Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If an answer does exist, I'd love to hear it. I'm trying to incorporate a doomed earth story in something I'm writing, and the end of the world I'm going for is a black hole.

Let's say the black hole was created in the Philippines (I chose it because it's on the equator). Here's a map for reference.

If I was standing 90 degrees of that, in Kenya, or if I was standing 180 degrees of that, in Mexico; what would I see in those two separate instances? What if I was standing in Japan above it, or in Australia below it?

Let's also say I was riding a boat towards the source of the black hole. Unlike most imagined scenarios where I am orbiting the black hole and slowly falling into it, this time I'm no longer orbiting it - I'm getting sucked into it instead. I'm imagining that the black hole will "half" be inside Earth and "half" will be in the atmosphere. But as it pulls me in, what will it look like to me (if I was massless, so no tidal forces)? It's probably not going to be a black hemisphere sticking out of the ground. Light will be lensed around it in some way so as to appear like a hole in the air.

Also, if the black hole was very small, it probably won't have a strong gravitational pull, and assuming it doesn't disappear, you'd be able to look at it (or at least, its effect on the light in its surroundings). Of course, as you approach it, it would still have an event horizon, so spacetime would still be warped if you're near enough and the surroundings will still experience tidal forces.

As the black hole gains mass, it will get larger, and so its event horizon will increase. If I was standing in Kenya and the event horizon "washes over me," (as in a water wave) what will I see?

I've so far imagined that, at least when seen from outer space, there will be a hole on the ground and light will be lensed around it. When you are on the ground, though, it becomes a bit harder to imagine.

I do hope someone can lend me a hand!

Edit: Someone had previously answered this question, but I'm not sure why it's been deleted. It was pointed out to me, though, that a black hole cannot stay in place. So an additional question for me is, does that mean it is impossible to be standing still, and the event horizon "washes over you"?

Edit2: Here's a guiding thought experiment that could answer the question. Imagine that you are in outer space directly above the black hole, looking at the black hole that is on the earth's surface. Can you imagine what it would look like? It would simply be a hole with the surrounding light gravitationally lensed around it (possibly lensing the entire earth if it's big enough - but let's say it's not).

Now imagine that you are on the direct opposite of where you were above - you're right behind the black hole this time, looking directly at the black hole but unable to see it because the earth is blocking your view.

Now try to imagine, from the second image, rotate the earth into the first image. I find it a bit hard to do. Just as the black hole is appearing as you rotate the earth, how would the light be lensed?

share|improve this question
4  
As usual, women and minorities will be hardest hit. –  Eugene Seidel Jan 20 '13 at 15:04
    
This is a great question. I don't know if anybody will have a good answer. A black hole the mass of the Earth would be around 1/5 of a millimeter in diameter. It would be hard for the event horizon to "wash over" you. And I suspect not everything would be "sucked into" it immediately ... things would start orbiting around it (close things at enormous speeds). –  Peter Shor Jan 20 '13 at 16:27
    
@PeterShor I think $4GM_\oplus/c^2$ comes out to a diameter of 1.8 cm? Still, your point stands - it would be small. –  Chris White Jan 20 '13 at 17:38
    
@Chris: you're right ... I don't know what I did wrong. –  Peter Shor Jan 20 '13 at 18:34
    
Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/2743/2451 –  Qmechanic Jan 20 '13 at 18:58
show 2 more comments

2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

An interesting and horrifying possibility for your book could be that of a tiny black hole with negligible mass relative to the mass of the Earth. It would silently sink into the ground, completely unnoticed. It would make damped oscillations around the center of the Earth until eventually staying within the nucleus. There it would stay unnoticed, slowly growing like a parasite. The Earth radius would start to diminish, and thus the crust would have to adapt by means of earthquakes - very weak at first, but of increasing frequency and strength. Eventually, chains of volcanoes would appear along giant fault lines, heating and poisoning the atmosphere, bringing total obliteration. After that, the Earth would continue shrinking until all that was left would be a tiny black hole with little more than one Earth mass in the place where our planet was. And the Moon would stay there as a horrified witness of the catastrophe.

Nothing on Earth would be able to stop the process and save us. Nothing except Chuck Norris.


Note: Classical GR black holes are fully determined with just three values: mass, electric charge and angular momentum (No-hair theorem). If the charge is large enough in the black hole of your novel, then the hero might be able to confine it by using strong magnetic fields.

share|improve this answer
    
There should be a "Science-Fiction" tag to clearly distinguish this kind of phantasy questions. –  Eduardo Guerras Valera Jan 20 '13 at 18:51
    
Hi Eduardo. You're quite right. But, a "sci-fi" tag wouldn't be so nice for us to keep around coz, there's already scifi.SE to deal with those. Instead, a "creative" or "what-if-happened" tags would be so nice. Feel free to post in meta if you like a discussion on creating tags. BTW, Nice pic and one more thing - your last name ends with "Guerras". I think I saw some other thing before ;-) –  Waffle's Crazy Peanut Jan 20 '13 at 18:56
1  
Hey Eduardo, Hope you like my English transformation. BTW, If you require further corrections on your posts, the more efficient way is to add a comment below your post, so that it reveals a "side-note". –  Waffle's Crazy Peanut Jan 20 '13 at 19:13
1  
The third one. I was imagining an analogy, which I realize just now I should have mentioned in the question. I was comparing the event horizon to a water wave washing over someone on earth. –  markovchain Jan 20 '13 at 19:44
1  
Science fiction with the scenario includes "The Hole Man" by Larry Niven, The Golden Globe by John Varley and other that don't come right to mind. –  dmckee Jan 28 '13 at 17:32
show 11 more comments

There are some visualizations of what it would look like to travel past the event horizon, assuming you survive the process of course.

This video gives you an idea of what the black hole looks like. What you see is a distortion of everything around you, as bit like looking through curved glass.

Unfortunately these videos aren't set on Earth; I'm sure the hole chewing up Earth would look spectacular, but I don't know how long this might last. I suspect things would get pretty hot as matter is compressed on its way towards the hole.

share|improve this answer
    
Why do people think that Earth mass (centimeter-size) black holes would eat the Earth, rather than breaking up the Earth into little tiny bits, which all end up in orbit around the hole? Do you have any actual evidence that the hole eats Earth, or is this just intuition? –  Peter Shor Jan 22 '13 at 3:35
    
@PeterShor I didn't mean to claim it will be consumed in its entirety, nor that bits of the earth will fall into the hole in a straight line. I'm sure lots of the mass will end up orbiting. –  romkyns Jan 23 '13 at 9:10
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.