Atom & Cosmos

Life in black holes, energy from dark matter and other intriguing possibilities in this week's news

Black holes may harbor life
Life may exist inside the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, a new study speculates. Rotating, charged black holes have stable, periodic orbits for planets and photons. Invisible from the outside, advanced civilizations might inhabit the interiors of supermassive black holes, with orbiting photons and other light from the inside illuminating the planets and providing an energy source for living things. Vyacheslav Dokuchaev of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow notes in an article originally posted April 1 at —Ron Cowen

A dark source of life
In some rare cases, dark matter, rather than starlight, might provide the energy for life to emerge, evolve and survive on planets. Particles of dark matter that collide and annihilate could generate the requisite energy, Dan Hooper of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and Jason Steffen of the University of Chicago propose. A large planet residing in a region with a high density of slow-moving dark matter could plausibly capture and annihilate enough dark matter to maintain temperatures at which liquid water could exist on the orb’s surface, even in the absence of starlight, the researchers report in a paper posted March 29 at —Ron Cowen

Reviving human space flight
To revive NASA’s human space flight program, with the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars, the space agency should increase the scale and scope of studies in the life sciences and the physical sciences over the next decade, a new National Research Council report recommends. The report, released April 5, also examines the role of the International Space Station in this research. —Ron Cowen

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