Science How to Make a Black Hole in a Science Lab

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by The Helper, Oct 30, 2019.

  1. The Helper

    The Helper Administrator Staff Member

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    Nearly 50 years ago—before Interstellar, A Brief History of Time, and certainly the Event Horizon Telescope—postdoctoral researcher William Unruh was attempting to explain black holes to a crowd at an Oxford University colloquium. There were no reference points with which to compare an object so dense that light cannot escape its warped gravity. So he devised his own little analogy: Imagine a waterfall, and a little fish accidentally swimming over its edge, too slow to swim against the water’s flow. The fish would forever be stuck at the bottom of the waterfall, never to return to its home. That’s basically what was happening to the light.

    A few years later, Unruh was teaching a physics class on the behavior of fluids, and realized the mathematics of this analogy painted a picture even more similar to a black hole than he’d previously considered. Perhaps analogs, smaller experiments that obey a similar set of physical rules to the black holes, would mimic other fantastical physical effects found in black holes as well.

    For decades, Unruh flushed out the ideas in theory only, and by the time he was a professor himself, he and his postdocs realized they could make the idea a reality. They could build a black hole-like object in their lab.

    Scientists since the 1980s have designed, and more recently constructed, a slew of black hole analogs that attempt to recreate the weirdness of spacetime predicted by scientists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Just this year, a team led by physicist Jeff Steinhauer at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology discovered the strongest evidence yet of the radiation that Hawking predicted would emanate from black holes’ outer rims using one such analog, for example. But the comparison between the analog and the real universe can only go so far.

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