Hawking: Mini black hole to power world’s electricity supply

3 February 2016
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The eminent theoretical physicist said if we tried to harness the power of a black hole it could drop into the centre of the Earth, sparking the end of the word.

Professor Hawking explained that as particles fall into black holes, they “are constantly materialising in pairs, separating, and then coming together again, and annihilating each other.”

He described these particles as “virtual” as they cannot be seen, even with a particle detector.

But he added that their indirect effects can be measured, which is how scientists can confirm their existence, as they shift slightly, known as the Lamb Shift.

When they shift, they produce “spectrum energy of light from excited hydrogen atoms.

Speaking at the BBC’s Reith Lectures, Professor Hawking said: “Now in the presence of a black hole, one member of a pair of virtual particles may fall into the hole, leaving the other member without a partner with which to annihilate.

“The forsaken particle or antiparticle may fall into the black hole after its partner, but it may also escape to infinity, where it appears to be radiation emitted by the black hole.”

The A Brief History of Time author went onto say that it would be possible to harness the energy of the black holes if it was the right size.

He added: “A black hole of the mass of the sun, would leak particles at such a slow rate, it would be impossible to detect. However, there could be much smaller mini black holes with the mass of say, a mountain.

“A mountain-sized black hole would give off X-rays and gamma rays, at a rate of about 10 million megawatts, enough to power the world’s electricity supply.

“It wouldn’t be easy however, to harness a mini black hole. You couldn’t keep it in a power station, because it would drop through the floor and end up at the centre of the Earth.

“If we had such a black hole, about the only way to keep hold of it would be to have it in orbit around the Earth.”

Professor Hawking then joked: “People have searched for mini black holes of this mass, but have so far not found any. This is a pity, because if they had I would have got a Nobel Prize.”

The world-famous physicist has previously said that high advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) could also spark the end of mankind.

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