Edwin Starr once asked the musical question: “War – what is it good for?” and provided the musical answer: “Absolutely nothing.” You could “say it again” about black holes. While all of their negative qualities are well known – sucking up everything within their gravitational pull, including light – no one seems to have figured out what they might be good for … until now. An astrophysicist at New York’s Columbia University claims their energy can be harvested and used to power anything that needs massive amounts of fuel – and that is the best way for us to discover black-hole-sucking extraterrestrials. If they can do that, do we really want to meet them?
“Black holes are commonly surrounded by a hot 'soup' of plasma particles that carry a magnetic field. Our theory shows that when magnetic field lines disconnect and reconnect, in just the right way, they can accelerate plasma particles to negative energies and large amounts of black hole energy can be extracted.”
Physicists Luca Comisso from Columbia University and partner Felipe Asenjo from Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Chile explain in a university press release the essence of their new paper, published in the journal Physical Review D. They theorize that this “hot soup of plasma” is generating energy just outside the event horizon of the black hole where it can be collected in a theoretical giant receptacle by a civilization intelligent enough to pull it off. Knowing we’re not that civilization, Comisso sticks with food to explain in simpler terms how this all works.
“It is like a person could lose weight by eating candy with negative calories. This might sound weird, but it can happen in a region called the ergosphere, where the spacetime continuum rotates so fast that every object spins in the same direction as the black hole.”
It certainly does sound weird, but Asenjo further explains that it’s the high velocity between captured and escaping plasma particles that shoots out the stream of energy-charged – a process that beats the efficiency of any power plant on Earth.
“We calculated that the process of plasma energization can reach an efficiency of 150 percent, much higher than any power plant operating on Earth. Achieving an efficiency greater than 100 percent is possible because black holes leak energy, which is given away for free to the plasma escaping from the black hole.”
And it’s FREE! No wonder the smart aliens are pumping it into the galactic spaceships or fueling their death stars or whatever they might be using it for. We pitiful humans obviously can’t do this, even if we were less than 1,000 light years from the nearest black hole. However, we’re smart enough to figure out what this black hole energy extraction process might look like from far away, and that is what Comisso says will lead us to that superior alien civilization.
And maybe them to us?
Perhaps the words of Edwin Starr apply here too:
“What is it good for?
Say it again.”