Physicists Create Extremely Accurate Simulation of Entering a Black Hole

Illustration for article titled Physicists Create Extremely Accurate Simulation of Entering a Black Hole

Want to visit the black hole at the center of our galaxy? Now you can, in a movie made by University of Colorado scientists Andrew Hamilton and Gavin Polhemus.

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New Scientist explains:

Light from stars directly behind the hole is swallowed by the horizon, while light from other stars is merely bent by the black hole's gravity, forming a warped image around the hole . . . [researchers] Hamilton and Polhemus have painted a red grid on the horizon to help visualise it (as the horizon is spherical, the two circles on the grid represent the north and south "poles" of its central black hole). And as you pass one Schwartzschild radius, another artificial visual aid pops up. The white grid that loops around you marks where distant observers would place the horizon – this is where you'd see other people falling in if they followed you through the horizon.

The strangest sight is reserved for your last moments. So close to the centre of the black hole, you feel powerful tidal forces. If you're falling in feet first, gravity at your head is much weaker than at your feet. That would pull a real observer apart, and it also affects the light falling in around you - light from above your head is stretched out and shifted to the red end of the spectrum. Eventually it gets red-shifted into nothingness, so your whole view will be squeezed into a horizontal ring.

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The big question that still remains is what happens once you cross that event horizon. Obviously, you'd be ripped apart - but how? The usual rules of physics don't seem to apply, and physicists have speculated that you might enter a state of "total entropy" where many points in space share the same characteristics. Does that mean you'd be in several places at once? That you'd take on the same characteristics of many states of matter simultaneously? Let's just hope that it isn't some sort of 2001 thing where you turn into a floating baby and an old man at the same time.

via New Scientist

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DISCUSSION

"Extremely accurate" simulation ?

Compared to what? Other simulations, almost certainly, but not to any real observations or data since, as far as I know, no one has ever fallen into a black hole and survived to report his/her findings, except for the crew of the Palomino.

Sometimes I feel shame for being a physicist. It used to be the case that people in my profession would report their results based on actual data. These days, however, pretty much anything goes.

Sure, spend time, money, and effort developing computational models of black holes. Just remember that Einstein's field equations may not, and most likely do not, apply near the singularity, because of quantum effects.

Oh, have a computational model of string theory? Awesome. Just remember that string theory has absolutely NO empirical predictions that can be observed in the next, oh, I don't know, 100 years or so.

I used to be a theoretical particle physicist. I used to do research on cosmological models. I even came up with a model for why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe (the so-called baryogenesis problem). Then I woke up, smelled last year's coffee, and realized that theoretical particle physics and cosmology have become a game of pure mathematics, with little or no actual input from mother nature.