Can Everyone Get on With Their Normal Jobs Now?

A question asked over at The Great Beyond

A while back I ran across a blog post about the “dangers” of Bose-Einstein Condensates — the purported great peril of a “Bosenova” explosion happening in liquid He, and wrote a post about the various misconceptions that were present. Malcolm Fairbairn and Bob McElrath wrote a response to this that is now available at arXiv. There is no explosion risk associated with superfluid Helium in the LHC cooling system
(Yeah, that will calm the conspiracy fruitcakes)

Liquid 4He has a monatomic structure with s-wave
electrons, zero nuclear spin, no hyperfine splitting, and as a consequence no
Feshbach resonance which would allow one to change its normally repulsive
interactions to be attractive. Because of this, a Bose-Nova style collapse
of 4He is impossible. Additional speculations concerning cold fusion during
these events are easily dismissed using the usual arguments about the
Coulomb barrier at low temperatures, and are not needed to explain the
Bose-Einstein condensate Bose-Nova phenomenon. We conclude that that
there is no physics whatsoever which suggests that Helium could undergo
any kind of unforeseen catastrophic explosion.

It turns out that there’s more of this fumbling and bumbling out there that I had missed. Collider Incidents at LHC Facts (Not sure why “Facts” isn’t in scare quotes) takes things to a new level. There are responses from both Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman (and another researcher) that clarify some of the technical jargon and other statements that have been so badly mangled, and the wingnut conclusion is that the scientists are just covering up!

“I can state ABSOLUTELY CATEGORICALLY that it is totally inconceivable that a black hole could be produced by these phenomena.”
Methinks Dr. Wieman doth protest TOO MUCH…
There are many physicists who can not only conceive it but believe it too. Not too mention those of us with “a terrible ignorance of physics” but an abundance of common sense.


What I’d really like to know, and maybe you can find out, is if the ‘Bosenova’ was such a fantastic experiment that raised so many interesting questions why they don’t fire them up all the time. Seems like they would want to keep repeating the experiment wouldn’t they? Unless, of course, they did make a stable MBH, they know it, and they’re scared. They sound scared.

Funny, but not really “ha, ha” funny.

There’s a nice takedown of this, and the original nonsense article by Alan Gillis, over at The Physics Anti-Crackpot Blog. There will be no Bose-Novae at the LHC

So this claim of Gillis & Rössler is completely and totally specious. Any responsible researcher, before making a claim that something will explode like a nuclear bomb, should look up the relevant physics, to see if his idea makes sense. In this case, Rössler or Gillis didn’t even take the first step to see how a Bose-Nova works, and if his proposal is even remotely reasonable. The two crackpots in this story reinforce each other, neither checking their facts. It’s odd here that the “journalist” originates a crackpot idea, asks it of a crackpot, and of course he agrees. Crackpots are not in the business of proving or disproving things.

Given the above article, I don’t think Alan Gillis should be allowed anywhere near the term “journalist”, but I think the term “crackpot” certainly applies. A good journalist, when hearing such a dangerous claim, should call up a few more physicists, to see if this guy is a crackpot, or whether this issue has any credibility in the scientific community. Perhaps he should also contact people who have done or mathematically explained Bose-Nova experiments (as Fairbairn and McElrath apparently did — judging by their acknowledgments they contacted one of the original Bose-Nova experimenters, Elizabeth Donley).

But as we can see above, getting in contact with people who know — really know — what they are talking about doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot. To them, you either agree with the wingnuts or you are part of a coverup, trying to deceive the public. Which is why it can be frustrating to talk science with some people.

0 thoughts on “Can Everyone Get on With Their Normal Jobs Now?

  1. Denigrating a brilliant class scientist of Prof. Dr. Rössler’s caliber does not reflect well on your credibility. Dr. Rössler is famous for his founding of Endoyphisics (books by several authors available) and contributions to Chaos theory (the Rössler Attractor is the most elegant and simple attractor and is still used today), micro relativity, etc.

    You are ignoring possible concerns (I don’t think a beam of LHC energy has ever impacted liquid helium so I would be interested in a safety assessment of this scenario) and taking the > Collider Incidents article out of context.

    The papers on the subject of bosenova implosion indicate possible micro black hole production (unknown), rebuttal of those concerns are limited to emails, conversations and comments on a blog…

    Opinions appear to differ on the possibility that bosenova implosions (BEC with attractive interactions) might be potentially capable of causing matter density collapse to “infinite” density (create a micro black hole).

    NASA and other speculation for[1][4], MIT papers for[2][5], or Prof Huang and Nobel Laureates Dr. Cornell and Dr. Weiman comments against.[6][7][8]

    (Dr. Cornell and Dr. Weiman won the 2001 Nobel prize for Physics for creation of the first BEC[10] and were present when the first bosenova implosion was accidentally created and the mechanics of this event are not fully understood, including explanation for the fraction of atoms that disappeared from the experiment. Some physicists are concerned that low velocity micro black holes should not be created on Earth before the safety of doing so is proven with 100% certainty.)

    The following is a brief chronology of quotes, events and papers from 1996 to 2008:

    1996 John G. Cramer[1] “The BEC is so compact and dense that, with sufficient atoms added, a mini-black hole of atomic size should form. Readers of David Brin’s Earth and Larry Niven’s “Hole Man” should be familiar with some of the implications of this.” “The BEC of Wieman and Cornell contained only a few thousand atoms of rubidium [naturally repelling RB87]. The first BEC is a long way from any danger of black hole formation.”

    2000 Kerson Huang MIT[2] “A black hole opens up at the center, …density fluctuations becomes infinite“ “The density in the black hole shoots up as time goes on, fed by waves of implosion“

    2001 Cornell, Wieman[3] “In the first of these Feshbach resonance experiments our students Jake Roberts, Neil Claussen, and postdoc Simon Cornish suddenly changed the magnetic field to make a negative. We observed that, as expected, the condensate became unstable and “collapsed,” losing a large number of atoms” “Because of its resemblance (on a vastly lower energy scale) to a core collapse supernova, we have named this the “Bosenova.”” “there is no clear explanation of the energy and anisotropy of the atoms in the explosion, the fraction of vanished atoms, and the size of the cold remnant.”

    2002 Science@NASA[4] “Neutron stars and their cousins, white dwarfs and black holes, are extreme forms of matter that many scientists would love to tinker with — if only they could get one in their lab. But how? Researchers experimenting with a new form of matter called Bose-Einstein condensates may have found a way.”

    2008, Feb 1 Eleftheriou, Huang[5] “…local collapse to a state of infinite density.” “We verify that the picture presented by Ueda and Huang is correct. For N > Nc , a “black-hole” does appear at the center of the trap”

    2008, Feb 28 Eric Cornell[6] “Probably not a black hole, more likely they just clumped together into molecules”

    2008, Jun 6 Carl Wieman[7] “I can state ABSOLUTELY CATEGORICALLY that it is totally inconceivable that a black hole could be produced by these phenomena” “In the Bosenova, the BEC is seen to get slightly denser than a regular BEC for a brief time, but it still remains thousands of times less dense than regular air.”

    2008, Jun 9 Eric Cornell[8] “Yes it causes the cloud to shrink a lot, but no, not all the way down to an infinitesimal black hole. ”

    2008, Jun 10 Kerson Huang[9] “There’s no way the ultimate density of the collapsed atoms can be any higher than that of an ordinary solid”


    [1], Bose-Einstein Condensation, A New Form of Matter, Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine (Mar 1996)
    [2] Cold Trapped Atoms: A Mesoscopic System, Kerson Huang, MIT (21 Dec 2000)
    [4], My Pet Neutron Star, Science@NASA (3 Apr 2002)
    [5] Instability of a Bose-Einstein Condensate with Attractive Interaction, Eleftheriou & Huang, MIT (1 Feb 2008)
    [6] Email, Dr. Eric Cornell (28 Feb 2008 2008)
    [7] Email, Dr. Carl Wieman (6 June 2008)
    [8] Email, Dr. Eric Cornell (9 June 2008)
    [9] Email, Prof. Kerson Huang (10 June 2008)
    [10] Do the Bosenova
    also taken the LHC article out of context:

  2. You have two options: you can educate yourself on the relevant physics, or you can accept what physicists who actually work in the field are telling you, but you have chosen neither. Your approach is the epitome of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”

    Huang, Cornell and Wieman have clarified their statements and told you that you are misinterpreting them, and yet you persist in your claims and assume they are covering something up. This is one reason why some scientists are so reticent to engage the public.