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.