Falling Into a Black Hole Might Actually Be Totally Survivable, Says Physicist

Thursday, 10 January 2019 - 1:15PM
Physics
Space
Black Holes
Thursday, 10 January 2019 - 1:15PM
Falling Into a Black Hole Might Actually Be Totally Survivable, Says Physicist
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Adapted from Pixabay images
There are a million ways to die in space (as Cas Anvar from The Expanse is happy to point out), but one of the most terrifying has to be falling into a black hole. Between the strangely named "spaghettification" process and the knowledge that there is zero chance for escape, you'll be stretched and crushed and vaporized until you fit within an infinitely small point. Somewhere along the way, you're most likely going to die. But maybe not—according to a PhD student named Caroline Mallary (and backed up by Professor Gaurav Khanna of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), an Interstellar-style journey through a black hole might not only be survivable, but relatively "peaceful."

And that, they claim, means black holes may be used for hyperspace travel.

After putting together a computer simulation to model the effects, Mallary found that a singularity like the one at the center of our galaxy's black hole (called Sagittarius A*) wouldn't be that damaging to a spaceship. According to Khanna: "The reason that this is possible is that the relevant singularity inside a rotating black hole is technically 'weak,' and thus does not damage objects that interact with it. At first, this fact may seem counterintuitive. But one can think of it as analogous to the common experience of quickly passing one's finger through a candle's near 2,000-degree flame, without getting burned."

Mallary's simulation found that the forces affecting a spaceship within a black hole don't increase infinitely—they eventually top off, and the final effect isn't as cataclysmic as we imagine. In certain scenarios, the effects might even be "negligible," says Khanna. Of course, there were a few things missing from Mallay's model: radiation, the effects of nearby stars, and all the other matter swirling around the black hole. All of these factors would make passing through a black hole much more difficult (and dangerous).

Still, if the math is correct and singularities are less destructive than previously thought, then traveling through the hypothetical hole that singularities make in spacetime would be possible, just like Interstellar (which, incidentally, inspired this research in the first place).
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