I have blogged previously on John W. Campbell’s The Moon is Hell. In addition to being grand lord editor of Analog, he also wrote other works, many of them excellent. One of these, The Black Star Passes, [Link] has, as I recall, to do with the passage of the remains of a deceased star, a body that emits very little light but still has considerable mass and hence gravitational potential.
In the period Campbell wrote these the idea of a gravitational singularity, commonly known as a “black hole”, was around, [Link] but the nature of such had not been elaborated or diffused to the point that science fiction authors could readily use the notion. Thus, we may only speculate whether Campbell would use his original dead star or the gravitational singularity if he were writing today. Of course, he wouldn’t be writing such today since the nature of protagonists and the role of scientists has changed in literature since then. Perhaps that’s why some enjoy the old fiction. Certainly Kimball Kinnison pales Luke Skywalker, and Richard Ballenger Seaton dwarfs Dr. Who and Louis Woo outpaces Indiana Jones.
Nonetheless, one of the questions that has wandered about has to do with the collisions of galaxies (Kinnison’s universe courtesy of E. E. Smith [Link]) and what happens to the gravitational singularities that reside at the center of galaxies (the ring world universe courtesy of Larry Niven [Link]). One theory advanced that when two galaxies collided their central gravitational singularities might/should merge but because that merger would almost certainly be asymmetric (if they are rotating) then they should emit bursts of gravitational energy and receive a thrust.
Hence the idea that the merged singularity might be ejected from the merged galaxy. Hence we might one day experience the passage of a merged and nomadic gravitational singularity.
The only problem with this is that these bursts of gravitational radiation have not been observed. Now new theory has been advanced that as the two singularities spiral into one their spins align so that the burst of gravitational radiation does not occur and lo! the merged singularity remains in the merged galaxy.[Link] [Link]
This is all rather like two chocolate covered cherries smashing into each other and resulting in a combined candy with two cherries in the center covered with chocolate. Dark, of course, for health’s sake.
But a better analogy may be the three different ways a book spins. If you spin a book – use a hardbound you don’t care about – along each of its three natural axes, you’ll find that two are stable and one isn’t.
Maybe that’s the joy of science fiction and science? The way they aren’t the same.