If you’re reading the gringa’s blog, chances are you find science interesting. That would mean you must know who Stephen Hawking is. Stephen always has interesting things to say. Something he has recently said that has really got the gringa’s interest piqued is his idea that if we could just get a mini black hole trapped within the Earth’s orbit it could be used as a limitless energy source.
Now, the gringa asks, “What?” I mean, my limited knowledge of black holes tells me I don’t want a black hole of any size near the only planet that can sustain my life. Even if it is a “mini”. Aren’t black holes basically eternally hungry bottomless pits that consume everything in their paths, growing larger and larger over time? Won’t it one day no longer be a “mini” and capable of sucking the Earth right down its cosmic drain? Stephen, have you lost your mind?
Well, according to this genius physicist we have all been misunderstanding the poor ol’ black hole. The only tricky part is in finding one that’s about the same size as, say, Blue Mountain, a Canadian peak of about one thousand meters. A black hole that size would be large enough to provide energy for the entire world.
Although other physicists don’t necessarily deny the theory altogether, they do believe that since it would take, oh, say, possibly about ten thousand years to first prove mini black holes exist, then develop a black hole lasso and tow system and then fly out to wherever it is to retrieve it and bring it back, well, therein lies the problem.
But the gringa is still scratching the old noodle thinking how could all of this be possible if a black hole is really nothing more than an enormous organic Hoover? I was raised to believe that a black hole is a point in space where stars and other cosmic matter have collapsed into a rotating mass so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape its gravitational pull. If anything gets near enough, it just gets sucked right into a slow, orbit of death until it finally reaches the center of the spiral where it (or you and I) is snuffed out with one final crush, becoming one with the space-blob in the center causing all the murderous outerspace mayhem.
But then, in the 1970s, the idea of “Hawking radiation” came along which is a theory that my science teacher in school never mentioned. Apparently, Stephen discovered that black holes are not gravitationally omnipotent. Sometimes they can spring a leak. Quantum particles can begin escaping. This would be the energy source mankind could utilize.
Now, almost all of the known black holes are enormous, incredibly old, cold, and stingy on the leakage. However, if we could discover a younger, smaller black hole burning hotter thus generating more quantum energy (like most youngsters do), we need only then figure out a way to tow that baby home and plug her in.
Stephen estimates that a “mountain-sized black hole” would leak the X-ray and gamma ray equivalent of about 10 million megawatts. Whoa, there, Nellie! Yep, more than enough to power the entire Earth. And we would all enjoy this non-Earth polluting energy until the harness system failed and our orbiting power plant soon sucked its way straight to the Earth’s core.
I mean, just how would you lasso the thing, nudge it into orbit and keep it there? There is no surface to a black hole so a cosmic lasso is out. We could go fishing with a larger, higher gravity producing object as bait to attract it’s attention and lure it back to Earth’s orbit. But this all sounds so complicated. Stephen’s suggestion is for us to just stay home and have a mini-black hole DIY project. Yes, he suggests we just build one. The gringa thinks, “What WILL these crazy scientists think of NEXT?!”
Photo credit: www.sun.org