Physics Question #109

Zulfikar Yassim, a 18 year old male from the Internet asks on December 26, 1999,

A black hole is created when a planet collapses and forms into a powerful vacuum sucking everything in. Can this type of energy be created? If this energy can be created, how could it be controlled?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on December 26, 1999

Nobody has actually ever observed a black hole, though they are theorized to exist. It is not created when a planet collapses. In theory it is created by the collapse of something much more massive, like a big star. In general this kind of energy cannot be created or controlled by humans. These are unimaginably large energies that occur on a cosmic scale, greater even than our sun, and well beyond our control. There are no man-made materials that can hold this kind of energy. There are no man-made materials that can even hold much milder energies such as thermonuclear fusion as occurs within our sun. Magnetic bottles that can hold such energy for a billionth of a second or so, have been developed, but that's about it. Looking within the atom may yield secrets about the energies you describe. People have been looking for gravitons for about 70 years or so, but nobody has been able to find them. It's one of the big mysteries. Maybe if you study hard enough you will be able to find them. The sun keeps from breaking apart quite simply with ordinary gravity. There's no great mystery there. You must remember: the sun is incredibly massive. I believe that the sun makes up almost 90% of all the mass in the entire solar system (and Jupiter is responsible for most of the rest). The sun's great mass creates a lot of gravitational force and that's what holds it all together. For some fun reading about the idea of a black hole being created on Earth (and then accidentally dropped) you might enjoy reading Earth by David Brin. This is science fiction written by a physicist so it's pretty interesting.

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