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Breaking Open A Black Hole: The World’s Most Dangerous Experiment

2012 was a big year for black holes. Or, rather, for our understanding of them. First, Scientific American published a moderately terrifying paper titled “Black Holes are Everywhere” and then a team of researchers at Princeton University numerically solved the Einstein-hydrodynamic equations in order to determine that black holes are, in fact, way easier to create than previously thought. Their findings showed that the formation of a black hole requires considerably less energy than previous calculations suggested. Meanwhile, perhaps at least partly because of these revelations, concern over the world-destroying possibility–no matter how unlikely–of a man-made particle collider opening up an Earth-swallowing black hole has remained omnipresent in the larger conversation around atomic research.

The “Ultrarelativistic Black Hole Formation” study from Princeton University, published in 2013, developed new computer models which they utilized to show that the formation of a black hole would actually require less than half the energy — 2.4 times less, to be precise — than previous research had determined. The study reports that the researchers found that “the threshold for black hole formation is lower (by a factor of a few) than simple hoop conjecture estimates, and, moreover, near this threshold two distinct apparent horizons first form postcollision and then merge.”