The Brite Adventure

There once was a woman named Brite
Whose speed was far faster than Light
She sat out one day
And in a relative way,
Returned the Previous Night!
Brite Lite and her sister Star Lite, were science students at MIT, the Martian Institute of Technology, who studied the relativistic phenomena of black holes. Miss Brite reasoned that if time slows down for a space traveler, from the standpoint of an observer, than time must go in reverse if her speed exceeded c.

After her journey where/when she traveled into the past, she died before she could tell us how she was able to break the light barrier by getting around Einstein’s rule that nothing can exceed the speed of light. This is the story.

Brite and Star, along with their genetically engineered dog Bud Lite, get into a space ship and travel to a small black hole with an average density of about 200 million tons per cubic centimeter. But its center would be about a hundred billion billion times smaller than an atomic nucleus.

When they arrive at the black hole they behold a strange sight. What they see is a big black circle, though a tiny bit egg-shaped, in front of the background of the distant stars behind it. “How odd!” Brite says. “The bulge of the equator is not symmetric. It’s larger on the right side than the left.”

“No. It’s symmetric,” says Star. It’s bending the light waves of all the stars behind it. Remember it’s spinning so the right side is moving away from you. Since the left side is moving towards you, it can capture and bend star light more easily. So the black hole will appear to us to have a bulge on the right.”

“Of course,” says Star. But we can still use the ship’s computer to approximate the true circumference. Then we can divide by 6.28 to get the radius.”

“Why 6.28?”

“That’s an approximation of 2 pi. Weren’t you paying attention in Geometry Class?”

“No!” says Star. “You can not calculate the radius of a black hole by dividing the circumference by 2 pi. Its gravity is so strong it distorts the space inside it!”

“Well I’m going to put on a pressure suit and a rocket pack and go down to take a closer look at it,” says Brite.

“Before you go down there you better calculate the amount of thrust you need to escape with the retro rockets in your backpack.”

“Don’t worry,” says Brite. “I’m an expert at Isaac Newton’s gravity equations.”

“We are at a black hole!” says Star. It’s distortion of space-time is so powerful that Newton’s equations may not give you answers that are accurate enough. You better use Albert Einstein’s equations. “

“It’s a small black hole,” says Brite. “When you go down to one this size your calculations don’t have to be that accurate.”

“Suit yourself.”

“OK. Help me put it on.”

Miss Brite opens the door to the ship’s airlock chamber and steps out into space. “Are you OK?” Star asks on her radio.

“Yep. I’m fine. I am leaving the ship now,” says Brite.

“Did you calculate when you need to fire your rockets?”

“Yes. I know the exact number of seconds.”

“Well you better punch that into your backpack computer for your safety.”

“Very well. I’m doing it now.”

Star watches her sister fall down to the black hole as she keeps an eye on Brite through the ship’s telescope. Brite is getting smaller and turning a dull red. “Are you alright?” she calls.

“I’m OK. I’m still weightless and I want to fall a little closer to take a good look.”

“Be careful.”

Star waits in silence a few seconds longer trying not to worry. Then she jumps when she hears Brite scream over the radio.

“What’s the matter?” yells Star.

“I’m in pain,” wails Brite. “I’m in terrible pain!”

“Brite, fire rockets now!”

“I can’t! I can’t move,” she sobs. “I’m in terrible…pain.” And she is. She is so much agony she blacks out. Her computer fires the retro-rockets for her. When she approaches the ship she wakes up and makes it to the hatch.

Inside the ship Star takes the rocket pack off of Brite and helps her take her pressure suit off. “What happened?” She asks.

“I was falling weightless and everything was fine,” explains Brite. “But then,” she continued, “all of a sudden I felt something tugging at my feet and my legs were being ripped out of my pelvis. At the same time my arms flew upward towards the ship. I felt like my hands were being ripped from my wrists and my arms were being pulled out of my sockets.”

“That was tidal gravity,” says Star. “Astronauts get a little of that when they are in orbit around the earth. But around a black hole it’s a whole lot stronger.

“But what would cause my arms to be pulled upward?”

“There was such a tremendous difference between the gravity above you and the gravity below you. It’s like back at home when the moon pulls on the earth. Seawater under the moon gets pulled toward it. The ocean on the opposite side of the earth gets pushed away, though in that case it’s by centrifugal force.”

Star takes Brite by the hand and says “This black hole is extremely dangerous. I can’t let anything happen to you. You’re my sister and everyone on Earth wants to know your secret on how you travel faster than light. Let’s try a larger black hole so it will be safer.”

“Don’t you mean a smaller black hole?”

“No. A larger one. A larger one has more gravity. But it will be spread out over a larger surface area. So the tidal forces will be smaller.”

They set a course for 3C273, a quasar 2 billion light years away from the Milky Way Galaxy. When they arrive they are in their mid-sixties. They have spent 20 years at an acceleration of 1g and another 20 years at deceleration.

From their point of view, the voyage took 40 years but they know that from time dilation, 2 billion years have passed on the earth.

But they are not worried. Brite knows how to travel faster than light. So they can travel backwards in time and get back home when all of their friends are still alive. Maybe they can change history!

Quasar 3C273 has a mass of about 15 trillion suns and about 30 light years around.
“How beautiful!” says Brite, as they observe the blue funnel shaped jets of hot gasses coming out of the north and south poles of the black hole. “Surely they are not coming out of the hole.”

“Of course not,” says Star. “There are gasses you don’t see trying to fall in. But the hole’s gravity slings them to the poles.”

“Well I’m ready to go down and take a closer look,” says Brite.

“You better use our ship’s descent module this time,” says Star. The rockets on your backpack may not be enough to escape the gravity.”

“Agreed,” says Brite.

Brite suits up and climbs in the little craft. But she makes a fatal mistake. She was so distracted when Bud was barking too loud she used Isaac Newton’s 1687 equations to calculate the hole’s gravity instead of Albert Einstein’s. They are not accurate enough.

Brite begins her descent to the giant black hole. She looks up through the glass dome at the top of her module and sees the mother ship. And she is comfortable.

As she falls closer to the hole, she marvels at the beauty at the nearby stars above. Then she notices something strange.

All of the stars she sees are in a circle straight above her glass dome. She sees no star light at all around the lower edges of the dome that surround her shoulders. Actually, the stars are all around her. Though she feels weightless as her lapbelt holds her down, she is in an area of gravity so powerful that she sees starlight being bent around the black hole.

The only stars that are actually above her are in the center of the circle. The stars she sees between the center of the circle and the outer edge are really to the side of the module. The stars she sees on the edge are really on the opposite side of the black hole.

Then some of the stars start to change color. She fails to realize this is a sign of danger.

“Brite,” says Star over the radio, “don’t you think you should fire the retro rockets?”

“Don’t worry. I’m fine.”

But she is not fine. As soon as she says this she slips through the event horizon and feels…nothing. She notices …nothing. Even inside the black hole she can still see the stars overhead. Though the starlight can not escape the black hole it can still fall down into it.

The computer fires her retro rockets but it is too late. She does not feel the acceleration she needs to return to Star. Something is wrong she calmly thinks. Is there some kind of malfunction?

The stars overhead disappear but she can still see light. The infra-red light she could not see in space in now visible as green light.

Brite is frightened because she now knows something is terribly wrong. She screams when a horrible feeling of pain comes over her. But this time it’s not tidal gravity. It is a whole lot worse.

The starlight she saw a moment ago is still there. But the hole’s gravity is compressing it to the tighter x-ray and gamma ray wavelengths. The radiation goes through the metal in her space ship like visible light goes through window glass.

Brite is burned alive like she is in a microwave oven. Her ship explodes into millions of fragments…

In the mother ship, Star can still see her sister’s craft in the ship’s telescope. To her it appears the module is still on the surface of the black hole getting redder and dimmer until she finally hears Brite’s last transmission over the radio – “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”

But she knows her sister is gone. Soon all the atoms in Brite’s remains will be torn into the most basic fundamental particles and sucked to the center of the black hole…where they will remain for all eternity in a space smaller than an atomic nucleus.

And that is why we still don’t know how to travel faster than the speed of light!