The Earth could be turned into a "hyperdense sphere" measuring just 100 metres wide, if particle accelerator research was to go wrong, a scientist has warned.
That's according to the new book entitled On The Future: Prospects for Humanity, by Professor Lord Martin Rees, a renowned British cosmologist and astrophysicist.
In the book, Rees claims that there would be several 'worst case scenarios' for particle accelerators if research was to go wrong, each of which could signal the end of the Earth as we know it.
Particle accelerators are machines that use electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to nearly light speed and to contain them in well-defined beams. They are used for basic research in particle physics.
Professor Rees warned that if things were to go incredibly wrong, these machines could result in three terrifying endings for humanity.
One is that a black hole could be formed, swallowing up the Earth and everything else around it.
"The second scary possibility," he writes, "is that the quarks would reassemble themselves into compressed objects called strangelets.
"That in itself would be harmless. However, under some hypotheses a strangelet could, by contagion, convert anything else it encounters into a new form of matter, transforming the entire Earth into a hyperdense sphere about one hundred metres across."
That's about the size of a football field.
The third and final way that particle accelerators could destroy the Earth, according to Rees, is by a "catastrophe that engulfs space itself".
"Empty space - what physicists call the vacuum - is more than just nothingness. It is the arena for everything that happens," he explained, according to The Telegraph. "It has, latent in it, all the forces and particles that govern the physical world. The present vacuum could be fragile and unstable."
He speculated that the concentrated energy created when particles crash together could trigger a "phase transition" that would, in turn, rip the fabric of space.
"This would be a cosmic calamity, not just a terrestrial one," he said.
"Many of us are inclined to dismiss these risks as science fiction, but give the stakes they could not be ignored, even if deemed highly improbable."
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