• A blessed Nativity / Theophany season to all! For users new and old: the forum rules were streamlined when we transitioned to the new software. Please ensure that you are familiar with them. Continued use of the forum means that you (a) know the rules, and (b) pledge that you'll abide by them. For more information, check out the OrthodoxChristianity.Net Rules section. (There are only 2 threads there - Rules, and Administrative Structure.)

Future Possibilities: Black hole powered starships and powerplants?

Friul

Protokentarchos
Site Supporter
Joined
Dec 10, 2006
Messages
4,492
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Age
34
Location
Earth, Solar System, Local Interstellar Cloud, Loc
Website
www.iheu.org
Though the paper openly admits it is preliminary at best, and it is more meant to stimulate questions and discussion then provide definite answers, it has fascinating implications for the future of humanity.  Not only does it begin to open up the possibility of interstellar travel, but it suggests an awesome form of power that could be incredibly useful once other sources are long gone on Earth.  One line that rings incredibly true, in light of people doubting the necessity of the funding of theoretical and speculative research, is:  "The proposal we are making should be pursued as far as possible, and in as optimistic a spirit as the facts permit, because it allows a completely different and vastly wider destiny for the human race. We should not underestimate the ingenuity of the engineers of the future."

ABSTRACT: We investigate whether it is physically possible to build starships or power plants using the Hawking radiation of an artificial black hole as a power source. The proposal seems to be at the edge of possibility, but quantum gravity effects could change the picture.
http://arxiv.org/pdf/0908.1803v1
 

Jetavan

Taxiarches
Joined
Feb 15, 2007
Messages
7,007
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Website
www.esoteric.msu.edu
Nebelpfade said:
Though the paper openly admits it is preliminary at best, and it is more meant to stimulate questions and discussion then provide definite answers, it has fascinating implications for the future of humanity.  Not only does it begin to open up the possibility of interstellar travel, but it suggests an awesome form of power that could be incredibly useful once other sources are long gone on Earth.  One line that rings incredibly true, in light of people doubting the necessity of the funding of theoretical and speculative research, is:  "The proposal we are making should be pursued as far as possible, and in as optimistic a spirit as the facts permit, because it allows a completely different and vastly wider destiny for the human race. We should not underestimate the ingenuity of the engineers of the future."

ABSTRACT: We investigate whether it is physically possible to build starships or power plants using the Hawking radiation of an artificial black hole as a power source. The proposal seems to be at the edge of possibility, but quantum gravity effects could change the picture.
http://arxiv.org/pdf/0908.1803v1
They should try getting some of that Hollywood money. They've been making money off of aliens and space-travel for years. (Apologies to Ellie Arroway.)
 

Asteriktos

Strategos
Joined
Oct 4, 2002
Messages
39,506
Reaction score
269
Points
83
Age
41
I'm afraid that I am, to use the language of GiC's signature, a subhuman, and therefore could not understand the document. But hey, as long as someone out there understands it... ;)
 

ytterbiumanalyst

Merarches
Joined
Jun 3, 2007
Messages
8,785
Reaction score
0
Points
0
Age
36
Location
Springfield, MO
I'll try to summarise the article in plain English.

Section A. Shielding
When we've tried to send people into space in the past, we found out that space is not quite as empty as we thought. In fact, it's full of radiation, which could cause cancer and other serious medical problems. So we've stayed very close to the Earth, where the magnetic field protects us from that radiation. So if we're going to go deep into space, we need to find something else to protect us from that radiation.

Section B. Specific impulse
We want to travel near the speed of light. The problem is that, according to what we know of relativity, in order to travel near the speed of light, we must use a power source that gives off the same amount of energy as we have mass. We don't have any such thing. Our best power source is nuclear fission, the type that's in nuclear power plants and submarines. It gives off a very small amount of energy compared to its mass. So in order to travel very fast, we would have to have a power source thousands of times our size.

So, therefore, we want to create a really powerful power source. What's the most powerful thing we know of? A black hole. Stephen Hawking told us that black holes actually do emit a small amount of energy. We want to create a really tiny black hole in the middle of a spaceship and find a way to collect that energy and use it.

One good thing about a black hole is that it can't explode. A black hole is a star that has collapsed on itself, and its gravity is now so powerful that anything that touches it becomes a part of it. So as long as we don't touch the black hole, it should be perfectly safe.

Section III. Black Holes and Hawking Radiation
We've figured out exactly how far out the energy spreads from the black hole. It depends essentially on how much mass it has. The bigger the black hole, the farther that energy spreads. Unfortunately, the distance is not constant; it fluctuates a little, just like what happens in a normal star. But we know about where it should end.

Next we can figure out its temperature. That depends largely on how far the energy spreads.The farther it spreads, the higher the temperature.

Then we calculate its power. An odd thing occurs with black holes, in that they actually create more power the smaller they get. How much that is depends on what stuff is in the black hole and what its temperature is.

So how long will this power source last? It's hard to say, because it depends on how much energy is emitted, the temperature of the black hole, and the initial size of the black hole; and of course, as the black hole is used up, it burns hotter and emits more energy. But we can figure out a good estimate of how long it will last.

IV. Theoretical Feasibility
So, can we build it? Yes we can! We need to have a black hole that will last long enough, can accelerate the ship fast enough, and is not too big but not too small. We've found the perfect size is about a billionth of a billionth of a meter. Such a black hole would have about the same amount of energy as solar panels about a million kilometers from the sun would collect in a year. It would last about a century, and it could get us near the speed of light in just a few decades.

So how do we build it? Well, we could create a giant sphere and shoot lasers into the centre. These lasers, however, would not use light but gamma radiation (you know, the stuff that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk). This sphere would be roughly the size of an asteroid, and would be built in space by robots.

We've now got a power source, so the only thing left is to make an engine. We propose building a sphere around the black hole, and using gamma rays to focus the energy of the black hole.

As a final note, yes we realize this is extremely difficult. But it's not impossible. Isn't that awesome?
 
Top