A group of Columbia University scientists recently published an article setting out how humankind can power an off-earth colony by unlocking one of the largest and most powerful resources in the universe: black holes.
The big idea is that a spinning black hole gives off a certain amount of energy. If we were to encase this energy field with an external source of gravity (a large gravity cannon?), We could force the singularity to generate negative energy. This negative energy would theoretically switch places where some positive energy escapes, freeing it from the hungry grip of the black hole and making it available for use as a power source.[Read next: How Netflix shapes mainstream culture, explained by data]
Basically, we would turn a black hole into an eternal battery. This could be very useful for future Earthlings planning to live on another planet or in a space station. Right now we don’t have solid methods of keeping things going in space.
According to the team’s research report:
Spinning black holes store rotational energy that can be extracted. When a black hole is immersed in an externally applied magnetic field, the reconnection of magnetic field lines within the ergosphere can create particles of negative energy (relative to infinity) that fall into the black hole’s event horizon, while the other accelerated particles steal energy escape the black hole. We analytically show that magnetic reconnection energy extraction is possible when the spin of the black hole is high … and the plasma is strongly magnetized.
Take quickly: That’s super cool. Realistically, Dyson Spheres and other star-based theories always seemed like the most likely way we would provide permanent power to colonies outside of the world. But that alternative actually seems … easier? Obviously, less equipment is required to suck energy out of a black hole than to encase a star with an energy conversion mechanism. This is all speculative, of course, as we are not quite in the blueprint phase of these hypothetical machines.
However, from a tech / computer science perspective, drawing power from a singularity could be a nightmare. We would probably be forced to operate the “power sucker” outside the Singularity’s event horizon. It’s a no-brainer that we’d need quantum computing algorithms that are far more robust than today’s to deal with this type of math. And figuring out how to deal with unpredictable rays of energy in the physical, material sense would be an incredible challenge.
The researchers clearly show that it is possible to suck energy out of a spinning black hole, but we all know that there is no free lunch when exchanging energy, at least not with current technology.
The good news is, if we can get people close enough to a black hole to create this kind of near-infinite battery backup for space colonies, we will likely be able to develop stronger AI and more robust physical materials.
You can find the full article here in the APS Physics Journal.
Published on January 15, 2021 – 19:50 UTC