## How long would it take the LHC to defrost a pizza?

Forget black holes. Here's the real question about the Large Hadron Collider: How fast could it defrost a pizza?

The forward thinking editors at Scientific American was all over this question in the June 2007 issue. Our staff made an estimate based on the rate and energy of particle collisions when the machine's two beams meet head on. (SA actually considered lead ion beams—which the LHC will begin circulating in a few years—which would impart more energy than colliding protons.)

But the collision frequency refers to how often the beam particles run into other tiny beam particles, not pizza molecules, notes Peter Steinberg of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., a member of the US/LHC group blog. He suggests using the electric current of the beam to get its power (energy imparted per second).

According to an old Cosmic Variance post, the power of one of the LHC's proton beams at full energy is 10 trillion watts (TW). (A watt is a joule of energy per second.) A household microwave produces 500 to 1000 watts of power. Let's call it 700 watts. And defrosting a frozen pizza takes about six minutes*. So that's

700 joules/sec x 360 sec = 252,000 joules of energy needed to defrost a pizza

Therefore:

252,000 joules / 10^13 joules per second = 3x10^-8 second for the LHC to defrost a pizza

That's 30 nanoseconds (billionths of a second).

Not that anyone would be impatient to scarf it down. "I'm getting nauseous thinking about anyone eating the thing," says Steinberg, who is in no way responsible for errors in my calculation.

Of course, this all assumes the beam energy could be spread across the surface of the pizza. In reality, the beam would drill into the pizza, Steinberg says. That potential for damage is why workers are very careful about maneuvering the proton beam.

In 2003, a magnet failure at the Tevatron at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., bore a hole in one piece of the beam pipe and dug a 30-centimeter groove in another. The machine was back up and running in two weeks.

Image credit: Jon Sullivan

*SOURCE: DiGiorno's Microwave Rising Crust Four-Cheese Pizza

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1. 1. hotblack 05:11 PM 9/10/08

That's a lot of oomph.

I wonder how long that much juice would power a medium sized city?

2. 2. ChrisJones 05:18 PM 9/10/08

That's a good lookin' pizza... I'm hungry.

3. 3. Lennya 05:42 PM 9/10/08

i think this is the one huge evolutionary step for men kind, a new energy that will make so much deferent in the way we run daily. the way our future outcome will be like if a new sorce of energy as powerful as this could be developed in the years to come. the endless possibilities, the way we think the way our children and their children will grow to be.
thumbs up to all involve.

4. 4. Lennya 05:46 PM 9/10/08

i think this is the one huge evolutionary step for men kind, a new energy that will make so much deferent in the way we run daily. the way our future outcome will be like if a new sorce of energy as powerful as this could be developed in the years to come. the endless possibilities, the way we think the way our children and their children will grow to be.
thumbs up to all involve.

5. 5. AlanTheBeastofArragon 07:04 PM 9/10/08

A microwave thawing a pizza does not run continuously at full power, but interrupts itself to lower the average power over time. Otherwise the heat would build up too fast and ruin the pizza. Therefore the SciAm calculation needs to be revised. In effect, the LHC would defrost the pizza much faster than shown in the calculation (I'm guestimating 10 - 50x faster).

6. 6. AlanTheBeastofArragon in reply to hotblack 07:06 PM 9/10/08

Hotblack: the article at Wikipedia will answer you I think. It is so much power that they will not use the LHC in the winter as the price of electricity will be too high.

7. 7. darkunknown 12:11 PM 9/11/08

does anyone realise that that time is approximately the time required for light to travel a metre?

8. 8. AlanTheBeastofArragon in reply to darkunknown 01:23 PM 9/11/08

darkunknown: more like 10 metres if Sciam's calculation were right. However, they grossly exaggerated the heat used by a microwave oven to defrost a pizza. See my other comment.

9. 9. Tony 06:45 PM 9/11/08

It would probably take longer than your microwave, since you would really have to cut back the power, and them a tiny little beam has to make a billion increasingly larger circles around the pizza.

That much energy would not run a city. It would run a run-of-the-mill microwave for less than three minutes. (Figure in timers, fans, lights, rotating tray, etc.)

10. 10. seamus2000 11:44 PM 9/11/08

11. 11. canudiggit 05:10 PM 9/12/08

Ether way you look at it, if they do find the "God Particle" life, as we know, it could change very much. Maybe for good, maybe not. All I'm concerned about is what will be done with the real results of the tests, should the experiments result in knowledge... "unfit" for public consumtion.

Hyperthetically, if they discover that the reason everything on Earth has the mass, that it does, is because of a simple chemical chain reaction started a few billion years ago by nature and can be "undone by man" in a matter of minutes... things could prove a little tricky should they fail to maintain control of the reverse chain reaction.

12. 12. canudiggit 05:12 PM 9/12/08

Ether way you look at it, if they do find the "God Particle" life, as we know, it could change very much. Maybe for good, maybe not. All I'm concerned about is what will be done with the real results of the tests, should the experiments result in knowledge... "unfit" for public consumtion.

Hyperthetically, if they discover that the reason everything on Earth has the mass, that it does, is because of a simple chemical chain reaction started a few billion years ago by nature and can be "undone by man" in a matter of minutes... things could prove a little tricky should they fail to maintain control of the reverse chain reaction.

13. 13. canudiggit 05:15 PM 9/12/08

Ether way you look at it, if they do find the "God Particle" life, as we know, it could change very much. Maybe for good, maybe not. All I'm concerned about is what will be done with the real results of the tests, should the experiments result in knowledge... "unfit" for public consumtion.

Hyperthetically, if they discover that the reason everything on Earth has the mass, that it does, is because of a simple chemical chain reaction started a few billion years ago by nature and can be "undone by man" in a matter of minutes... things could prove a little tricky should they fail to maintain control of the reverse chain reaction.

14. 14. canudiggit 05:16 PM 9/12/08

Ether way you look at it, if they do find the "God Particle" life, as we know, it could change very much. Maybe for good, maybe not. All I'm concerned about is what will be done with the real results of the tests, should the experiments result in knowledge... "unfit" for public consumtion.

Hyperthetically, if they discover that the reason everything on Earth has the mass, that it does, is because of a simple chemical chain reaction started a few billion years ago by nature and can be "undone by man" in a matter of minutes... things could prove a little tricky should they fail to maintain control of the reverse chain reaction.

15. 15. WR8Y 10:02 AM 9/15/08

10 trillion watts. That makes no sense, what am I missing?

They cannot generate 10 tW, so what do they really mean?

16. 16. WR8Y 10:04 AM 9/15/08

10 trillion watts.

Something is missing here - they can't generate that amount of power.

What am I missing here?

17. 17. Quasimodo 12:16 PM 9/20/08

"The forward thinking editors at Scientific American was all over this question in the June 2007 issue. " They 'was' huh? Well no wonder they couldn't write it right, being all worked up over the defrosting of food. Shame on Sci Am! Fire somebody! Maybe that'll get things straightened out. Admit it, Sci Am, you just don't really care anymore, do you? If so...how could one tell?

18. 18. Rob Hooft 03:29 PM 9/20/08

Melting ice takes 6kJ/mol. A pizza of 360 grams has less than (360/18=) 20 moles of water, so it would take 120kJ to melt. Additionally, energy may be needed to heat the pizza from an initial temperature of -18C to freezing; 18*360*2= 13kJ, and the thawed pizza from 0 to 20C; 20*360*4.2=30kJ. Total energy needed to thaw a pizza of 360 grams: 163kJ. Apparently the pizza in question weighs 252/163*360 = 550 grams. Not unreasonable US size...

More interesting in this context is that the total beam energy is 700 MJ, enough to thaw more than 2700 of these pizzas in 80 microseconds..... We could suggest that as beam dump ;-) ?

19. 19. murtibing 04:05 PM 9/21/08

Lennya, for goodness sake please talk sense or don't bother.
What you have written is pure gibberish.

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