Let's assume a person enters a tube in which a beam of particles (proton) are accelarating at 0.98c .The person is not in contact with the beam. What other effects can we see on the person


closed as off-topic by JDługosz, Hohmannfan, Frostfyre, Vincent, TrEs-2b Jul 23 '16 at 18:43

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    $\begingroup$ They die. What do you want to happen to them? $\endgroup$ – James K Jul 23 '16 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ The person is not in contact with the beam. There is no collision. How does the person die? $\endgroup$ – LY3R1FF 2.0 Jul 23 '16 at 6:33
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    $\begingroup$ You mean the beam is not turned on, or the protons are just missing the person, i.e., the tube s large enough for the person to stand to the side of the beam? $\endgroup$ – ApproachingDarknessFish Jul 23 '16 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ If you want a real answer, maybe ask on Physics? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 23 '16 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ Note that 50GeV (which is 2/3of the case mentioned by Hypnosifl) would have a velocity of 0.9998c, so 0.98cis significantly less than that. I think it’s about 4 GeV. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 24 '16 at 6:42

If a person can enter the tube (I assume you mean something like the Large Hadron Collider. The tubes are way too small for a person there but I'll just imagine an upscaled version) so can air, and if a beam of protons travelling almost at C collides with the air, even if it doesn't collide with the person, a big explosion happens and the person dies anyway.

This would also heat the superconductors used in the electromagnets, which become resistant, melting said tube and everything around it.

Soon afterwards the liquid helium will escape and everything near the opening will freeze. A few weeks later it should thaw enough for the engineers to go in there and see what happened.

Assuming the person can enter without letting air in and can fit into the tube without touching the beam, they would freeze to death (1.9K to keep the superconductors working), anything made of (ferromagnetic) metal would get ripped out of wherever it is due to the electromagnets. The presence of metal would also mess with the magnetic field, which would cause a redirection of the beam, which causes a collision with something (either you or the walls of the LHC), which leads back to the scenario described above.

  • $\begingroup$ added one more point - there is vaccume in the tube. The person enters with a suit $\endgroup$ – LY3R1FF 2.0 Jul 23 '16 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ Still, somehow they have to enter. Even assuming they can somehow enter it without letting air in, the tube is not big enough to allow both them and the beam to coexist without colliding. Assuming the LHC is even more upscaled, they would freeze to death because the electromagnets around the tube are chilled to <10K by liquid helium. $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Jul 23 '16 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ @LY3R1FF2.0 there also is a very strong magnetic field there so if the person or the suit contain anything made out of metal (pacemaker, teeth fillings, oxygen tanks etc.) that will get ripped out and probably collide with the beam, resulting in the same scenario. $\endgroup$ – Annonymus Jul 23 '16 at 6:41
  • $\begingroup$ This is what I was looking for. Now thanks $\endgroup$ – LY3R1FF 2.0 Jul 23 '16 at 6:42

This actually happened once to a man named Anatoli Bugorski, a physicist working on a Soviet particle accelerator who accidentally put his head in the way of a 76 GeV proton beam, the story is told in this article and this one. You can see from this that both of the previous answers are not necessarily correct in that there was no explosion and the tube was not evacuated when he was working on it (though the large hadron collider is indeed evacuated, and it's possible this type was normally supposed to be evacuated but the accident at least shows the proton beam was not prevented from traveling by the air molecules, and didn't cause any explosions from protons hitting air molecules). Here's the description of events in the second article:

Bugorski was a researcher at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, working with the Soviet particle accelerator: The Synchrotron U-70.

On July 13, 1978, Bugorski was checking a malfunctioning piece of equipment. As he was leaning over the piece of equipment, he stuck his head through the part of the accelerator that the proton beam was running through. He reported seeing a flash that was “brighter than a thousand suns”, but did not feel any pain when this happened.


Shortly after this happened, Bugorski’s left half of his face swelled up beyond recognition. He was taken to the hospital and studied as this was something that had never been seen before and so they closely monitored him thereafter, fully expecting him to die within a few days at most.

Although the skin on the part of his face and back of his head where the beam hit peeled off over the next few days and the beam had burned through his skull and brain tissue, Bugorski did not die and actually came through it all surprisingly well.

Despite the beam going through his brain, his intellectual capacity remained the same as before. The few negative health drawbacks he did experience were not life threatening either. He lost the hearing in his left ear and experienced a constant unpleasant noise in that ear from then on. The left half of his face slowly became paralyzed over the course of the next two years. He also gets significantly more fatigued with mental work, though he did go on to get his PhD after this incident. The remaining side effects were occasional absence seizures and later tonic-clonic seizures, though these didn’t show up right away.

Now, you did specify in your question that "The person is not in contact with the beam", but as for the question "What other effects can we see on the person", it seems that for this type of particle accelerator the answer would be "none" since the only health effects he suffered were those associated with the proton beam that went through his head.

Also, a comment by @Annonymus mentioned the dangers from the magnetic field in a modern collider, this would be a concern if you had iron or other ferromagnetic materials on your body, but non-ferromagnetic metals, like the silver/mercury amalgam fillings that many people have in their teeth, would probably be OK. The magnetic field in the Large Hadron Collider is 8.33 Tesla according to this article, whereas the really powerful electromagnets humans have built (which can have these dangerous effects) are much stronger, this article mentions "Electromagnets as strong as 1,000 Teslas have been created before", and the strongest reusable electromagnet (that doesn't blow itself apart on first use) is 100 Teslas. 8.33 Tesla is closer to the field of an MRI, which can go as high as 3 Teslas, and this MRI FAQ answer says "No, MR imaging will not cause fillings in your teeth, if in proper condition, to dislodge or come out. The metal in most fillings is not affected by the MR system's magnetic field."


He won’t be able to breathe, since the tube is a hard vacuum.

He will be chopped up in little pieces, since the beam tube is only an inch or two in diameter.

He might still get hit, since the tube is as small as they can get away with and is limited by the ability to steer the beam without risk of hitting the walls. The presence of the body will mess up the magnetic fields and cause the beam steering to go off.


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