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Small Black Holes

February 25, 2013

Black holes have a fearsome reputation: dark monsters that gobble up all the stars around them. It’s true that any star that passes too close to a black hole is in for a really bad day. But some black holes may not have that star-destroying power because they’re too small.

WHEELER: People have looked at the possibility that small black holes could be made in the Big Bang.

Craig Wheeler is a University of Texas astronomer, and the author of two sci-fi novels about tiny black holes created in the lab that escaped to threaten Earth — “The Krone Experiment” and “Krone Ascending.”

He says that if black holes were created in the Big Bang, some of them could be tiny — smaller than an atom. And according to Stephen Hawking, such a black-hole featherweight could actually evaporate in an explosion of energy — a bright outburst that could be seen by space telescopes.

WHEELER: Hawking predicts that any black hole will radiate. A black hole with the mass of a star will be so cold and radiate so feebly that you’ll never detect it. But the smaller mass you go, the hotter they get, the brighter they get, and the more they would radiate. So these small black holes, in principle, can radiate within the time of the universe and effectively explode. People have looked for that and never seen it.

In recent years, some have been concerned that Wheeler’s sci-fi premise of an Earth-gobbling black hole made in the lab could become science fact. More about that tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

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