Wormholes, Warp Speed and other Weird Things
The appearance of black holes in all forms of science fiction has been frequent, especially since the possibility of wormholes was suggested. In 1978, Disney released a film entitled The Black Hole about a ship of assorted human beings and robots threatened by a nearby black hole. Supposedly, the ship is in orbit around the black hole, but the audience is never told exactly how close. In the film, the black hole appears as it does in many illustrations, a great blue swirling whirlpool of matter. It is quite possible that a black hole actually looks like this. However, the system in which the black hole is located does not appear to be binary, which leads one to question where all of this blue matter is coming from. This problem is only the tip of the iceberg of scientific inaccuracies in The Black Hole, however. At no time during the film do the bodies of the characters stretch, break apart, or otherwise behave in the way scientists believe matter does near a black hole. At one point during the film, one of the characters (who are inexplicably clinging to the outside of the ship with no space suits or helmets of any kind, completely exposed to the vacuum of space) is almost sucked into the black hole but is miraculously saved by the crew's loyal robot. How, one might ask, is this robot's propulsion system stronger than the gravitational pull of the black hole? But by far the most horrendous aspect of the film is the climatic end sequence, in which the main characters, safe within the cockpit of their ship, are sucked into the black hole, where they spin around and around as if in a toilet bowl and then emerge in a tranquil region of the universe near a beautiful moon. Presumably, the crew enters a wormhole; however, wormholes are merely theoretical, there being no concrete evidence that such objects exist. Even if wormholes did exist, only very tiny particles would be transported, for larger collections of matter would be torn apart before being able to enter the wormhole. The creators of this film, however, ignored this aspect of black holes. For their part, the film's eccentric-but-lovable scientist and his villainous robot fall into the black hole independently of the ship, again ignoring the fact that space is a vacuum, and go their separate ways: the robot emerges in the fiery pit of hell and the scientist floats up to heaven. No joke. It is the opinion of the authors that The Black Hole is not only a poor excuse for science fiction, but also contains almost no scientific plausibility whatsoever. It is obvious that Disney's scientific consultants were on vacation during the making of this film.
|The famous Star Trek franchise includes numerous references to time travel, warp speed, and wormholes. Ships frequently travel to other parts of the universe or even back in time via wormholes. In one episode of the television series Star Trek: Voyager, the Voyager crew crosses the event horizon of a black hole and becomes trapped inside. Supposedly, the ship was initially attracted to the singularity because of a signal from a Voyager from another time, although how this actually occurs is unclear. The ship makes several attempts to jump to warp speed (i.e. at a speed greater than that of light, which, according to Einstein's theory of relativity, is impossible) and appears to exit the black hole, but in reality fails to. The ship and its crew somehow manage to remain whole while within the event horizon with some sort of futuristic technology, without which they would be torn to bits. Eventually, the ship manages to escape, again with a form of so-called "Treknology," which would be impossible otherwise. As Stephen Hawking has theorized, light rays are sometimes able to escape a black hole, but the vast majority of matter cannot resist its gravitational pull.|
In the film Contact, the protagonist, played by Jodie Foster, is ricocheted into space by a machine designed by extraterrestrials and transported to a distant star called Vega. The pod in which she is seated approaches a swirling blue whirlpool that looks very much like the contemporary conception of a black hole. She is whisked through the center of the whirlpool into a series of colorful tunnels, which she later identifies as a wormhole. From this information, the audience is led to believe that Foster has entered a black hole or something similar and has been transported to another part of the universe by one of Hawking's wormholes. Theoretically, a wormhole, if there is indeed such a thing, could transport matter to another part of the universe in a very short period of time. However, it is doubtful that a human would be able to survive the singularity's gravitational forces. Even if a person managed to get close enough to a singularity without being completely destroyed, the tunnels that some scientists believe are inside a black hole would crush a human body. Without some sort of advanced technology to balance this effect, it is impossible for one to travel through a black hole.
The opening of Kevin J. Anderson's Star Wars novel Jedi Search features a cluster of black holes called the Maw. As he and Chewie whiz by these phenomena in the Millenium Falcon, Han Solo reminisces about a run-in with the black holes that he had on his famed Kessel Run. The shortest distance to Kessel is past the Maw, sometimes dangerously close to it. Apparently some hull plating was almost ripped off the Falcon as they hurtled past it on that record-breaking flight, and they only managed to escape because of their speed. This feat is only believeable in the context of faster than light speed, which, while present in the Star Wars universe in the form of the hyperdrive, is quite unbelieveable on its own.