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Black holes are green

April 28, 2006

The idea’s been around for a long time. Misner Thorne and Wheeler’s classic 1973 text Gravitation explained in Chapter 33 how to use a black hole to convert your garbage into electricity with astounding efficiency. They had a neato diagram of the ringworld civilization, the BH, and the trajectory of the garbage rocket.

A NASA press release Monday tells us we’ve proved it’s happening out there. The X-ray observatory Chandra was able to measure the efficiency of a black hole engine, which uses infalling gas as fuel to power a process that scoops out humongous cavities in the black hole’s surrounding material. (Here’s a larger photo.) Equivalent efficiency in a car engine would give you an EPA rating of a billion miles per gallon.

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