Yet another example of an entirely true scientific principle formerly declared to be ‘impossible’ by the unparalleled geniuses of the scientific establishment, Black holes – particularly the ‘modern’ version put forward by Stephen Hawking – have played a part in our culture, both scientific and popular for a very long time now.
Science fiction would indeed be much the poorer and short one of its major deux ex machina and legitimate sounding fillers for plot-holes and imaginative short-comings, were it not for those two, five-letter words. Trekkies and inter-dimensional story-telling fans beware! A cadre of spoilsports over in the ‘String Theory‘ camp are fixing to alter the basic understanding of this most beloved of astronomical anomalies.
The way we were
The notion of what would become known as our sweet, lovely Black holes first came about way, way back in the days of Sir Isaac Newton, when science was still a bit of a funny hobby but turning lead into gold was perfectly normal, proposed by John Mitchell who was one of the first astronomers in the modern era in a letter that went to the public prints in 1784.
The somewhat simplistic calculations available to Mitchell, concluded that an astronomical formation that could not have light escape from it would likely have roughly the same density of the sun. He was correct, however, in concluding that such a formation would be able to be detected by observing resultant gravitational effects on surrounding objects. And he was not even burned at the stake, society having largely moved on since Salem.
In 1915 near the inset of the onslaught of the First World War, a bright spark called Karl Schwarzschild (pronounced how it is spelled), going on the Theory of General Relativity, found the solution to Einstein’s equations. Put simply (the actual equation involves some headache inducing graphs) a Black hole was thought to be, by brilliant people who turns out were actually about as sharp as a sock full of soup, quantum information bound into an in-falling matter and energy that disappears into a singularity.
The String Theory and the new world order
No longer happy with this definition, some youngsters and aging dissidents have come up with a new scenario. Rather than a quantum singularity, String Theorists are now saying that the center of a Black Hole is a cluster of the very ‘strings’ that form the very basis of their theory. Allow me a moment to restrain my complete and utter shock.
As it is usually best to know exactly what tune the Devil is playing, it seems important to highlight the basics of String Theory for those who may not know. The newest kid on the block in terms of the attempt for a unified theory of everything (turns out the answer is not 42), proponents of String Theory such as Brian Greene put forward the idea of sub-atomic, super-symmetric ‘strings’, the vibration of which are the basis of the formation and variance of all matter in the universe.