Are Black Hole Starships Possible?
Are starships powered by black holes possible? Lois Crane and Shawn Westmoreland of Kansas State University have written a paper that explores this topic. As it happens, so have a number of science fiction authors.
(Large Hadron Collider:
Note: Crane/Westmoreland concur with Clarke that
the mini black hole should be created in space)
Crane and Westmoreland provide the following criteria for a black hole useful for a spacecraft:
- has a long enough lifespan to be useful,
- is powerful enough to accelerate itself up to a reasonable fraction of the speed of light in a reasonable amount of time,
- is smal l enough that we can access the energy to make it,
- is large enough that we can focus the energy to make it,
- has mass comparable to a starship.
We find that a black hole with
a radius of a few attometers at least roughly meets the list of criteria... Such BHs would have mass of the order of 1,000,000 tonnes, and
lifetimes ranging from decades to centuries.
Black hole starships have been mentioned in science fiction novels for many years. In his 1978 Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel The Forever War, Joe Haldeman mentions the idea of a drive that uses black holes without detailing it.
A BH with a life span on the order of a century would emit enough energy
to accelerate itself to relativistic velocity in a period of decades. If we could let it get smaller and hotter before feeding matter into it, we could get a better performance.
A SBH with a radius of 0.9 attometers has a mass of about 606,000 tonnes
and a power output of about 160 petawatts. Over a period of only 20 days a
160 petawatt power source emits enough energy to accelerate 606,000 tonnes up to about 10% the speed of light.
The upshot is that SBHs with effective radii between roughly 1 and 6 at-
tometers could be adequate power sources for starship propulsion systems - if their power can be harnessed efficiently. The smaller the BH, the more powerful it is. However, one must either be able to arrive at one’s destination before the BH evaporates completely or one must be able to feed the BH in such a way as to prolong its life. In the most optimistic scenario, where one can feed the SBH very efficiently, one could have very capable manned starships driven by extremely powerful SBHs with radii smaller than our suggested range of 1 to 6 attometers.
In his 1983 novel Lifeprobe, Michael McCollum uses the idea of a nuclear fusion drive that makes use of an antimatter mini-black hole.
In a series of novels starting with the 1989 work The Founder, Christopher Rowley mentions a FTL propulsion method called the Fuhl drive. It uses miniature black holes trapped in a magnetic container, which are then spun together in patterns that drop the starship into and out of hyperspace.
The earliest use that I know of for this idea in sf is in Arthur C. Clarke's 1976 novel Imperial Earth:
"D'you see that pipe? said the engineer. "The small red one?... That's the main hydrogen feed.. All of a hundred grams a second. Say eight tons a day, under full thrust.":
They were now hovering beside a massive - yet still surprisingly small - cylinder that might have been the barrel of a twentieth-century naval gun. So this was the reaction chamber of the Drive...
Near the middle of the five-meter-long tube a small section of the casing had been removed, like the door of some miniature bank vault, and replaced by a crystal window... a microscope... was aimed into the interior of the drive unit.
Duncan floated to the eyepiece and fastened himself rather clumsily in place.
"Look at the crossover at the exact center," said his guide.
Duncan obeyed... then he realized that a tiny bulge was creeping along the hairline as he tracked the microscope. It was as if he was looking at the reticule through a sheet of glass with one minute bubble or imperfection in it.
[It's] like a pinhead-sized lens. Without the grid, you'd never see it."
"Pinhead-sized! That's an exaggeration if ever I heard one. The node's smaller than an atomic nucleus. You're not actually seeing it, of course - only the distortion it produces."
(Read more about Clarke's Asymptotic drive
I think science fiction fans with some math background would get a serious kick out of reading through Imperial Earth and then reading the Crane/Westmoreland paper. So, read Are Black Hole Starships Possible? via Universe Today.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/4/2009)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 8 )
Related News Stories -
Japan Uses Explosives On Asteroid
'...a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour.' - EC Tubb, 1958.
Johns Hopkins Says Asteroid Deflection Will Be Difficult
'This obelisk is one huge deflector mechanism...' - Gene Roddenberry, 1968.
Hayabusa 2 To Begin Asteroid Mining
'We must dig down, and then doubtless we shall find the metal.' - Garrett P. Serviss, 1898.
Can Musk Starship Astronauts Use Magnetic Boots?
'Walking awkwardly in the magnetic boots that held him to the black mass of meteoric iron...'
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...'
Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.'
Abundant Robotics Autonomous Apple Harvester Robot
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant... cutting off the ripe fruit.'
Charging An Electric Car In 2019 (Video), 1912 (Photo) And 1894 (Fiction)
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'
Japan Uses Explosives On Asteroid
'...a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour.'
Get Your Speeder Flying Motorcycle From Jetpack Aviation
'The flycycles were miracles of compact design.'
FLIR Black Hornet 3 Palm-sized Drone
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability.
Dockworkers Protest Driverless Trucks
'It resembled conventional human-operated transportation vehicles, but with one exception -- there was no driver's cabin.'
Flying Car Concept By Kash Sirinanda
'Each one consists of a hub with many tiny spokes... On the end is a squat foot, rubber tread on the bottom...'
Unfurl The Future! Huawei Mate X versus Galaxy Fold
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled silently from the top of the unit and immediately grew rigid.'
Amazon Echo And Google Home Should Have Morality Software
'The Dwoskin Morality Rating-Computer could 'spot the slightest tendency to deviation' from the social norm...'
China Building Robot Wives
'Want a life-companion, a pleasant one?'
China Social Credit System Like State-Run Whuffie
'At least there was no mandatory Whuffie check on the monorail platform...'
Project Soli Radar Gesture Chip Now FCC Approved
'He waved his hand and the circuit switched abruptly.'
Stan, Robot Valet, Will Drag Your Car Away
'He activated the grapple tracks. '
Jibo Home Robot Says Goodbye, Is Killswitched
'It resembles an oyster....'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories