• Question: Do you think we will ever be able to hollow out a small meteor put a space shuttle inside and fling ourself's into a black hole using it as a worm hole. Because of the meteor housing the shuttle it won't be distorted od stretched, killed etc. Or at least be able to find out a use or how to use time strands?

    Asked by haydon177 to Alastair, Emma, Hywel, Keith, Vicki on 17 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Emma Carter

      Emma Carter answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Well, as for the engineering aspect of this question, if you ‘hollow out’ the meteor, it would be much weaker as a structure than it was before so could well collapse. Also, in order to put a shuttle in, you would have to create an opening large enough to do so, then seal it up – but this would always be a weak point and vulnerable to structural failure. You would also need some means of propulsion which would not be possible through a sealed, hollowed out meteor housing. But what we can do is design a spacecraft to be strong enough to withstand the kind of forces and temperatures expected in such a journey. I would love to answer the stuff about black holes, worm holes and time strands but I can’t – ask an astro-physicist!

    • Photo: Hywel Vaughan

      Hywel Vaughan answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Well you win the competition for longest question so far Haydon!
      When it comes to black holes, anything entering them such as a shuttle or meteor would first be torn apart by large tidal forces in something known as (I kid you not) spaghettification or ‘the noodle effect’. You would then be crushed to infinite density and your mass added to that of the black hole itself.
      Although it is theoretically possible to follow closed time loops in rotating black holes, it is highly unlikely you would ever be able to travel through one – the gravity well past the event horizon (the tipping point as it were where you can’t escape from) of a black hole would crush your shuttle, whether in a meteorite or not. We may have to look for another way to travel through time I’m afraid! 😀

    • Photo: Alastair Sloan

      Alastair Sloan answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Wow Haydon – that’s an interesting question. The problems are that it is now known that black holes, not only have an immense gravitational pull which would cause great pressure on anything flying into it and in all probability crush the meteor and shuttle, but also possess a very high temperature which would incinerate the meteor and the shuttle inside it.

    • Photo: Keith Brain

      Keith Brain answered on 16 Jun 2010:

      Alas, hiding inside a meteor doesn’t hide us from gravity (which is pretty intense near a black hole), nor from the distortion of space-time near the event horizon. For example, if matter (like a meteor) shielded us from gravitational effects, then we wouldn’t be pulled towards the earth, because the outer part of the crust would shield us from the matter inside the earth. Nice, idea, but I don’t think it will work. Perhaps we might be able to send in some ridiculously obscure radioactive element, and then monitor for whereabouts in the Universe it manages to pop out. However, I still think that the event horizon tends to rip even atoms apart, which presents a problem. Steven Hawking’s books on black holes and time (like a Brief History of Time) are a good read if you’re interested in these types of questions. Good thinking.

    • Photo: Vicki Stevenson

      Vicki Stevenson answered on 17 Jun 2010:

      wow – that’s very creative thinking! Technically it will be dificult to hollow out a meteor, but mainly that’s engineering issues like transporting robots and resources to do the work – very expensive, but potentially feasible.

      As far as diving into a black hole – it sounds really dangerous and I think both the meteorite and the shuttle would get crushed.