Black holes are not generally seen as life-sustaining galactic features. Crushing everything that gets near you into the second dimension will do that. But, under a very specific set of circumstances, a black hole could potentially support life, even alien civilizations.
Granted, these are unusual circumstances. First of all, according to theoretical physicist Tomáš Opatrný, it would need to be a “satiated” black hole, namely one that isn’t absorbing mass and isn’t pumping out energy. Black holes are actually very bright, because the mass inside them is superheated as it gets squished, so you would have a cold “sun” of sorts. Get the Soundgarden jokes out of your system now.
So, what about heat? Simple life forms can live in extreme conditions, but they need warmth to get more complex than that. The solution is background radiation: The temperature of the universe was much hotter after the Big Bang, warm enough to liquify water on a planet and support life. Of course, that temperature faded pretty quickly, fast enough that life on typical planets wouldn’t be able to use it.
Except, in the case of black holes, a planet orbiting them would experience time differently, with one hour on that planet being seven years Earth time. That gives our theoretical alien civilization a lot of time to grow, find a new heat source, and deal with the other problems this generates, like the fact that this same time-slowing factor will also eventually make the light from the black hole far more intense, as in “all metal is liquid” intense.
Even the most out-there theoretical physicists agree that this is extremely unlikely chain of events. But, then again, we live on a planet that is somehow the perfect distance from the Sun to maintain liquid water, far enough away to avoid dangerous celestial events, orbiting the sun for billions of years before everything aligned just right for the first life to emerge 3.5 billion years ago. So, perhaps another civilization, orbiting a black hole, isn’t quite as far-fetched as we might think.
(Via New Scientist)