Physics mysteries

Want to ask something?

Send us an e-mail with the subject “Physics mysteries” to the address:

[email protected] / or use the contact form

We can't wait to tackle your interesting questions!

What would happen to a man inside a particle accelerator (Source: © francescodemarco / stock.adobe.com)

What would happen to a man inside a particle accelerator?

Jaroslav Kores, Ph.D.

In the particle accelerator, particles collide at a speed close to the speed of light, creating a number of exotic particles. What would happen if a person took the place of a target at the LHC? Would he gain superpowers as in movie?

It could be expected that outside of sci-fi movies, we will not know how a human would end up if they were exposed to the current of really accelerated particles in the accelerator, but in the 1970s, something similar happened in Russia. Anatoly Bgorsky inserted his head into a proton accelerator because of a failure in the security device and beams of accelerated protons flew through his head. He survived the accident, but if we do not include migraines, epilepsy and hearing loss among the superpowers, he was very lucky. Energy of the proton beam was much higher than the lethal dose for a human, but because the bundle of protons was very condensed and not dispersed, only a narrow part of the brain was burned. It is something like when a very thin hot wire would go through a tissue. Everything around the wire will be burned, but the area around the wire remains unchanged. I'm neither a sci-fi expert nor a biologist, so I don't know exactly how the origin of superpowers are explained. What is certain however, is that because of the enormous energy that a beam of particles has accumulated in a close bundle, there would be no genetic, molecular or other mutations. It would burn the particles that would stand in the way of the beam. The so-called Leksell's gamma knife or radiotherapy, a larger number of gamma radiation beams intersect at one point, work on a similar principle. This point is subsequently burned due to falling energy. If that point is a carcinogen, we can destroy it without a major threat to the surrounding cells.