(ORDO NEWS) — One of the most cherished science fiction scenarios is the use of a black hole as a portal to another dimension, time, or universe. This fantasy may be closer to reality than previously thought.
Black holes are perhaps the most mysterious objects in the universe. They are a consequence of the fact that gravity presses on a dying star without limit, leading to the formation of a true singularity – this happens when the entire star is compressed into one point, forming an object with infinite density.
This dense and hot singularity punches a hole in the very fabric of spacetime, perhaps opening up the possibility of hyperspace travel. That is, a short path through space-time, allowing you to overcome cosmic scale distances in a short period of time.
Previously, researchers believed that any spacecraft attempting to use a black hole as this type of portal would have to reckon with nature at its worst. The hot and dense singularity will cause the spacecraft to experience a succession of increasingly nasty tidal stretches and squeezes before it completely evaporates.
Flight through a black hole
My team at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and colleagues at Georgia Gwinnett College have shown that all black holes are not created equal.
If a black hole like Sagittarius A*, located at the center of our own galaxy, is large and spinning, then the prospects for a spacecraft change dramatically. This is because the singularity that the spacecraft will encounter is very soft and can provide a very smooth passage.
The reason this is possible is that the corresponding singularity inside a spinning black hole is technically “weak” and therefore does not damage objects that interact with it.
At first, this fact may seem intuitive. But one can think of it as analogous to the common experience of quickly running a finger across a candle flame, which is nearly 2,000 degrees, without getting burned.
My colleague Lior Burko and I have been studying the physics of black holes for more than two decades. In 2016, my graduate student Caroline Mallary, inspired by Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Interstellar, decided to see if Cooper (Matthew McConaughey’s character) could survive falling into the depths of Gargantua, a fictional supermassive, rapidly spinning black hole with 100 million times its mass. our sun.
The movie Interstellar was based on a book by Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Kip Thorne, and Gargantua’s physical properties are central to the plot of this Hollywood movie.
Drawing on work done by physicist Amos Ory two decades earlier, and armed with strong computational skills, Mallary built a computer model that captures most of the basic physical effects for a spacecraft or any large object falling into a large rotating Sagittarius A* black hole.
Doesn’t even shake?
She found that, under all conditions, an object falling into a spinning black hole would not experience infinitely large effects as it passed through the hole’s so-called inner horizon singularity.
This is a singularity that an object entering a spinning black hole cannot bypass or avoid. Not only that, under the right circumstances, these effects can be negligible, making it quite comfortable to pass through the singularity.
In fact, a falling object may not experience any noticeable impact at all. This raises the feasibility of using large rotating black holes as portals for hyperspace travel.
Mallary also discovered a feature that had not been fully appreciated before: the effect of a singularity in the context of a spinning black hole would lead to rapidly increasing cycles of expansion and contraction of the spacecraft.
But for very large black holes, such as Gargantua, the strength of this effect would be very small. Therefore, the spacecraft and all the people on board will not be able to detect it.
The important point is that these effects do not increase indefinitely; in fact, they remain finite, although the stresses on the spacecraft tend to increase indefinitely as they approach the black hole.
In the context of Mallary’s model, there are several important simplifying assumptions and caveats that follow from them. The main assumption is that the black hole in question is completely isolated and therefore not subject to constant disturbances from a source such as another star in its vicinity or even incident radiation.
Although this assumption allows for important simplifications, it is worth noting that most black holes are surrounded by cosmic material – dust, gas, radiation.
Therefore, a natural continuation of Mallary’s work would be to conduct a similar study in the context of a more realistic astrophysical black hole.
Mallary’s approach of using a computer simulation to study the effect of a black hole on an object is very common in the field of black hole physics.
Needless to say, we don’t yet have the ability to do actual experiments in or near black holes, so scientists are turning to theory and modeling to develop understanding by making predictions and new discoveries.
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