Life under a black sun

T. Opatrný, L. Richterek, P. Bakala

American Journal of Physics, (2017), vol. 85, 1, p. 8


Life is dependent on the income of energy with low entropy and the disposal of energy with high entropy. On Earth, the low-entropy energy is provided by solar radiation and the high-entropy energy is disposed of as infrared radiation emitted into cold space. Here, we turn the situation around and imagine the cosmic background radiation as the low-entropy source of energy for a planet orbiting a black hole into which the high-entropy energy is expelled. We estimate the power that can be produced by thermodynamic processes on such a planet, with a particular interest in planets orbiting a fast rotating Kerr black hole as in the science fiction movie Interstellar. We also briefly discuss a reverse Dyson sphere absorbing cosmic background radiation from the outside and dumping waste energy to a black hole inside.