Exploding Black Holes

For some years now we have had fun reading about black holes. Those things in the firmament, which suck everything in if you get too close, rather like a huge whale guzzling plankton or the taxman with your wallet. More recently we learn that every good galaxy needs one to dance around, and we see beautiful pictures of plumes of radiation being ejected from either end of the axis around which it is spinning.

The fun part is that we can’t see the hole itself as even light is held captive. Hawking predicted that black holes would slowly evaporate through loss of thermal radiation. That would seem to be okay as they have immense mass and I’m in no hurry for the Milky Way to take off in all directions after our black hole evaporates, instead of quietly spinning around it as it does now.

Things are not so well organized out there, though. Visser and his colleagues (1) from Victoria U in New Zealand and in Italy and Spain have been doing a lot of calculations that show that black holes come to a bad end, by exploding far more often than any of us imagined. This makes space a much scarier place than we thought, as you could come face to face with a huge explosion where you had just thought that there was nothing there. The SciFi writers should be hitting the keys as we speak.

1. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/science/news/article.cfm?c_id=82&objectid=10714191

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