Q: Is it possible to destroy a black hole?

The original question was: Aside from Hawking radiation, is it possible to destroy a black hole? Specifically, could you rotate a black hole fast enough that it was flung apart? Also, assuming that m is the mass necessary for a black hole (though I realize they’re more a density than mass thing), and you had a black hole of, say, 10m, could you throw some amount of anti matter at it (say 5m) to rip it apart without simply converting all it’s matter into energy?


Physicist: Black holes are a little tricky.  Rather than thinking of them as solid objects, it’s better to think of them as “messed up patches of geometry”.  Destroying a black hole is just as difficult as destroying any patch of space.  So, if by setting off a bomb you could change how rulers measure distance in a particular region of space, then you could affect a black hole.

Chucking anti-matter into a black hole would actually make it bigger.  Anti-matter, as the named doesn’t imply, is made of the same “stuff” as ordinary matter.  That is, if you were made of anti-matter, everything about you would be exactly the same (there are some subtleties with regard to neutrino emission, but who notices that?).  The big thing that makes matter and anti-matter different is that bringing them together makes them cancel each other out, dumping all of their intrinsic energy (of the “E=MC2” variety) into a big boom.

Even if it did contact some matter inside, there’s no direction the explosion could go that doesn’t point toward the center.  Beyond the event horizon all directions point down (and that’s messed up geometry).

Another way to look at it is; gravity is generated by both matter and energy, so converting a black hole’s matter into energy wouldn’t change much.  You still have the same amount of matter/energy, and thus the same amount of gravity.

A spinning black hole can (in theory) produce a naked singularity, and maybe there’s something that can be done with that (most theories don’t have many definitive things to say about singularities), but probably not.  Black holes are pretty tough.

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31 Responses to Q: Is it possible to destroy a black hole?

  1. Andrew Frigyik says:

    What about evaporation? If a black hole evaporates via Hawking radiation, wouldn’t you consider it to be destroyed?

  2. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    Totally!
    But the question was besides Hawking radiation…

  3. Andrew Frigyik says:

    Sorry! Didn’t read the original question…

  4. Neal says:

    “most theories don’t have many definitive things to say about singularities”

    Well, if theories did have definitive things to say about them, they wouldn’t be singularities! :)

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  6. Florian Schindler says:

    ‘Even if it did contact some matter inside, there’s no direction the explosion could go that doesn’t point toward the center. Beyond the event horizon all directions point down.’

    Is that figurative talk for ‘you can’t escape gravity’, or is there literally only this single direction? Not sure what to make of this or how to imagine it.

  7. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    Non-figurative.
    There are as many directions as outside, they just all go to the same place.
    Isn’t that weird?

  8. Bill LaChenal says:

    Some people (Hawking & others) seem to hold that if you can’t measure a thing, it does not exist (seductive though this is, I happen to disagree).
    But if one were to suppose Hawking and Al were right in this, then:
    Since, you cannot measure inside a black hole (you can measure round it, but not in it), the black hole already does not exist. It’s a hole in space, a sink.

    Personally, I think the black hole idea is a naive attempt to extrapolate some simple mathematics into reality. It seems to be there because we do all the measurements using the same mathematics, perpetuating the same unseen error in the model.
    So, since black holes don’t actually exist except as artifacts of instruments designed to ‘see’ black holes (illusion, phantasm, wishful thinking, delusion), one might quite easily destroy them by correctly re-imagining reality.

    @Physiscist:
    Yes, if one holds faith in the BigBang model, all directions from where we are now go to the single point at BigBang, which we ‘see’ as being approached in the far edges of the observable universe.
    Since, in Euclidean space, straight lines that meet at infinity are parallel, all straight lines are in fact parallel (even though they don’t seem to be), and we already live in a parallel universe. 8-)
    This isn’t so bad, though, because straight lines are probably quite rare, except in the imagination of geometers.

  9. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    It’s a bit more subtle. It’s more like “if there is no indication, direct or indirect, that something exists, then either it doesn’t exit or it doesn’t matter”.
    While you can’t see beyond an event horizon, we can infer a fair amount. Similarly, until the 50′s no one had ever seen the far side of the moon. Until then we’d only inferred its existence, but you’d be hard pressed to find a scientist who didn’t think it did.
    All of physics is a self-consciously naive attempt to extrapolate some simple mathematics into reality. But that math is based entirely on a careful study of reality. In this case; the math of general relativity. General relativity has already predicted (before any direct measurements were done) things like gravitational lensing, gravitational time dilation, black holes, frame dragging, and gravitational waves.
    The first two have since been completely confirmed, there is a lot of evidence for the existence of black holes (for example; Sagittarius A*, a tiny, invisible object with a mass in excess of four million Suns), and the last two are in the works. Point is, it’s a very accurate, successful mathematical model, that has yielded a lot of predictive fruit already.
    The “past the event horizon, all directions point to the center” thing is another prediction of general relativity. It’s due to the very non-Euclidean (non-Minkowskian even!) nature of spacetime around ultra-dense objects. The big bang is a whole other thing.

  10. Dejan says:

    Is it than possible that the Big Bang was a collision between matter universe and anti-matter universe, since both of them are equally possible.

    So all around infinitive space, a bubbles of universes are floating and bumping to each other.

    If you launch a anti-matter black hole to a matter black hole (it will be a challenge to discover which type of it is), than it is possible that energy created from this collision is “stronger” than a gravity inside. Voila, a quasar start to exist!

  11. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    It’s hard to say what’s going on outside of the universe.
    However, we can talk about black holes. A black hole formed from anti-matter and a black hole formed from ordinary matter would be identical. If they collided, and if the material inside of them managed to come into contact, the explosion would be directed downward, and there would be no effect outside. A black hole just isn’t a “thing” that can be destroyed, it’s a patch of weird geometry. For the same reason that an explosion won’t change the distance between two points, an explosion can’t destroy a black hole.

  12. arshad says:

    what will happen if a black hole approaches the earth ?? What will the NASA do ??

  13. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    If a black hole came anywhere near Earth we’d be thrown out of orbit, or at the very least thrown into a very different orbit. The orbit we’re in now is perfect for life and almost any other would mean the end of life.
    I suppose the people at NASA would probably starting drinking or spending more time with their families.

  14. Jeff says:

    I think that Dejan is asking, if a matter blackhole (who’s center, that gives it the tremendous gravity it has, is made of matter) collides with an anti-matter blackhole (who’s center, that gives it the tremendous gravity it has, is made of antimatter). Then wouldn’t they destroy each other (in the sense that they would destroy each others center, thus no longer having a mass to give them their unfathomable gravitational fields… Without the matter that grants them their gravity, they would no longer exist would they?)

  15. Jeff says:

    To further add to my previous comment… If there is an antimatter particle for every matter particle, with their own anti-electrons, anti-protons, etc. Then wouldn’t an anti-blackhole have an anti-singularity? Then, just as antimatter annihilates matter from existence, wouldn’t an anti-singularity destroy a singularity from existence? With no singularity, there would be no black hole…

    Or what if there was a white hole… Who spews out matter and particles just as a black hole consumes matter and particles. And then they were to meet? The black hole singularity would try to consume the white hole singularity and ultimately tie themselves into a “knot of nonexistence”…

  16. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    “Anti-matter” is kinda unfortunately named. It isn’t the opposite of matter in all ways, it’s just a different kind of matter. In fact, if you were suddenly turned into anti-matter you’d have no way to tell the difference.
    The total amount of energy, whether in the form of matter or anti-matter or just energy, in a black hole is all that’s important. As far as the black hole is concerned a kg of matter is the same as a kg of anti-matter.
    If it’s possible for stuff to interact inside of a black hole, it doesn’t have any effects outside. The energy may change forms, but the total amount stays the same, and thus the total gravity and “black holeness” stays the same.

  17. Jeff says:

    But isn’t it theoretically possible to have a anti-singularity? And if so, wouldn’t a anti-singularity and regular singularity cancel one another out of existence?

    And what of the theoretical white hole?

  18. Bossi says:

    It’s been many years since I’ve had a physics class dealing with anything more complex than kinematics, and perhaps these questions will only help show that…

    Given that magnetism can provide a stronger force than gravity (as a kitchen magnet can overpower the gravity of our entire planet), then could a magnetic field theoretically be applied upon a black hole to destroy or distort it?

    I’m unsure of a black hole’s magnetic properties and whether it’d even react to magnetic forces at all… or perhaps its own forces might (near-)infinitely overpower anything that could conceivably be wielded against it. So would a black hole even react to a magnetic field in any way at all, even if it doesn’t lead to any popularly-recognisable destruction or distortion?

    And lastly: if the answer to either of those is “yes”, then a step down from the theoretical level to the practical level: much energy would be required and how might it be applied?

  19. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    Magnetic and electric forces are definitely involved in the behavior of black holes!
    But, in general, they’re only important if the black hole itself has a charge (which it gets by eating an imbalance of charge). The exact way that charged black hole behave is stunningly complicated.
    That said, it’s not like black holes are completely incapable of being affected. For example, if stuff falls into them, they get bigger. A very large magnet would have some kind of noticeable effect on a black hole, but I couldn’t guess what that might be. It wouldn’t be able to “tear off pieces” however. A black hole isn’t “an object” in any real sense.

  20. shioru says:

    So while it is possible for a black hole to grow ‘bigger’ with the ingestion of more matter, it’s impossible for a black hole to ‘fall apart’ or tear apart into smaller black holes?

    This is making my head spin.

  21. Locutus says:

    I understand the part about how antimatter is mass, but I don’t get how antimatter would just make a black hole bigger. If an equal amount of matter and antimatter collide, they are turned into energy. So, if one was to turn the mass of a black hole into energy, wouldn’t the gravity be lessened, and the geometry of that region be changed?

    Love Long and Prosper

  22. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    You’d think so!
    But energy causes gravity just as much as mass. In fact (were so inclined), you could say that energy is what causes gravity and that mass only causes gravity because of its equivalent energy content.

  23. Rom says:

    Wouldnt it take infinite time to approach an event horizont, because the light cant escape the black hole? And we know that the time slows down, while we travel closer to the speed of light.

  24. Jesse says:

    Is it possible to fill a black hole with enough matter, that it will stop spinning, and lead to its own death?

  25. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t quite think so. If the addition of antimatter makes the hole bigger, and thus stronger, then it doesen’t seem like anything other than Hawking Radiation COULD destroy it. It may in fact be the one thing closest to ‘invincible’ this Universe will ever see…

  26. Nehemiah Stewart says:

    Couldn’t a reverse magnetic wind began to slowly pull apart the black holes outer rings slowly disintegrating it and strewing the access energy inside of it to the vacuum if space. Even though space can never truly demagnetize a magnet or weaken its powers the magnetic energy would have a LARGE area to exert itself eventually creating another black hole as it consumed and attracted other large pieces of energy.

  27. Bob says:

    To Physicist:
    If negative matter exists, then what happens if you throw a black hole made of negative matter into a regular black hole?

  28. Knowan says:

    I think you’re all missing the point. Inside of a black hole matter, as we know it, doesn’t exist. The gravitational forces inside of a black hole rip matter apart into it’s constituent sub-atomic particles. So the protons and electrons in an atom are ripped apart into quarks, leptons, etc. The same thing would happen with anti-matter. It would get ripped apart before it could interact with matter (probably).

    Plus, lets say that anti-matter and matter do collide. The resulting explosion releases a massive amount of energy. All energy has a maximum speed of the speed of light, and cannot travel any faster. Since light cannot escape a black hole’s event horizon, energy cannot either, which means that all that energy gets sucked down into the black hole.

    So if you smash together a black hole and an anti-matter black hole (which is pretty much impossible since matter and anti-matter can’t exist inside of a black hole) you would just get a black hole of twice the size. Maybe inside of the black hole there would be a conversion of matter into energy, but the energy has nowhere to go. It can’t escape the event horizon, so it stays inside the black hole, leading to no net loss in size.

  29. Bob says:

    @Knowan
    I’m talking about negative matter, not antimatter. They have very different theoretical meanings. Check out the link in my above comment and you’ll see what I mean.

  30. jason says:

    Try hitting it with a zero point energy field, and don’t go near it. Send a ship with only droids to do the actual work.

  31. slick rick says:

    if a black hole compresses all its matter to a single point does that mean a black hole could store an infinite mass? if no light can escape from it does this mean that gravity can somewhat travel faster than light? how is it possible for it to punch a hole in space, does that mean the energy in a black hole goes nowhere does that mean a black hole doesn’t exist but it does exist so is it in a superposition of states. Is a black hole something and nothing at the same time?

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