Thursday, August 15, 2013

Part Sixty-Three, Chapter Four - The Care and Keeping of Black Holes

Physicists and astronomers, start drinking now.

The tug slows down as it approaches the miniature, primordial black hole, and Heller orders it to consult the "universal, absolute clock" to check when they're getting close enough for time to start warping.  Corky the talking spaceship suggests, apropos of nothing, that they solve their prisoner dilemma by throwing Gris out the airlock, through the black hole and into "some other universe," then feign ignorance during the officers' conference to decide what to do with him.  So the robot just suggested they murder someone and lie to the authorities about it.  Just like C-3PO?

Heller ignores it, though, and tells everyone to brace for the time shift as they near their target.

Now, according to what I've pieced together from Wikipedia and the rest of the internet, black hole time shifts work like this - you never notice them, assuming you're the one going near them.  To everyone else, you just get slower and slower (and turn red) until you disappear entirely if you're dumb enough to hop into the event horizon.  It's basically one-way time travel in that time passes normally for you, but x years passed while you were approaching and leaving the black hole's vicinity.

Hubbard, of course, knows that black holes instead shift nearby space a number of minutes into the future, in this case thirteen minutes.  And this doesn't mean that an observer would see you disappear only to reappear thirteen minutes later, no - it means that you're perpetually thirteen minutes into the future.  You cannot be seen, nothing can interact with you (unless they're similarly shifted).   But when you leave the black hole's vicinity, you go thirteen minutes into the past and rejoin the normal flow of time.

Got that?  Got something for your headache?  Good, let's continue.

"Data," said Heller.

"Yes, sir, I'll also duplicate it on printout. Mass, 7.93 billion tons. Expected longevity before final explosion, 2.754 billion years. Exudation, 5.49 billion megawatts. Space sphere warp, 10.23 miles in diameter."

"Thank you," said Heller.  "Turn around, tail to it.  Engage traction towing beams.  Set a course to Blito-P3.  Engage Will-be Was main engines.  When all ready, begin towing.  Gong me when we are eight hundred miles above planetary surface so I can assist in adjusting its orbit."

The tragedy is that we have equations for Hawking radiation that enable us to figure out when a black hole of a certain size will evaporate, how many watts it emits over its lifespan, and how big an explosion will occur when it finally farts out the last of its mass, but I majored in Political Science.  I'm just going to assume that Hubbard's numbers don't add up, because it seems like a safe bet.

And I like the tractor beam.  All this talk about the dimensions of this tiny, primordial black hole, and then zap, the tugboat casts a magic spell that allows a spaceship to tow a supermassive singularity from which nothing can escape (except Hawking radiation, because of quantum).  A tugboat built to physically push other spaceships around, despite the presence of said tractor beam.

Also, if space-time is already being contorted by that black hole, is it wise to mangle the fabric of reality further with those Will-be Was engines?

Heller suits up for his next task, and the author gets artsy.

Then he climbed into a scarlet antiradiation suit.   Its face mask made him look diabolical to me.  A Manco Devil in truth!  I cowered against the pipes.  Oh, Gods, why couldn't I think of something bright that would get rid of him once and for all?  I must!  I must!  I must!

He was now climbing into a pressure suit as a second covering.  When he put the helmet in place, the mirror dome reflected everything around in twisted distortion.  The cat looked fifty feet long.  The pilot chairs appeared all out of shape.  I looked like I was a little speck cringing in some distant closet.  It matched the unreality that saturated my poor, abused mind.

Thanks for explaining the visual symbolism, Hubbard.

So Heller steps into the airlock, opens the door to hard vacuum, and starts assembling something that looks to Gris like some sort of umbrella, with an enormous sectioned mirror up top, under which hangs a cage with a bunch of prongs pointed inward, then a ring halfway down and another at the bottom.

That done, Heller hops inside, takes off his suit, and goes aft, miraculously reaching a part of the ship Gris can't see from the cockpit.  Gris resorts to punching himself in the head in hope of shaking out an escape plan.

This chapter we learned all about black holes.  Next chapter, Hubbard's going to tell us how to make a black-hole based global microwave power network in eight easy pages.

Back to Chapter Three

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