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Posts Tagged "black holes"

@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

You say you’d love a fun science evening? Great, here’s your chance. Scientific American will be co-hosting a tweet-up and reception in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History the evening of Wednesday, January 18. While we expand our minds, we’ll enjoy some cocktails and open access to the Beyond Planet Earth exhibit. Attendance [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Why Bother with Ordinary Fireworks When You Can Have Black Hole Fireworks?

Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, one of the creators of loop quantum gravity, and his collaborator Hal Haggard have just come out with a new paper on black holes. Ever attuned to puns, Rovelli calls it the “fireworks” model, alluding to the firewall argument that has consumed black-hole theorists over the past two years. As if [...]

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Critical Opalescence

What Would It Be Like to Fall into a Naked Singularity? [Guest Post]

Last year, novelist Sergio De La Pava compared the American criminal justice system to the strange physics concept of naked singularities. That inspired me to ask the author of Sci Am’s article on the concept, theoretical physicist Pankaj Joshi of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai (right in photo), for an update. Watch [...]

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Critical Opalescence

What Would It Mean for Time to Come to an End? [Video]

Could time come to an end? What would that even mean? Last month I gave a talk about this strange physics idea at a TEDx event in Trento, Italy, based on a Scientific American article I wrote in 2010. My conceit was that time’s end poses a paradox that might be resolved if time is [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Physicists Find a Backdoor Way to Do Experiments on Exotic Gravitational Physics

The whole point of an explanation is to reduce something you don’t know to something you do. By that standard, you don’t gain much by explaining anything in terms of black holes. Appealing to the most mysterious objects known to science as an explanation sounds like using one mystery to explain another. Yet this is [...]

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Critical Opalescence

When You Fall into a Black Hole, How Long Have You Got?

In chatting with colleagues after a talk this week, Joe Polchinski said he’d love to fall into a black hole. Most theoretical physicists would. It’s not because they have some peculiar death wish or because science funding prospects are so dark these days. They are just insanely curious about what would happen. Black holes are [...]

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Critical Opalescence

As If 1 Giant Black Hole Weren’t Enough, What’s a Galaxy Doing with 3?

Last Thursday, my colleague John Matson described a truly amazing galaxy known, somewhat unromantically, as BX442. It has a majestic spiral pattern while hundreds of its galactic contemporaries were gawky and misshapen—a peculiar and special anomaly which suggests to many astronomers that cosmic pinwheels are ephemeral art forms, like Tibetan sand mandalas. John’s piece spurs [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Does It Matter If Black Holes Are Popping into Existence around Us All the Time?

It may well have been the liveliest hour and a half I’ve ever spent in the company of theoretical physicists. In April, during a workshop I was attending on black holes, Bill Unruh gave a talk that challenged his colleagues on a point almost all of them thought had been settled in the mid-1980s. His [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Charismatic Megaparticles Might Hint at Dark Matter, and Much Besides

At a lecture I went to some years ago, astrophysicist Trevor Weekes compared garden-variety elementary particles to mosquitoes. They are plentiful and easy to find—indeed, they find you. But ultra-high-energy gamma rays, he said, are like elephants. They are fairly rare, but among the greatest of creatures. They often roam in spectacular habitats. Their sheer [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Giving ALMA a Heart Transplant

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Credit: ESO/C. Malin

Before they can see Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, the astronomers of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) must complete an epic to-do list. The most important item on that list: Bring the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) into the group. It’s easy to see why. After all, ALMA [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

How to See a Black Hole: Introducing Dark Star Diaries

Sagittarius A*

The image you see here is a computer-generated model of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which we call Sagittarius A*. More precisely, it is a model of the “shadow” that Sagittarius A*, with its mass of four million suns, should cast. The glowing blob in the lower right corner is [...]

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Guest Blog

Maybe black holes don’t really exist

On March 28, 2011, the Swift Burst Alert Telescope detected a gamma-ray event that, in contrast with any previously observed gamma-ray burst, remained bright and highly variable for 48 hours. The gamma-ray emission was accompanied by bright x-ray emission that continued for two weeks. Astrophysicists attributed this event to the tidal disruption of a star [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Astrobiology Roundup

mosaic.001

                      Lots of new scientific results in the past couple of weeks feed directly into the central questions of astrobiology – from the search for life, to the environment of interplanetary and interstellar space, and the grand cosmological terrain we find ourselves in. No Methane [...]

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Life, Unbounded

In Defense Of Metaphors In Science Writing

(James Gillray)

“Science is all metaphor” Timothy Leary We live in an elegant universe. The cosmos is like a string symphony. Genes are selfish. There is an endless battle between thermodynamics and gravity. Do you love these statements, or hate them? The reading world gets pretty divided over whether or not it’s okay to apply metaphors and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Hole Roundup

Spinning black hole (NASA)

Black holes, black holes, and more black holes. In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking, talking, and even dreaming about black holes (yes really, somnolent thoughts seem well suited to these fantastic objects). Mostly this has been an effect of my book Gravity’s Engines hitting the shelves, but it’s also because barely a day [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes are Everywhere

Holes are everywhere, if you look...

This post is the second in a series that accompanies the upcoming publication of my book ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’ (Scientific American/FSG). Black holes, even the really hugely massive ones, are tiny – positively microscopic pinpricks scattered throughout the vastness of spacetime. Even the largest, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Nomadic Planets May Make Pit Stops

crop_rogue

The notion of what constitutes a typical planetary system has undergone some serious revision in the past twenty years. Our own solar system, once seen as a timeless and almost mechanical entity, is now known to be on the margins of chaos. Long term modeling of its dynamical evolution suggests that orbits of an inner [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Encounter at Dawn: Stephen Hawking, me, and an ATM

A black hole lenses the light of the Milky Way in the background (Credit: Ute Kraus amd Axel Mellinger)

This weekend Stephen Hawking turns 70, an extraordinary physical accomplishment to add to an extraordinary list of physics accomplishments. Seeing this news reminded me of the the first time that I crossed paths with Hawking. I’d love to be able to say that it was in intellectual debate, an exchange of brilliant ideas, but in [...]

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Observations

Wormholes May Save Physics from Black Hole Infernos

Black_Hole_Milkyway

Are black holes surrounded by walls of fire? Does this imply that one (or more) of our most cherished physical principles—and here I’m talking about biggies like quantum theory, the conservation of information or Einstein’s equivalence principle—is wrong? Any may our savior come in the form of wormholes? These are the questions consuming some of [...]

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Observations

Merging Black Holes May Be Detectable by 2017

LIGO gravitational wave observatory

In his indispensable 1994 book Black Holes and Time Warps, physicist Kip Thorne wrote of the tantalizing discoveries that awaited in the coming century. In particular, the existence of gravitational waves—ripples in the very fabric of space and time caused by the motion, and especially the collision, of extremely massive objects—might soon graduate from theoretical [...]

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Observations

Newfound Gas Cloud Points to Possible Planets Near the Milky Way’s Black Hole

Times are tough on planet Earth right now, but at least we don’t have a supermassive black hole lurking just over the horizon. A new study suggests that stars near the Milky Way’s central black hole may well form planets. The researchers based their analysis on a very recent discovery of a gas cloud making [...]

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Observations

Some supermassive black holes may not be so super after all

Black hole with accretion disk and jet

Black holes are the most massive compact objects in the universe—the supermassive variety are millions or even billions of times the mass of the sun. But new research may take these cosmic colossi down a peg or two. According to an analysis in the February 17 issue of Nature, the masses of supermassive black holes [...]

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