a way of testing a hypothesis and drawing conclusions from the results of that test through three basic steps: (1) the scientist will make a guess about some unknown scientific reality; (2) the scientist will conduct an experiment to see if he is right; and (3) the world or something comparable will blow up during the experiment. Here is a fun, typical experiment that uses the scientific method.

  • Hypothesis: If you rub two sticks together quickly enough, they will ignite.
  • Test: Rub two sticks together vigorously.
  • Result: Large explosion in laboratory.
  • Conclusion: Dynamite sticks work much better than plain wooden sticks.

I first learned about the scientific method during my high school chemistry class when our teacher—whose name, as is so typical of mad scientists, was “Doc”—had us distill 200-proof alcohol, since the school cafeteria was out of booze. He led us through the scientific rigors of test tubes, Bunsen burners, and the “cabinet o’ chemicals.” When, after completing the experiment, one student spilled the alcoholic result on her lab table, Doc suggested that she dip her finger in it and have a taste since, “anything that was on the table is dead now.” Soon afterward, the entire lab blew up.

After I was released from the hospital, I discovered that it’s not just crazy chemistry teachers who want to destroy the world; it’s all scientists. Until now, scientists could only blow up small items, such as Nagasaki, because they lacked the tools and machismo necessary to endanger the entire planet. But now that CERN’s “atom smasher” has gone on line, scientists are wetting their collective pants at the thought of having the whole world consumed by—and I want to make it clear that I am in no way referring to the fiscal policies of the California state legislature—a dark hole from which nothing can escape.

So in case you read this article in time, please heed my urgent warning: If you hear a sucking sound coming from the general direction of Geneva, contact Jenny Craig immediately.

Tim Patrick

Tim Patrick is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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