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Don't be happy, worry!
  Killer plasma ready to devour the Earth
Reports by Robert Uhlig David Derbyshire and Roger Highfield
Last Updated: 1:26am BST 07/09/2001

SCIENTISTS yesterday issued warnings of two new menaces to mankind that could either swallow up the Earth or turn the universe to jelly.

Particle scientists, who spend much of their time immersed in a theoretical world so arcane that anyone else struggles to understand it, warned yesterday of a wall of death expanding across the universe at the speed of light, obliterating everything in its path until no matter - anywhere - is left.

Dr Benjamin Allanach, a research associate at Cern, the European particle laboratory, said that a chance fluctuation of the "vacuum universe" would disintegrate all atoms. He said: "The universe is perched on a terrible precipice. It could catastrophically tunnel to a new state, disintegrating every atom."

And if that does not wipe out all known life anywhere in the universe, Dr Allanach said so-called killer strangelets could "eat up the Earth from the inside out".

Should either of these doomsday scenarios occur, then the most likely starting point is the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a machine 2.4 miles long in Long Island, New York state.

By colliding gold nuclei at huge energies, the RHIC is investigating "quark-gluon plasma", a state of matter in which the fundamental sub-nuclear particles, called quarks and gluons, become unstuck and swill around in a kind of particle soup that should have been around shortly after the Big Bang.

Dr Allanach warned that if experiments with the RHIC go wrong, it could produce a new hypothetical kind of particle called the killer strangelet.

In a catastrophic chain reaction, the killer strangelet would gobble up nuclei until it had eaten a million billion, when its weight would pull it towards the centre of the earth.

Dr Allanach said: "Eventually, the strangelet would be the size of an atom and just sit at the centre of the earth, eating other nuclei.

"It would eventually be heavy enough to attract some of the earth's mass gravitationally. That way, it would eat our planet from the inside out, converting the entire earth into one giant strangelet and killing us all in the process."
  Author: Von Cello
Eintrag from 02.04.2008
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