Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Scottish Accent And A Black Hole

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

Poul Anderson tries to reproduce a Scottish accent. "'Richt the noo?'" (p. 311) means "Right now?" Kilbirnie also addresses Nansen as "' jo.'" (ibid.), a Scottish term of endearment, not listed in the Wiki article but see here.

We know that a supernova briefly outshines its galaxy but Anderson writes:

"Briefly, it outshone its whole island universe." (p. 312)

Because it was originally thought that our galaxy was the whole universe, when other galaxies were postulated, they were initially called "island universes."

In Starfarers, a blue giant star had gone supernova, blasting out nickel, copper, silver, tin, gold, uranium etc, vaporizing any planets that it may have had and leaving a remnant of ten Solar masses that collapsed without limit, leaving a sphere 185 kilometers in circumference containing a point-like singularity. The collapsed star retains a fast spin, a strong magnetic field, a slight electric charge and a powerful gravitational field.

Occasionally, instead of two virtual particles mutually annihilating, one falls into the black hole while the other escapes. Atoms and dust accelerating inwards collide, generating photons and an accretion disk "...gyring about the black hole..." (p. 313) and at last falling into it whereas matter pulled to the magnetic poles is beamed outward. The accretion disk, visible as a small, flickering, blue-white ring, has clashing waves, flung flares, flaming coils, magnetic convulsions and unforeseeable chaos.

(Lower image, from Hubble space telescope, is possibly gas accreting round a black hole in elliptical galaxy, NGC 4261.)

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