The Slow Speed of Thought


May 13, 2013 by bck1402

Of course, the speed of thought is supposed to be fast, but at times, it does take a long while for a few disparate things to click together in my head. If I were still writing The Syndi-Jean Journal on a semi-regular basis, this is one of those things that probably would have gone into that.

I’ve written before about how the concept of Gravity is a bit of a conundrum to me and in watching the documentary, Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman over our local Discovery Channel on Astro, something else came to mind. It was a repeat episode on “The Riddle of Black Holes.”

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There are some who say that black holes do exist out there, although I am skeptical about that, but I’ll accept that black holes are out there. They are a science fiction trope and there was that movie way back when. And there was that Doctor Who episode that featured a black hole too. Why do they call it that anyway? Granted, it’s black, but it’s supposedly also not a hole at all. It’s just that the gravitational pull is so strong that it sucks everything towards it, making it look like everything around it is falling into a hole (based on the numerous videos on various documentaries or movies).

But let’s take that as fact – the gravitational pull of a black hole is so strong it pulls everything in. Granted, it’s only from a certain point where the gravity well begins that the gravitational pull is so strong (and you can head back to Peter Cawdron’s great piece on Gravity which did explain a few things for me). Stephan Hawking is still trying to figure that one out.

Here’s another fact that been drilled into my head – Nothing travels faster than the speed of light. Or at least, the speed of light is the fastest, measurable, speed we know. It’s one of those things that have us pretty much locked to our region of space in the whole universe. In science fiction, the need to travel faster than the speed of light have given rise to such things as Hyperspeed, Warp Drive, Wormhole technologies, and one thing in particular that suddenly popped into my head from two disparate thoughts coming together – Gravity Drive.

Two little facts – nothing is faster than the speed of light; the gravitational pull of a black sucks everything in, including light! So, light can’t travel fast enough to escape the gravitational pull of a black hole? So what kind of speed might escape the pull of a black hole? the speed of dark? Gravity itself? One of those things that come up with black holes is the event horizon, which led to the movie of the same name… which featured a ship that had a Gravity Drive, powered by a black hole.

Exactly how a gravity drive works, no idea. How would one use gravity as an energy source anyway? What kind of energy can you get out of a black hole?

Gravity can be both strong and weak at the same time, and it’s apparently strong enough to even capture light (not that we can actually see that happening). So, maybe, one of those facts is wrong?

Any thoughts?


3 thoughts on “The Slow Speed of Thought

  1. pcawdron says:

    Some interesting ideas… gravity is one of the oddities of the universe, but it is quite well understood.

    Ignore the Earth and the Moon for a moment. Imagine you’re standing on a hypothetical (and somewhat impossible) flat plane that is hundreds of thousands of miles long (ie, doesn’t curve like Earth and stretches from here to somewhere beyond the Moon). Drop a feather and a hammer in a vacuum and they will both hit the ground on our flat plane at the same time, right?

    Now, repeat the experiment with a slight variation. Drop a feather, a hammer and fire a laser beam sideways and all three will hit the ground at precisely the same time. Strange but true. The laser beam, though, will travel sideways at 299,792km/hr so it will hit a considerable distance away from your feather and your hammer (roughly 300,000 kms away if it takes roughly a second for the fall), but light will fall under the influence of gravity. And that’s quite remarkable. Hammers, feathers and beams of light are all equally effected in precisely the same way and to the same degree under gravity.

    Because Earth curves, we could never conduct this experiment on anything other than the smallest of scales as our laser beam is going to rapidly leave the influence of Earth’s gravity, but the concept works that simply.

    When it comes to gravity and black holes, well, that’s a fascinating topic… I’d better start working on a blog post 🙂

    • bck1402 says:

      Great to hear from you, Peter.
      It is odd that light DOES get affected by gravity as much as everything else, because light is, technically, everywhere, even if we can’t see it (unless it reflects off something). So is it actually light that gets affected by gravity or whatever it is that is reflecting the light for us to see that gets affected?

      • pcawdron says:

        it’s the light itself that is affected.

        Remember E=MC2. Light is a form of energy (E). The hammer and feather are not, they’re mass (M), but as E=MC2 demonstrates, there is an equivalence between energy and mass. They’re distinctly different from each other and yet interchangeable (a nuclear bomb converts mass into energy), and they’re both equally effected by gravity, and that’s quite remarkable (and counter intuitive, as you would expect them to behave differently, with light – which is massless – being unaffected by gravity, but it’s not.)

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