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Markus Maute: on 12/6/10 at 8:47am UTC, wrote Dear Louis, great essay, congratulations. I have independently come up...

Luis: on 12/2/10 at 21:47pm UTC, wrote To clarify my question, Charging the black hole is a divergent process...

Luis: on 11/30/10 at 20:14pm UTC, wrote Mr. Crane, Interesting essay, thanks! I was wondering, Would feeding the...

Steve Dufourny: on 2/6/10 at 12:47pm UTC, wrote no sense, no whole point of vue, no reallism thus no rational for me. I...

Anonymous: on 2/4/10 at 17:54pm UTC, wrote 'Infinite curvature'? Elementary mathematics teach only a straight line can...

Steve Dufourny: on 1/26/10 at 10:45am UTC, wrote Thus of course in this uniqueness, it doesn't exist white holes because the...

Streve Dufourny: on 1/26/10 at 10:41am UTC, wrote You know I asked me all days what is the pure rule of these centers ,these...

Steve Dufourny: on 1/23/10 at 10:29am UTC, wrote Hi dear Mr Crane, Congratulations. You know I have thought about your...


Nicholas I. Hosein: "Having a dual intelligence. One moderately gifted, the other unprecedented..." in Schrödinger’s A.I....

Steve Dufourny: "In Orch OR, quantum superpositions are ‘orchestrated’ by microtubules..." in Schrödinger’s A.I....

John Cox: "A proposal for dealing with errors in quantum computers by harnessing a..." in Quantum information...

Georgina Woodward: "'verisimilitude' is a nice word." in Can We Feel What It’s...

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October 6, 2022

CATEGORY: What's Ultimately Possible in Physics? Essay Contest (2009) [back]
TOPIC: Stardrives and Spinoza by Louis Crane [refresh]
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Author Louis Crane wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 11:30 GMT
Essay Abstract

We discuss a proposal to make small artificial black holes (ABH's) using a huge laser. Because of Hawking radiation, they would be extremely powerful energy sources. We investigate the technical problems of using them to make power plants and starships. The first suggestion is due to Hawking. Next, we consider what challenges the ABH proposal would pose for a future quantum theory of gravity. The form of a theory which would allow us to compute the necessary corrections to classical theory is considered. It is widely believed that every black hole produces a new baby universe on the other side of its singularity. If this is true, ABH technology will involve future humanity in the creation process of universes. Finally, we ponder the effects that the ABH proposal would have on the culture of a future society, particularly if the baby universe theory is correct. The changes in our economic life and understanding of our role in the cosmos would be so profound as to have a "spiritual" aspect.

Author Bio

Louis Crane completed a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Chicago, did a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and was an Assistant Professor at Yale University. He then joined the Mathematics department at Kansas State University, where he has remained to this day, except for visits to Nottingham University, Universite de Paris VII (Diderot), The University of Western Ontario and Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisboa, Portugal. His research is on quantum gravity.

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Uncle Al wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 17:08 GMT
A mere 1 kg mass equivalent of photons is 21.48 megatons. A 1 kg black hole has a lifetime of 2.80x10^(-17) seconds, m^3/3K, K = (hc^4)/(30720)(pi)^2G^2.. What modality can usefully manipulate an object over 30 attoseconds? Given typically less than 10% laser efficency plug to emitter, yer gonna need minimum ~250 megaton input and 100% utilization efficiency, 5X the Tsar Bomba. This raises a...

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Andy wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 17:39 GMT
I have some basic problems in understanding the short but essential section "The black hole generator" [p. 4]. Maybe the author can address these.

1. "An advantage of using photons is that, since they are bosons,

there is no Pauli exclusion principle to worry about."

Interesting assertion, but wouldn't for the energies provided by the laser vacuum fluctuations (e.g., pair creation) take over making the Pauli principle absolutely necessary?

2. This question raises another concern ("Since photons have null stress energy just like null dust, a black hole should

form if a large aggregate of photons interacts classically with the gravitational field.") as strong vacuum fluctuations would likely not interact classically with the background gravitational field; at least, due to these fluctuations, there would be an effective energy-stress tensor components vastly different from "null dust".

3. I do not understand the algebra in the third paragraph of the section.


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Leshan wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 20:30 GMT
My essay also proposes a Hole generator to create holes in space-time (not black holes). We can create holes in space-time using simple processes like decays, annihilations and inelastic scattering. No nuclear lasers are needed. To prove experimentally the existence of holes I need two atomic clocks: holes are accompanied always by time dilation and length contraction effects. The detection of...

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 22:57 GMT
Dear Professor Crane,

I see two insurmountable problems to your proposal.

First is the issue of control: it has to be real time with not tolerance for error and even if this is possible in principle, it will never be achieved in practice because there is no room to experiment with different ideas. The main reason Wright brothers were the first to achieve controlled flight is because they found a way to tinker with flying machines in a safe way and did not get killed like so many of the prior people attempting it. If the room for mistakes is zero, then there is no way anyone will get it perfect the very first time just by chance.

Second, you cannot accelerate both the ABH and the spaceship in the same direction because of the conservation of momentum. Maybe you can use an Earth bound laser to accelerate the ABH and the ABH radiation to accelerate the starship. But this does not work on interstellar distances.

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J.C.N. Smith wrote on Sep. 24, 2009 @ 23:01 GMT
Mr. Crane,

Thank you for an interesting essay!

I have a question which is but tangentially related to the ABH topic: could you be so kind as to provide a reference to any paper(s) which would provide an update on your current thinking regarding quantum cosmology, a topic which is of considerable interest to me. Lee Smolin briefly discussed some of his collaboration with you, Carlo Rovelli, Fotini Markopoulou, Chris Isham, and others in 'Three Roads to Quantum Gravity' (pp. 46-48) and in 'The Life of the Cosmos' (pp. 270-275). He has referred to the work as "relational quantum theory" and "topological quantum field theories. " If there are more recent reports on the status of this work I've not seen them. Thank you for any available references.

A successful quantum cosmology hopefully would go far toward resolving some of the deeper issues which you've raised in your current essay. Thanks again.


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Helmut Hansen wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 04:25 GMT
Dear Mr. Crane,

the most central problem of making starships is surely the unsolved question

How can we overcome the lightbarrier?

By investigating the question How do Space and Time have to be organized in the case of an invisible ether I came across a geometrical structure which was of archetypal design. I looked very much like a MANDALA. This very beautiful geometrical...

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J.C.N. Smith wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 08:23 GMT
Mr. Crane,

As an addendum to my previous post, I'm aware of the very brief update to the status of relational quantum theories which Smolin presents in 'The Trouble With Physics' (pp. 317-318), but am looking for other, possibly more detailed, updates if such are available.

It also has not escaped my attention that your current essay here at FQXi is a shorter version of your August 2009 paper, 'Are Black Hole Starships Possible?' ( ). Still, a very interesting essay. Thanks!


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Author Louis Crane wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 12:51 GMT
Uncle Al is correct that the energy involved in our proposal completely dwarfs any hydrogen bomb. This is necessary because the energy requirements for starflight are so huge. He is also correct that a 1 kilogram BH would not last long enough to be useful. In fact, it would be too small to produce anyhow.

He is also correct that the proposal is far betond current technology. However, I do not see a fundamental barrier to doing it in a more advanced technological future.

The only BH's I can see how to make at all are the ones I suggest, with energy contents billions of times greater than a hydrogen bomb. They would be stable for centuries.

But, dear uncle, "fantasy" is such an unkind work. I could live with "dream".

It is an enormously difficult technical program, but it is the only path to the stars. If it can be done at all, it is worth the massive sustained effort of technical development to create it.

Dear Andy,

Moving on, I would like to thank Andy for a thoughtful comment. As far as quantum field theoretic effects are concerned, I agree they would need to be included in a more careful calculation. However, as the concentric shell of gamma radiation shrank, the low lying electron and positron states would become occupied, so further pair creation would be suppressed. The creation operators in the Feynman vertex would have zero eigenvalues.So I dont expect a pressure barrier to form.

My companion paper (reference 1) is only a first exploration. Much more analysis is needed. You raise important questions. By the way, there isnt any algebra in my essay. I interpreted "popular essay" as "no calculations". See

reference 1 for details.

Dear Florin,

I agree tinkering is much nicer. However the plan is to build the hypersonic waverider aircraft from supercomputer calculations, since it is impossible to make a wind tunnel powerful enough. If we can do this now, why not in the far future?

As far as momentum conservation is concerned, the ship would be emitting a very powerful beam of collimated radiation backwards, driving the ship and BH forwards. Its like a photon rocket. Radiation pushes ship, ship pushes BH.

I do not feel up to replying to all contributions. I hope this blog doesnt get overcrowded.

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Andy wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 15:21 GMT
Dr. Crane, Thank you for your quick reply. I like your essay!

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Florin Moldoveanu wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 18:31 GMT
Dear Professor Crane,

I have to admit, I made a mistake in the momentum conservation comment and accelerating both the BH and the ship at the same time in the same direction can be done.

Take a classic rocket. The fuel explodes in the exhaust, the gasses come out one way, the rocket and the fuel goes the other. But the fuel is attached to the rocket. This is what you cannot have with an ABH: you cannot touch the BH.

So consider now an ABH and a starship. The BH emits lots of radiation, but it is stationary because it is spherically symmetric. A starship can accelerate being pushed away by this radiation but the BH does not move with the starship because it is not attached to it. How can the starship make the ABH move? By capturing the radiation pushing away the starship and sending it back from behind to the ABH. I was thinking that whatever momentum the starship gained in the capturing process is lost in the reversed process of accelerating the ABH and you get a moving ABH and a stationary starship. But I did not consider the case that only a part of the captured radiation can be used for this purpose and we can manage a synchronous acceleration of both ABH and starship.

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Author Louis Crane wrote on Sep. 25, 2009 @ 21:11 GMT
Dear Mr. Smith,

My more recent work in quantum gravity has been focussed on the situation of an isolated region viewed by an external classical observer. The notion of relational geometry then becomes relative to what the observer can see. This is motivated by the Bekenstein bound, but also by the thought that we will need to compute quantum corrections some day for experiments like the one I am proposing. My last few papers on gr-qc are on these lines.

The point Florin made is well taken. If we cant compute things in advance the experiment is unimaginable. The Hawking radiation is from transplanckian modes which are redshifted in exiting, so we are in a region where quantum corrections are important.

Im glad you like the essay.


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Author Louis Crane wrote on Sep. 26, 2009 @ 18:48 GMT
Im a bit sorry if I sounded overwhelmed in my first response. The volume of posts is really not excessive and I think on reflection that a Q&AQ format could be a good thing.


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Author Louis Crane wrote on Oct. 8, 2009 @ 17:22 GMT
I have a few new comments on my proposal.

It seems that Arthur Clarke proposed something similar in his novel "Imperial Earth" ( The description of his drive is vague, and seems to have the Physics wrong). Considering that Clarke predicted communications satellites, the internet, lasers and aquaculture, its some indication the idea has possibilities.

Also, it might be easier to charge the laser with fusion reactors instead of solar power. This was suggested by Malcolm Crowley to me.

As far as heat dissipation goes. there is no reason to think of the laser as solid. It could be a large radially oriented lattice.

Calculations due to Schwinger et. al. indicate the infalling spherical wave wo0uld not emit particle antiparticle pairs until very near the point of gravitational collapse. So that is not much of a worry.

The design I propose is really only an exploration of the concept. If the generator is eventually built, it will surely be much more complex.

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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 12, 2009 @ 09:34 GMT

A well written and for me a very welcome essay that, as opposed to the ultimately pessimistic, nihilistic "Dreams of a Final Theory" and TOE nonsense, you provide us with "Dreams of a New Technology" based on possible new physics. Your dream has, as you make clear, a very optimistic message. Moreover, again unlike the TOE stuff, advocates of new technology based on new not quite...

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Oct. 13, 2009 @ 13:49 GMT
Dear Louis Crane,

BH is a mathematical and observational representation in that there is no information receivable by the observer, whereas the observer can receive information from outside of it from event horizon onwards when the observer is out of it. In this context I think, ABM is only an observational representation of artificially created temporal events and have no practical...

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Author Louis Crane wrote on Oct. 13, 2009 @ 22:08 GMT
Dear Terry,

I dont think history bears out your attitude to social behavior at all. Most of history is dominated by religion and religious conflict. People are all too ready to drop immediate practical purposes for some higher goal. Its a fundamental human need. I mentioned the pyramids and the cathedrals.

I think you are confusing necessity with human compulsion. Everything we have ever created we have been driven to by nature and necessity. If I am correct, this is the only way to the stars, and achieving the creation of the ABH technology will be a watershed for the human future. We can go on paying the bills without it, but it will get harder and harder for future generations as Earth resources progressively degrade. It is in our genes to care about the future.

Notice that you are not even able to insult quantum gravity without lapsing into religious metaphors yourself. "Selling ones soul" only has meaning in a worldview with a transcendental struggle and purpose at its core.

By the way, you catch more flies with honey.

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Terry Padden wrote on Oct. 14, 2009 @ 03:05 GMT

Re your final points: It seems, once again, humour does not travel well - especially electronically. No insult was intended. I obviously misread you. My apologies. Perhaps you could loosen up just a little.

Here is not really the place for us to argue interpretations of history and sociology, but a brief response to your response.

1. RE 1st Para: I agree that...

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Oct. 14, 2009 @ 16:24 GMT
Dear Louis Crane,

There is a descriptive error in my posting on, Oct. 13, 2009 @ 13:49 GMT:

'Anyhow the Screening and Antiscreening behavior in QED described by asymptotic freedom on gauge theories is the representation of micro BH in quantum level that I would like to call it as QBH', is to be as:

'Anyhow the Screening and Antiscreening behavior in QED, described from asymptotic freedom in QCD on gauge theories is the representation of micro BH in quantum level that I would like to call it as QBH'.

Regretting for the inconvenience.

Yours jayakar

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Jan. 20, 2010 @ 15:26 GMT
Congratulation to the winner.

Admittedly, it was the judgment of jury that made me curious. When I read only the abstract some time ago, I looked in vain for the word Spinoza. Having read the essay now, I am disappointed that Spinoza is does mention Spinoza just once and not at all for any of his may very prudent insights but for his pantheism.

Spinoza was certainly correct when he denied atomism and indivisibles in mathematics. He declared it absurd to claim that bodies are composed from areas, areas are composed from lines, and lines are composed from points.

As Spinoza objected to the act of creation, he would perhaps object to the idea of a single big bang.

I do not consider sensational and even religiously colored wild speculations genuine contributions to foundational questions. Maybe, they are nonetheless valuable because they challenge us to ask for hidden flaws in the most basic logic behind possible fallacies. My favorite focus is on the notion singularity.

If I am correct, then the function 1/(x-1), i.e. with a pole, has the value -oo for x=0.999..., which means the limit from the left to x=1, and the value +oo for x-->1 from x>1 with x in IR.

The basis for this remedy is my insight that a number dos not denote a single point and also not the unquantifiable sauce of uncountably much of rather than infinitely many points, but it denotes a measure alias two points on a line. Simply speaking numbers denote the distance between two points with respect to a given unit one. Is there really a measure exactly at x=1? No. There are two different measures, one from the left and one from the right. Buridan's donkey cannot suffer starvation if we use prudent mathematics.

Sorry for killing fireplace romantics.


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Christian Corda wrote on Jan. 20, 2010 @ 16:11 GMT
Dear Louis,

my best congratulation for winning this Essay Context.



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Roy Johnstone wrote on Jan. 22, 2010 @ 03:26 GMT
Dear Louis,

Congratulations on your win! Great essay, I liked the optimism!

Any chance you can cite a good reference/s which support/s the assertion, in relation to baby universe creation, that....

"the maximal analytic continuations of the standard BH solutions to Einstein's equation suggest that they do" ?

Are we talking universes or white holes?



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Steve Dufourny wrote on Jan. 23, 2010 @ 10:29 GMT
Hi dear Mr Crane,


You know I have thought about your essay, I have some ideas ,the volume of a sphere and the rotation and the mass are proportionals....thus to create an ABH these parameters must be checked in correlation with the universal quantic and cosmologic spheres,it is the mass the secret and its attraction ,thus with a BH all is not perceptible thus a critic point exists in this constant.

Thus all BH are in equations and thus the proportion is universal.

A BH is a sphere,it turns and has a mass which implies an non perceptibe physicality .


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Streve Dufourny wrote on Jan. 26, 2010 @ 10:41 GMT
You know I asked me all days what is the pure rule of these centers ,these spheres, these BH,

In my line of reasoning about spheres and the link mv, their mass and the velocity of rotation spinal are linked in a pure universal constant.Thus the velocity of rotation is in a kind of universal fractal of spheres.

In this logic the volume is important too.

If the stars produce particles due to their intrinsic system, this electromagnetism is polarised by the planetary gravity and its complexification in 3D, creating lifes ,intelligences and conscious.

Thus a sorting and a synchronization between gravity and electromagnetism becomes the main part of the puzzle on this line time.

Thus all has a rule of complementarity to create.

Thus when a star produces in a sphericality, all this production has a not utile rest, it is there it is interesting about the rule of the BH, they balance the particles and the rests, thus the space at this scale is connected with sevaral hypothesis, the centers or the center of our Universe where all turns around are relevant about a kind of tori system of re diffusion.

All spheres have a specific rule for the evolution in my humble opinion.

Best Regards


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Steve Dufourny wrote on Jan. 26, 2010 @ 10:45 GMT
Thus of course in this uniqueness, it doesn't exist white holes because the tori is linked with the centers, probably our stars or others.


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Anonymous wrote on Feb. 4, 2010 @ 17:54 GMT
'Infinite curvature'? Elementary mathematics teach only a straight line can extend from infinity to infinity, not so a curves that tends to come around and therefore cn be measured.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Feb. 6, 2010 @ 12:47 GMT
no sense, no whole point of vue, no reallism thus no rational for me.

I invite you thus to learn what is the difference between the physical finite system in evolution and the unknown behind the wall of perception.There you shall understand better the infinity I beleive in my humble opinion



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Luis wrote on Nov. 30, 2010 @ 20:14 GMT
Mr. Crane,

Interesting essay, thanks!

I was wondering, Would feeding the ABH charged particles make it easier to store/move it or is it simply better to push it around as described in the main text?

Thanks again,


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Luis replied on Dec. 2, 2010 @ 21:47 GMT
To clarify my question,

Charging the black hole is a divergent process (as the cross section of same-charge particles will decrease with the charge of the black hole); Can we charge the black whole to a point where electromagnetic fiels provide a practical* way to move this massive object?

*For calculation purposes define as "practical" an electromagnetic force of the same order or greater than the force provided by pushing.

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Markus Maute wrote on Dec. 6, 2010 @ 08:47 GMT
Dear Louis,

great essay, congratulations.

I have independently come up with quite a similar idea (maybe it was influenced by having read Lee Smolin's impressive book many years ago).

I felt very lonely with these thoughts and was quite glad to find somebody with quite similar considerations.

What was missing in my scenario was a reason as to why an advanced civilisation would want to create microscopic black holes.

I would like to ask you, what you think about my solution to that problem, that I try to sketch in the following (in particular if it physically makes sense to you):

The conjecture is that any advanced civilisation has the desire to do information processing.

This inevitably leads to manipulations of (physical) structures on ever smaller scales.

But there is an ultimate limit, namely the Planck scale. In a paper I found it was calculated that Moore's law can hold at best about 600 years, for then one reaches the Planck scale. (This is a time scale way shorter than the one you mention in respect to running out of energy supplies).

The point is that if we really reach this scale with information technology, we not only would be able to manipulate the very fabric of spacetime, but we could do it in a controlled way. Thus we not only could be able to create microscopic black holes, but we could create "Designer Microscopic Black Holes", seeding information into them.

The whole scenario appears not too far fetched to me, taking into account that large companies are already discussing to harness accelerators for generating synchrotron radiation for the production of microchips. Thus my predicting is that there might arise kind of a Moore's law in respect to the scaling up of accelerators to produce ever smaller information processing structures. (The idea of gamma-ray lasers might also make sense in this context).

Best regard,


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