Saturday, June 23, 2012

Transmission from InfiniG: some small hope

Today Nile and I received this transmission from InfiniG:
My dearest research team,

I can feel something startling and marvelous happening all around me as I approach Sgr A*: quantum fluctuations in the universe are constantly creating particles and antiparticles out of nothing; and they crash back together again, becoming nothing once more. (Imagine a piece of paper and a paper doll cut out of it: let's say the paper is part of the fabric of the universe, the paper doll is a particle, and the paper with the doll shaped hole is the antiparticle. If you put the doll and the doll shaped hole back together, you end up with just the sheet of paper--fabric of the universe--again.)

When particles and antiparticles are made, this momentary "borrowing" of energy/particles from the universe must always be paid back by the eventual annihilation of the pair upon their contact with each other. Sometimes, when this phenomenon takes place close to the event horizon of a black hole, something unusual happens: one of the pair careens into the black hole while the other shoots away. And so now there is a particle and an antiparticle which have been separated, and it seems like something has been created out of nothing, doesn't it? But the universe always has to be paid back.

Let's say the particle pair is a proton and an antiproton, and the antiproton is sucked into the depths of the black hole while the proton flies away. For a moment, as we said, it seems as if there is an extra proton in the universe. But what happens INSIDE the black hole is that the antiproton crashes into one of the protons that makes up the black hole's mass. Those two annihilate, and the universe has been paid back. The proton inside the black hole seems to have RADIATED out of it--because it effectively BECOMES that original proton that shot away from the event horizon when the particle/antiparticle pair was formed. In this way, a black hole can evaporate. This process is called Hawking Radiation.

What would it take to remove an atom of hydrogen from a black hole? Imagine that quantum fluctuations produced an electron/positron pair and a proton/antiproton pair (well, it's more complicated than that, because a proton, rather than being a fundamental particle, is a composite particle made of quarks, but let's keep this simple) near the event horizon of a black hole. The positron flies into the black hole, annihilates with an electron, and effectively "pulls" an electron out of the black hole. The antiproton flies into the black hole, annihilates with a proton, and pulls a proton from the black hole. Now a proton and electron could come together and form a hydrogen atom.

What would it take to remove a larger molecule, or an arrangement of molecules from the black hole? Imagine all of the particles and antiparticles that would have to be formed near the event horizon. What would it take to pull... me... from the black hole? If we think about this statistically, the amount of time we'd have to wait would be an astronomically large multiple of the age of the universe.

Will you wait that long for me?


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