illustration by The Bad Astronomer
With the Star Trek reboot and the paranoia around the Large Hadron Collider, there has been a lot of talk about manufacturing black holes and even a lawsuit [PDF]. Star Trek technology is clearly a while away, but there are a few credible theories out there that suggest that the LHC could bang out a few mini-black holes. Not to fear. They would evaporate quickly into nothingness, but were they to break the laws of physics (as we understand them at least) and become stable…. they would still harmless according to New Scientist.
“First, he pointed out that we’d have plenty of time to act – the amount of energy produced in one of the LHC’s collisions would create a black hole with a gravitational pull no more scary than that of an orange – not enough to suck any appreciable matter towards it, so it would grow extremely slowly.
“Second, black holes can carry a charge, depending on the particles they gobble up. So physicists could give the rogue hole a negative charge by firing electrons at it from a cathode ray tube. Then they could trap it within a box lined with negatively charged metal plates – the negatively-charged black hole would be repelled by the negatively-charged walls, leaving it suspended inside. Making sure the box otherwise contained a vacuum would stop the black hole from eating any particles and getting any bigger. Then you could just load the box onto a rocket, and shoot it out of the solar system.”
The idea of having a paperweight that happened to have a mini-black hole in it gives me no end of joy. It also raises some interesting questions. What would happen if someone fired that rocket with a black hole box into a rather massive object, like a star? Well, according to a couple of physicists, mini-black holes theoretically could swallow a star – and in fact did so frequently in the early days of the universe!
So, the question to all the physicists out there… presuming that a stable mini-black hole was, in fact, produced by the LHC, could a super-villain steal said black hole and credibly ransom the world by launching it on a rocket to the sun?