You probably have some idea from science class or, at least, Stargate SG-1 about what a black hole is. Basically, when a star gets big enough, it gets so heavy that it collapses on itself, rips a little hole in reality and starts doing some serious Star Trek shit.
From this description, it should be obvious why we can't (and shouldn't) create a black hole on Earth. We can't just pack a bunch of material billions of times larger than our own sun into a beaker and shake it until it destroys the solar system. No matter what science fiction tells you, we'll never be able to collect so much mass into the same spot that the gravity of it can bend light.
Not like this. Stay in school.
Oh, except that they sort of did, in China, in 2009. And you've probably noticed that we're not dead.
How the Hell?
Scientists in China managed to find a way to "mimic" what a black hole does, on a smaller scale, without all the inconvenient problems associated with dragging a supermassive star into a lab.
The original purpose of their research was to design a more effervescent Michelada.
They created their artificial black hole using a bunch of concentric circuit boards made of "meta-materials," which are man-made substances capable of bending radiation like light through means other than massive amounts of gravity. We probably couldn't give you a schematic that wouldn't melt your brain, but the result is the same as if the light was passing close to a black hole -- it gets sucked into the middle and can't get out.
It's a scientific map of how Nickelback still manages to sell tickets.
This has only been accomplished so far with microwave light, because it's easier to manage, but scientists are hoping to figure out how to do it with visible spectrum light. Which, in addition to looking super cool, could completely change the way we gather solar energy. Instead of unwieldy giant mirrors, an artificial black hole could just vacuum up a lot of light from a much smaller area. And, sure, these panels probably wouldn't make the roof of your house look like a huge, swirling mass of cosmic destruction, but that's the way we're picturing it anyway.
One of the most fundamental rules of the universe is that you can't create matter out of thin air, unless you're a magician. But, like usual, scientists heard this and simply replied, "Anything is possible, as long as we have enough lasers."
So, in the late '90s, scientists used the Stanford Accelerator (the Large Hadron Collider's older brother) to do what David Copperfield can only pretend to do -- create matter out of nowhere.
Peter Wrona/Thornton Tomasetti
"Science is like magic, except it's real and it's not magical." -Anonymous
How the Hell?
To achieve this, scientists did the same thing they do to solve virtually every problem -- they shot two incredibly powerful lasers at each other until science happened. In this case, the energy created by the experiment "broke down the vacuum" into tiny chunks of matter and antimatter.
Of course, breaking nothing down into something sounds like they're living in opposite world, but the reality is that a vacuum isn't really empty so much as buzzing with energy, so what they were really doing is kind of a reverse explosion -- instead of converting mass into energy, they lasered a bunch of energy until mass popped out.
Of course, before you start trying to make a hamburger with a laser pointer, you should know that this requires a tremendously powerful laser. Just one of the lasers they fired was a trillion watts -- equivalent to around 16 billion light bulbs -- and they still needed to add another laser just to squirt out matter that only amounted to a couple of electrons. Still, some theorists say we might be able to ramp up the process. So maybe someday we'll have, like, a pair of Death Star-sized lasers that can collide and make a cup of mashed potatoes. What would be the point of doing that? We told you: lasers.
For more ways science will kill us all, check out The 10 Craziest Scientific Experiments Ever Conducted and The 5 Scientific Experiments Most Likely to End the World.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 Bizarre Dinosaurs You Didn't Know Existed.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see Cody attempt the impossible and ask the Emperor for more men.
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