Physicist Simulates a Black Hole in a Lab to Prove Hawking Radiation Theory

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 - 1:57PM
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Tuesday, 26 April 2016 - 1:57PM
Physicist Simulates a Black Hole in a Lab to Prove Hawking Radiation Theory
Hawking radiation may have solved the black hole information paradox, theoretically speaking, but scientists have never been able to directly detect it. But that might be about to change, as a physicist has just created a black hole made of sound waves.

It was once thought that, according to the principles of physics, the entropy and volume of a black hole could never decrease. When physicist Jacob Bekenstein proved that, according to the "weird" principles of quantum mechanics, the volume of a black hole gradually decreases until it vanishes completely. Hawking radiation specifically proposes that black holes create and emit light particles, or photons.

But after more than forty years, no one has ever been able to prove this theory, mostly because the light particles emitted from black holes are too tiny and contain too little energy to detect from Earth. As a solution, physicist Jeff Steinhauer from Technion University wanted to bring the black hole to Earth, so to speak, and simulated a laboratory-sized black hole using sound waves. According to his new paper published to arXiv.org, he simulated a black hole event horizon by cooling helium to just above absolute zero, and then heating it extremely fast so it would form a barrier through which sound would not be able to escape, similar to light from a black hole.

If Hawking's calculations hold, then one would predict that small units of sound would escape through the barrier, just as tiny photons are theorized to escape from black holes. And sure enough, Steinhauer detected acoustic phonons, small collections of energy that make up sound, escaping from the black hole simulation. The results were only recently published, and have not yet been peer-reviewed, but physicists are already characterizing the results as both groundbreaking and controversial.

Opening quote
"The experiments are beautiful," physicist Silke Weinfurtner from the University of Nottingham, who is running similar experiments to prove or disprove Hawking radiation, told The Times. "Jeff has done an amazing job, but some of the claims he makes are open to debate. This is worth discussing."
Closing quote

So we don't know for sure whether these results will be proven true, but if they are verified by other scientists, this will finally prove Stephen Hawking's long-standing theory. And if the results are replicated, this breakthrough might just win Hawking that elusive Nobel prize

Via Science Alert

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