What’s inside a black hole? | by Lexy

Black holes were first theorised by John Michell in 1783. He named them ‘Dark Stars’. At that time, it was a common belief that light was made up of particles which reacted to gravity. Michell believed that these so called ‘dark stars’ were very large stars with a very strong gravitational field, so strong that no particles could leave, including light particles. This meant that ‘dark stars’ would be invisible to the human eye.

Progress was not made on the theory of black holes and dark stars until the 1900s, when Albert Einstein started work on his theory of general relativity. His theory stated that space and time were different directions in ‘space-time’. This was then bent, creating black holes.

The current theory of black holes came from John Wheeler in 1967. They originate as stars, formed when stars begin to die, cooling and shrinking, increasing in density, until it becomes a concentrated mass that bends space-time, punching a bottomless hole through it. The smaller and more dense the mass, the stronger it’s gravitational pull, eventually even light cannot escape. The Event Horizon is a point where the gravity is just strong enough to drag light backwards. Past this boundary, light can escape, meaning we can see up to, but not beyond, this point. Nothing can travel faster than light, so if light cannot escape the black hole, nothing else can. However, if you are beyond the event horizon, it is possible to resist the gravitational pull, albeit with great difficulty.

The stark lack of light is just as eye catching as a bright light. A black hole appears as a black void, in which nothing can be seen, not even a slight outline. Space is always lit up by stars, and so a sudden gap in light is noticeable.

The size of a black hole relates to how much matter is in it. A larger black hole contains more matter. Due to the uncertainty relation, a concept imagined by Werner Heisenberg in 1923, some particles are able to escape from a black hole, despite the fact that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The uncertainty relation means that with sub-atomic, and atomic sized objects, such as the particles in black holes, it is impossible to tell more than one aspect of its movement accurately. If the exact location of a particle is known, the exact speed cannot be known and vice versa.

In smaller black holes, the location is known, so the speed can only be estimated, and varies to a certain degree. This then makes it possible for particles to move just over the speed of light, despite what anyone’s ever been told about light being that fastest thing to ever move. Anything moving over the speed of light has the ability to ‘outrun’ the gravity that is pulling it back into the hole, meaning it can escape past the event horizon. Inside a black hole, the most popular theory is of a singularity. The remains of the dead star, once it has finally stopped shrinking. Atoms, in their common state, are mainly empty space.The gravity in a dying star becomes so strong that it causes these atoms to collapse on themselves, leaving no space, either between that atoms and within the atoms. This is the densest an object can ever become, and since the atoms no longer exist as atoms due to them losing their atomic structure, the singularity has no specific material or chemical elements.

It has been theorised, that in seeing the singularity, it would be possible to avoid hitting it and being compressed to become part of it. In simpler words, it would be possible to avoid being squashed to death. Instead, one could almost swim past it, falling through a wormhole. These are disturbances in the fabric of space-time. By falling through one, you would end up in another area of space-time; a different place, a different time, or both.

Some original uses of black holes appeared in fiction writing long before the idea had been properly investigated by scientists. To start with, they were imagined as ‘monsters’, the villains in a story that would consume anything near it. They may also travel through space, eating anything in it’s way. They were ‘vacuum cleaners for the universe’, often sucking up nearby stars and planets, and the occasional unlucky astronaut or space-explorer.

Later, they were adapted into wormholes, used as portals for people to travel between different places, galaxies and sometimes even universes. Being able to travel faster than light became a common occurrence, with both dystopian and utopian novels using wormholes as the futuristic method of transport. Sometimes, characters would appear in unpredicted places, however star-gates were also made, where each wormhole had a partner that linked to each other, much like a doorway between different sides of the universe.

They were also used as a method for people to travel in time, being able to see the future and travel to the past. This attribute could be used for both good and bad characters, used to fix the future or to change the past.

Featured image: By Event Horizon Telescope – https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1907a/ (image link) The highest-quality image (7416×4320 pixels, TIF, 16-bit, 180 Mb), ESO Article, ESO TIF, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77925953

Too Much Space | by Jodie

With no one to turn to as I wake and only my own coffee to make, I make begrudging steps around the cabin towards the table. I glance up at the calendar. Two more months. Almost there. Six months is a tremendously long time and although I know that I should be enjoying my stay, it’s proving to be far more difficult than I could have imagined. A once in a lifetime opportunity, for which I have been preparing and aspiring towards since I can remember, one which has taken a lifetime of training and something that I am unlikely to ever experience again. But the distance is too great, too far and there is too much space.

I rub my eyes ferociously as I attempt to gather motivation for the day ahead. The importance of each and every task which I complete here cannot be understated. Each one crucial and so easily ruined. My brain desperately tries to shift my focus on to the tasks at hand but my heart wriggles, writhes and despairs to be reunited with those whom it misses. The photos and memories which I bear may try to fill the space, but my heart yearns for reunion. The people who surround me unknowingly comfort me daily, but they feel the space. They know that there is simply too much space.

Work has to be an escape, otherwise I remain consumed. Fitness must be maintained and monitored; research must be carried out. The application of what I have spent so long discovering is phenomenal. We work, day and night, yet we seem to have made menial amounts of progress. I am constantly reporting this back home, yet the team seem nothing but satisfied, even insisting we are marginally ahead of schedule, encouraging us to take more frequent breaks. Relax. Have fun. But my mind must stay at task as I bury myself in discovery, experiments and research. Experiencing what is out there and frantically attempting to find more, is what keeps me going. Supporting those around me and inspiring one another to strive for success. However, even when success is mounting, I am hit by the realisation that there is so much we don’t know, so much we will never know. There is just too much space.

I lie down, numb. This evening, the building longing sense within me has overpowered my logical and hopeful conscience. Overcome by what feels like grief, shaken by what feels like fear and defeated by what I know has to be heartbreak. No matter my willing, it will be two more months before the space is reduced. So, what is the point of wasting it? Determination will have to carry me through, else there is nothing. Because despite my constant neglectful thoughts and attempts to bury my sadness within me, I know that this distance, this space will soon close. My arrival will incur an emotional uproar but as for now, this is the time. The time to prove myself and succeed for the good of so many. There may be too much space for now, but I must continue to prove that space itself is not too much.

Space | by Rukaiya

Give me space.
Give me the life I always wanted.
The river running dry in my throat. Shutting down.
Give me a reason. To run from you and your imperfections. The warmth turned cold. Shut the gate from terrors.
Give me health. The fruit, the fig, the fall.
Walk away. Everlasting crimson cascading down my hair as the sky bleeds in mourning. Of us.
Guide me. My path unmeasured, unruly with tales of fear and promises of fortune.
Give me prayer. The words of a mother, the feel of another. Forever in your debt I am to be. A missive of heartache.

In the end, give me love.
I don’t want space.

Climate Change is a Gender Issue too! | by Mr E

Whilst we are becoming much more aware of the likely impacts of our changing climate we tend to think of the impacts varying according to wealth, but UN research indicates that, particularly in developing countries with traditionally defined gender roles, climate change impacts most on women. Women in general are disproportionately affected by climate change as they rely more on natural resources (i.e. water, food and fuel for cooking and heating), whilst at the same time being restricted in terms of their access to natural resources and decision making. For example in developing countries women are generally responsible for collecting water to meet domestic needs, a task which is becoming more difficult and time consuming for women / girls as supplies of water become more limited and they need to search further afield; this can have a negative impact on the education of girls as they may need to miss school to complete this domestic work.

Climate change is predicted to increase the number of natural disasters, such as flooding and drought. In countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh women make up a disproportionate number of the casualties from flooding events, in part because they are less likely to know how to swim, but also because women are less well informed about impending flood warnings and shelter information (despite their common role as caregivers to children and elderly relatives). The proportion of women and children displaced by natural disasters is disproportionately high at 75%. Also disaster relief efforts often focus on men’s needs. For example, following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami assistance was made available to replace fishing boats used by the men, but relatively little support was made available to replace the fish processing tools used by women.
This is not to say of course that climate change only affects women, with a specific impact of increasing drought in parts of India leading to higher suicide rates due to difficulties in making a living from the land. Gender also continues to play a part in the different impacts within developed nations, with a study in the USA showing a 98% increase in physical victimization of women following Hurricane Katrina (domestic violence often rises following a disaster through a combination of post traumatic stress and the strains placed on families living in temporary accommodation with reduced privacy).

In recognition of the importance of gender within the impacts of climate change the United Nations has explicitly incorporated gender actions within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 2015 Paris Agreement explicitly refers to the empowerment of women, as well as inter-generational equity, in tackling climate change. There are already many example of projects funded by the United Nations to help communities adapt:-

  • In Mali solar energy technology has been made available in rural communities to help women to grind flour more quickly (a process vital for meal preparation but very time intensive traditionally). This has freed up time for women to pursue alternative activities to generate income.
  • In the hillside El Augustino district of Lima, Peru, a group of 100 women have replanted 18,000 square metres of land with Tara trees (a small, leguminous plant). Not only do these plants benefit the community through their medicinal properties in treating fevers and stomach problems but also the dense root systems help to hold the soil together, thus protecting communities from the increased landslide risk caused by more intense rainfall events.

Ice | by Hannah (6.1)

I am trapped under ice.

It’s freezing cold and I am frozen still. Everyone I know is sat on the ice cap above happily paddling with only their feet submerged; sometimes they get pulled below and I swim towards them trying to push them back up while I sink; deeper, lower, where the pressure is so great my chest feels like it’s being clamped together.

Alone.

I am all alone in the vast wide water. I know there are others trapped under here too, everyone of us trying to stay above the water while we try and battle the weight of it all… but I can’t see them The thick layer of ice seems to be pushing down,
down, I can’t hold the ice up. I just can’t anymore, but I have no choice. I repeat the mantra, that I can and must do this, to myself over, over and over. It helps for a while, and I stay afloat, but it’s not enough, soon I have lost all hope again and I sink lower. It’s so cold down here, freezing. It begins to hurt.

Someone hands me a rope.

I take it with a sad smile, and try and help her hoist me back above the water. It feels good for a little bit, I start to take notice of nice small things, like the sun hitting my face or her laugh as we both hold the rope. Although I am still freezing and my body is still immersed in the icy water, my head is above. My grin returns, a genuine smile for once, coupled with laughter and a little more joy. I missed this, I say. It’s a relief to feel this close to happy again, and the weight reduces; staying afloat seems a little easier. It’s exhausting to keep my head above the water still, but I have her to help. And I can help my friends, who are in the water too now, pushing them up out of the water, or try to at least. We’re coming out of the water, some of us paddling our feet, or better still not even a drop of water on them. I feel halfway to feeling better now. Then the rain comes, drenching everything in its path.

Alone again.

Suddenly my surroundings seem desolate; it’s not long before I fall beneath the surface of the water once more. It seems colder than previously, bitter and spiteful now after the warm sun. I shiver, scream and shout to try and stay afloat. It’s all to no avail as I sink further below the water, clinging and hugging my knees for warmth or comfort. There are voices from above; I rise for a moment only to hear the sounds become clearer, but they turn out to be only yells at me, and I cry even more despite being surrounded by water. I cry until it feels like I don’t even have the energy to do that anymore. I have no motivation to try and swim higher.

Isolated still.

The pressure on my chest has risen so much that it hurts. I want to give up, I need to give up, but I can’t give up. Even though I crave the feeling I had before, floating above the ice and waves, it doesn’t feel possible at all to get up to the surface now. Now all I see is the bottom of the water. The dark, black, abyss at the bottom. It’s close, within my reach. But as soon as I try and grasp at it the sharp, icy pain immediately forces my hand away. I look back at the dark, the weight on my chest tightens, and I close my eyes. I try and channel some warmth back to my hands, concentrating on the memories of the warmth of the sun from before. The glowing orange, red or yellow contrasts with black void. I grasp at the darkness again, and I nearly reach it, But I look back up to the ice above. I can see people’s feet, paddling in the water or making shadows on the ice. The ice seems thinner, and easier to crack and break through from here. I can hear voices again, laughter so loud it’s deafening. The noises stop me, frozen in the water. I chew on my lip and wait. I wait for the laughter to stop. For the weight to push me down all the way. But nothing. Nothing. I stop and then swim a bit further up. I start to hear calls from above, willing me, pulling me to the surface. All of a sudden the deep, dark abyss seems too scary.

Less helpless now.

It’s still hard of course even now. Sometimes the weight pushes me back down below the water a little bit, just a little bit. But I don’t sink low enough that the pressure is too high. I try and break the ice, pounding on it with my hands, but I have friends to help on the ice above and I am pulled out of the water by them. The sun shines, drying my clothes and hair which cling tightly to my body. I laugh and smile again, it feels like ages since I have, the weight lifted off my chest so I am very relieved, while my feet splash in the water. Occasionally I’m engulfed in water once again, but I know I can get out again even if it takes a long time, as I have a ladder or a rope which pulls me back up from the water. I never sink as low as I once did. I do sink down low but it is nowhere near as far.

I am forever grateful I didn’t sink as far as I nearly did. I’m mostly happy now. Sitting on the ice, my feet in the water, with a hand grasped in my friend’s, and the sun and a smile on my face.

Silently Crumbling | Ishma

They were only two mute birds sitting on a wall
They were only two worlds of Heaven and Hell
They were only two trees planted for one another
Dreading the breeze

The clouds that gazed from above
Watched as they stood like revealing lonely mountains
Their love is as grey as the weather
Dreading the breeze

The exhilarating feeling of repossessiveness
Frees him every night
He can only dream that there is a light
That warms them again
Dreading the breeze

Secret tears
When struggles appear
The ends fraying
As they’re slowly decaying

Jealousness radiating off him
While she is silently crumbling
But they are both
Dreading the breeze

We all face the struggle
The secret tears that threaten to pour out
After all
They were only two mute birds sitting on an isolated wall.

Gifts | by Kate J (6.1)

When she was born she was given the softest of teddy bears (a present from an aunt), which she clutched in little fists and wouldn’t let go of no matter how hard people tried. The name her parents had given it was the first word she ever spoke in her squeaking voice and when she was scared it was that item she’d find, the item she’d hold as if she were again a baby.

Four years old, she got her school uniform from her grandparents, a little red pinafore which she wore around the house for the whole summer before she actually got to join the reception class at the other end of the village. It didn’t totally fit, and the plaid pattern clashed with the turtles on her socks, but she wore it anyway, beaming when she finally went to school with her hair tied up smartly in little pigtails.

At age seven she received a book which became like an extension of her hand. It was a compilation of her favourite fairy tales, golden lettering decorating the outside with beautiful illustrations, which she lugged with her everywhere. On long car journeys, all the way to school and back and even next to her chair at dinner, just in case she needed to check which princess had done what. (She never did have to check. She knew it off by heart.)

Ten brought a notebook into which she spilled her soul, every emotion she ever felt, the contents of which were read out loud by her older brother whilst she tried desperately to grab it back. Pages and pages that she then ripped out and stored at the bottom of a trunk, hoping that they’d never see the light of day again.

When she was twelve, she gave her mother a heartfelt poem written in shaky handwriting which then sat in pride of place for the rest of her life framed in the kitchen, so that it could be shown to every friend that came round. She blushed every time, told her mother she was embarrassing her, but she secretly loved it. She was especially proud of the small drawing in the corner.

Aged fourteen, for Christmas, a collection of DVDs that she spent the whole holiday watching, tucked up with her brother on the sofa. He perfected his signature hot chocolate which she used to beg him to make for her, she learned exactly when to pass him tissues when watching his favourite films.

The year of her sixteenth, she got a beautiful silver locket and gave her brother a hand-knitted jumper to take with him to university. In the locket she put a picture of her best friends, wore it around her neck always, and smiled when she got a photograph from her brother of him shivering in his dorm room, the jumper pulled up to his nose. When the chain snapped, caught on a zip as she pulled off a shirt at the end of a long day, she cried and kept the locket safely in her bedside cabinet until her father went with her to buy a new one.

The car that she and her parents bought together when she was eighteen was her pride and joy, bright yellow and tiny, a means of freedom that she’d never felt before. It moved with her to university some months later, changing from trips to the cinema to trips home, filled haphazardly with cushions and books. She’d never forget the jolting sensation the first time she crashed it, bumping over a pothole and into a hedge by the side of a winding country road. (Her brother never let her forget it either; He never crashed his car.)

At twenty she cried her heart out to a friend, bemoaning both her stupidness and her boyfriend’s, as she sipped from a chipped mug given to her for Christmas by her best friend some years before. The mug had been damaged when the boyfriend had done the breaking up, dropped on the counter in shock, but was still perfectly functional for holding the best cup of tea ever.

The keys she was given to her first flat at twenty-two fit perfectly in her hands, and never left her pocket, the comforting click of the lock making her feel safe in the space that was filled with her, her books and her films and her photos. Filled with notebooks bursting with stories and drawers stuffed with pens.

When she was twenty-four she gave her newborn niece the softest of teddy bears.