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AstroChuck's avatar

What would happen if the Earth were to be struck by a tiny black hole?

Asked by AstroChuck (37301points) May 14th, 2009 from iPhone

I’m talking about a micro black hole, smaller than a millimeter. Would this be catastophic or a survivable event?

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66 Answers

FGS's avatar

A period (.) with an incredibly strong gravitational pull?

westy81585's avatar

Catastrophic. Not even light can escape a black hole, and even one the size of a pin hole (or smaller) would begin sucking in the mass of our planet at an extremely fast rate…

To put this in prospective…. light travels at ~3E^8 m/s, or 300,000,000 m/s…. A black hole sucks things in fast enough that THAT can’t even escape it… just imagine how quickly that would swallow a planet.

lillycoyote's avatar

Just hope and pray that the Earth gets struck by the tiny black donut, instead of the tiny black hole. Is there a topologist in the house?

Ivan's avatar

@westy81585

Black holes don’t “suck” light or anything else. They are simply very massive, dense objects. Mass distorts space, so very massive objects distort space significantly. Black holes distort space so much that there exists no path for light (or anything else) to escape. Any which way the light travels, it just ends up back inside the hole. That’s what a black hole is, that’s why it’s called black. They don’t “suck” and thus the “speed” at which it “sucks” is not a valid thing to speculate about.

westy81585's avatar

@Ivan A blackhole is an immense source of gravity… it’s so massive because it is absorbing mass at such a high rate… gravity pulls things in (including light.. and planets).... Hence, it would suck our planet in, much like our own planet “sucks” in our atmosphere…. only millions of times stronger of a “sucking”.

Randy's avatar

Ever played the game Katamari Damacy? That’s what I think of when I think of this question.

Ivan's avatar

@westy81585

Gravity is just a distortion of space. Yes, black holes are very massive, and thus their gravitational pull is greater than every-day objects, but they don’t “pull” light. Think of it this way: If you place a bowling ball on a trampoline, the trampoline sags. If you were to roll a ball near the bowling ball, it would “orbit” it. From above, it might appear that the bowling ball is “pulling” on the other ball, but it isn’t. The bowling ball is just distorting the plane of the trampoline so that any line of travel the other ball takes will be influenced by it. Black holes are like bowling balls so heavy, that they distort the trampoline so much that, no matter what you do, the second ball always falls into the middle. No matter how hard you roll it, no matter where you roll it, the ball always ends up in the hole created by the bowling ball. The bowling ball isn’t “sucking” the other ball, it’s just distorting space such that it has no other place to go. Light doesn’t have mass, it can’t be “pulled” by gravity. It just travels in straight lines. But when those lines are bent, it travels around bent lines. Black holes are when those lines are bent so much that the light just ends up back where it started. Does that make sense?

Regardless, a black hole that small would have negligible mass and thus would have no effect.

TaoSan's avatar

Gravity is just a distortion of space

That statement is wrong on so many levels…

Light doesn’t have mass, it can’t be “pulled” by gravity

Also wrong…

But I know where you’re trying to go with your reasoning…

BookReader's avatar

…i theorize based on other personal theories i have that a black hole is one stage of a cyclical process…it facilitates the interaction of matter and anti-matter until boom…viola renewed, reused, recycled galaxy…BIG BOOM very very similar!

BookReader's avatar

…i saw new star trek movie, although i don’t agree with all the science and “the red matter”- instant blackhole mix , i felt really really felt good that it captured the spirit that boldly goes out and does it’s thing…

AstroChuck's avatar

@Ivan- That was kinda my thinking. I know that a small enough black hole will “evaporate” on its own. I just wasn’t too certain as to what impact one would have prior to its demise. I thought perhaps the Earth would feed it enough to make it a stable singularity. But I think you are likely right; the effect would be virtually nil.
@TaoSan- Gravity doesn’t pull light. The “well” it creates distorts space/time and thus effects its (light, that is) line of travel.

BookReader's avatar

@BookReader- very dark horse approach, the road less travelled, ingenius…

willbrawn's avatar

Inspired by Star Trek?

AstroChuck's avatar

@willbrawn- Actually, no. I hadn’t thought about that. And I honestly don’t think red matter exists.
But I could be wrong. :)

BookReader's avatar

@AstroChuck- red matter does exist on most American Baseball Fields- just one of many…iron can be a most abundant red matter…

AstroChuck's avatar

@BookReader- Yes, but can you throw it at a star and make it supernova?

BookReader's avatar

@AstroChuck- here’s another one of my many theories based on my many other theories: a supernova is a galaxy’s sun with way too much fuel to burn, and as such it explodes… further, depending on neighboring galaxies, the void created could allow for those neighboring galaxies to grow causing currents, undertows, that resembles this “sucking” thing previously mentioned, in the “void”- hence blackhole…

…so definitely YES- throw lots and lots and lots of red matter that is mixed with an agreeable “anti-matter” into that sun/star- SUPERNOVA…

…tell me how that works for you…

richardhenry's avatar

These are known as micro black holes, and it’s pretty widely accepted they would survive for a matter of nano seconds in our atmosphere before “evaporating” due to Hawking radiation. Bigger black holes however, not so great.

Here’s some good articles you might find interesting:
If The Large Hadron Collider Produced A Micro Black Hole, It Probably Wouldn’t Matter (Science Daily)
Hawking cracks black hole paradox (New Scientist)

The first time I read about Hawking radiation was in the book Death from the Skies, which is actually pretty good. It covers all the implausible ways things from space could destroy the Earth, and whether or not we could do anything about them.

Here’s a short video I highly recommend (by the author of the above book), which explains why the gravity of a black hole is so much stronger than the gravity of the star from which it formed.

_bob's avatar

@Ivan “Any which way the light travels, it just ends up back inside the hole.”

You know, that kinda sounds like something that could be described as being sucked. Just sayin’.

richardhenry's avatar

@bob_ If you fell down the stairs, influence by gravity, were you “sucked down them”? I certainly hope you wouldn’t describe it that way.

AstroChuck's avatar

Yeah. That would suck.

Haha. I crack myself up sometimes.

richardhenry's avatar

Also black holes don’t “absorb” mass (in the conventional sense of the word). They attract mass, which is smeared onto the surface. Sort of a different effect.

_bob's avatar

@richardhenry Well, kind of. I wouldn’t descibe it that way, though.

_bob's avatar

Suck: to draw by or as if by suction.

Now y’all can go be influenced by gravity on a big one. Heh.

richardhenry's avatar

@bob_ Gravity isn’t a suction force. Any definition that contains the example “to draw milk from a breast or udder with the mouth” probably isn’t the right one for gravity. :p

_bob's avatar

@richardhenry Hence the emphasis on ”as if by”.

richardhenry's avatar

@bob_ Suction is a force caused by a difference in pressure. For example, the pressure inside your mouth decreases, causing the juice to flood up the straw into the lower pressure area.

Or the cabin of a plane rips open, causing people and items to be sucked towards the lower pressure area outside the plane.

Suction is typically described at “the process of creating an imbalance in pressure to draw matter from one place to another”.

richardhenry's avatar

@bob_ I think we just won the award for the most pedantic argument ever. :)

TaoSan's avatar

@boots

However, unanswered questions remain, the most fundamental being how general relativity can be reconciled with the laws of quantum physics to produce a complete and self-consistent theory of quantum gravity

From the article you quoted

While he is on the right way, general relativity does not state that “mass distorts space”.

_bob's avatar

@richardhenry “We”? I ain’t sharing, dude.

:)

TaoSan's avatar

<——splits the award in half and hands one half to Richard and one to Bob! How gravitational!

_bob's avatar

@TaoSan Dude, don’t suck on our award!

TaoSan's avatar

@bob_

you’re such an egomaniac brah! :)

_bob's avatar

@TaoSan

You’re wrong, ‘cause I say so. Oh, erm, nevermind.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

It would take a very large black hole to reduce us all to a singularity.

TaoSan's avatar

certain black holes make my thoughts veeeeery singular rofl

irunwithknives's avatar

i vote for catastrophic
completely swallow our solarsystem
and all of us
but i wonder
if our planet as a whole got sucked in somehow
if even though we would be compressed to nothing
if theoretically we could go on living “inside” of it?

richardhenry's avatar

@irunwithknives There’s a door on the bottom of the black hole. We climb inside and there’s regular disco parties with roller blading.

oratio's avatar

Hmm, are there really grounds for speculating about tiny singularities? I thought a black hole can only be created by a certain – huge – amount of mass.

spresto's avatar

Since it has never happened. Well, at least we don’t know if it ever happend I would not worry to much about it. If it has happened then it did do a darn thing. If it does and it causes a catastrophy I’d want to know where to sit to watch the end coming. lol.

I am sure all you scientist out there would try to work together to find a answer to save your fat butts, but I doubt you would succeed. lol.

TaoSan's avatar

@richardhenry

DISCO! DISCO!
Think the BeeGees will be there?

Ivan's avatar

@TaoSan

What specific objection do you have to my explanation? What problem do you have with the visualization of gravity distorting spacetime? Gravity is not a “force” like they teach us in high school.

oratio's avatar

@Ivan But where does the “Gravitons” if they exist come into the picture? Are they what distorts time-space?

Ivan's avatar

@oratio

Well, what actually causes gravity is another question altogether.

AstroChuck's avatar

@Ivan- You lost me on with your last statement. Gravity is on of the four fundamental forces in the universe. How do you figure otherwise?

Ivan's avatar

@AstroChuck

Let me qualify that statement. My usage of the word “force” was a little linear. I meant that gravity does not “push and pull” like a traditional “force” does. We say that gravity is a “force” which produces an acceleration of 9.81 m/s/s on Earth, but that’s not an entirely accurate representation.

AstroChuck's avatar

Gotcha.
And please forgive the typos.

TaoSan's avatar

@Ivan

In particular, and from my limited understanding of the subject matter I’d say that spacetime curvature is most likely the “cause” of gravitation. Einstein’s general relativity is obviously the current understanding/description of gravitation, however, it is by no means reconciled with quantum physics. The bowling ball on the trampoline is obviously the most often used “visualization”, but it it completely negates gravitational pull by the mass itself. That’s why I find the description “mass distorts space” as “lacking” or incomplete.

As for light, despite photons having a rest mass of 0, they can still be influenced by gravitation.

oratio's avatar

@Ivan So the gravitation on earth that makes it possible to walk and stand, is us people falling into the planets gravity well, and thus not “pulled” by gravity?

TaoSan's avatar

@oratio

Despite my initial response to Ivan’s post I have to say he is on the right track. What you are referring to is Newtonian and not wrong, however, general relativity encompasses and is entirely reconciled with Newtons model.

oratio's avatar

@TaoSan Oh I wasn’t criticizing. Just a little confused. Newtons calculations are tools to get a correct answer of the effect. But they don’t answer what the cause is. So everything falls into various gravity wells, and is not pulled?

Ivan's avatar

@TaoSan

The great issue of modern physics is the reconciliation of relativity with quantum mechanics. I guess I wasn’t attempting to explain the entirety of gravity, I was just trying to explain what a black hole is. For that purpose, it’s only necessary to know that matter curves space and time.

@oratio

Yes, you could say that all gravitational attractions are merely two objects falling into each other’s gravitational wells. “Fall” is probably misleading here, it’s more like this: Without gravity, if you try to walk in a straight line, you walk in a straight line. With gravity, when you try to walk in a straight line, your line gets curved, so you follow a curved path. To you, it still looks like you’re traveling in a straight line, but to the outside observer, your line is curved. Black holes are when those lines get curved so much, that no matter how long you follow the line, you still end up right back where you started.

oratio's avatar

@Ivan Fascinating.

shrubbery's avatar

I love that spaghettification is an official scientific term.

Ivan's avatar

@shrubbery

Yes, thanks to Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

astrocom's avatar

richardhenry has this completely right, listen to him, except for the door comment, that was him being silly.
I’d like to make a few comments that expand on what he and other people have said though. Suction is a perception that doesn’t correspond to the force that causes the effect, when you have a vacuum (cleaner in this case) you may feel like your hand is being pulled towards it, but this is a combination of turbulence and the human tendency to associate the source of forces with their direction (which serves us well in many cases but not this). The point is (and this applies to light and gravity as well) there are many ways of conceiving of physical interactions several of which are, and several of which aren’t consistent with the laws of physics, whether or not they make sense to people in an immediate manner. The concept of suction is in no way an accurate conceptualization of the phenomena people use it do describe, so to extend the metaphor to a different event is pointless and misleading.
As far as different conceptualizations that are both consistent with physics: We can both say that light curves due to gravitational warping of space time, and that the photons are pulled on by a gravitational force. Objects traveling at relativistic speeds (so named because the special theory of relativity becomes relevant) gain inertia (whether they gain mass or not is an interesting question that challenges our concept of mass). A photon has no rest mass but can be considered to have a relativistic mass, which can be used to accurately predict gravitational effects on light.
I take issue with the bowling ball and trampoline example also, based on the fact that I get the feeling the shapes imposed are completely different, the effect those shapes cause is completely different, and the entire thing relies on the force it’s trying to explain to work.
It’s very difficult to explain concepts physicists themselves are struggling with to people who have little understanding of the concepts physicists have a consistent understanding of.

astrocom's avatar

@bob_ Yea, that’s a completely legitimate reaction. It’s also why I like physics so much. Yay mind-blowing!

_bob's avatar

Erm, I meant WOT as in “Wall Of Text”, not as in “What?!?”.

astrocom's avatar

Oh, still a legitimate response. Though seriously, have you seen some of the other things I’ve said on this site? That’s more of a knee-high picket fence of text.

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