Black holes and the Human Perspective
So soon the LHC will be making tiny black holes. I was amused because at work there was a discussion about the dangers of it. This thing could suck up the Earth! I was told. It’s kind of fascinating how we handle scale. People hear black hole and they imagine this powerful force of nature that can crush everything around it into an infinitely small point. Or as one of my colleagues made it sound, make the matter disappear entirely (which it doesn’t do).
The thing about black holes is that they are massive. On a scale that we literally cannot comprehend, the smallest known is 5 times the mass of our sun. Black holes have so much gravitational power because they have intense amounts of mass to back it up. You could, I suppose, create a tiny (very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very tiny) black hole by using enough energy. Energy and Mass are somewhat interchangeable so its not all that weird.
That said you would be creating an object whose power comes from mass in the presence of an object likely trillions upon trillions of times larger. That thing being the Earth. The black hole will blink in and out of existence before we even know what happened. Imagine the Earth were a black hole, crushed down to the size of something like a tennis ball. Perhaps larger. If you threw that sphere at the sun, even if we presumed it wouldn’t be obliterated by the radiation coming off the sun, do you genuinely think it would cause a cascade effect and devour the sun?
I would think that most people would say no. No, instead the sun’s massive gravitation will rip that dense Earth matter to shreds. Then it’ll take those shreds and rocket them across space with the rest of the radiation bursting off of it.
The biggest dog in the shed always wins. The reason black holes so often win is that, mass wise, they are the biggest dogs in the shed. But anything we create won’t be the biggest dog in the shed, not by many magnitudes of order. Further if some tiny black hole was to accidentally touch you you are unlikely to be crushed in its presence. You will likely suffer a pretty nasty flesh wound where it touched you. If near a vital organ it might be fatal.
But ultimately the experience with a microscopic black hole would be a little like getting bit by a really pissed off garden snake. Or perhaps something larger, but still not some miraculous chain reaction that crushes you like a person in a broken pressure chamber.
I think as people we forget how small we are. We forget that it only takes a few seconds after take off for people to be invisible to passengers in a 747. We are specs of dust on a larger spec of dust that is orbiting about a relatively medium sized ball of gas. Out in the universe objects are so large that by comparison the Earth is invisible.
Invisible people on an invisible spec in basically an invisibly small point in the universe. Nothing we make is going to create a chain reaction to end the Earth in the literal sense.
But that doesn’t mean its not cool.