Black hole

Dear Editor:

If the SUN’s editor can invoke books and authors, perhaps it is OK if I mention black holes and a couple of physicists, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. In 1916, a year after Einstein published his theory of General Relativity, a German mathematician and artillery officer, Karl Schwarzschild, while serving on the Russian front, calculated if an object’s radius is equal to twice its mass times Newton’s gravitation constant divided by the speed of light squared, light would no longer be able to escape from the object. These objects are now called black holes. If the earth were squashed down to the size of a marble it would become a black hole.

Einstein didn’t like the idea and nothing much was made of the idea until 1974 when Stephen Hawking, a young British physicist who had just been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, declared that due to quantum mechanical tunneling matter can escape from a black hole. Even more remarkable, he was able to derive a formula for the black hole temperature which depended on a handful of physical constants and the mass. The smaller the black hole the higher the temperature. A black hole with mass of the earth would be roughly a degree above absolute zero. Hawking, no longer able to write, worked out the math in his head.

A black hole is surrounded by what is called an event horizon and if you ride through the horizon in a bathtub you will never return. Hawking maintained that all information about you and the bathtub would be lost forever. When physicists talk about information, think of the bits on your computer, except much smaller. (Think Planck length — Google it.) The fact that Hawking maintained that information was destroyed was very annoying to a few physicists since a fundamental law of Quantum mechanics is information is conserved. For 20 years, the debate went on in the physics community. Hawking finally paid his bets to a couple of American physicists, a baseball statistical encyclopedia (information forever) and a worthless Yankee dollar. So, what happens to the information? It resides as quantum bits on the event horizon; still there, but scrambled.

Should the letters of the right wing scribblers be processed through a black hole and scrambled, perhaps their letters would become intelligible.

Bob Dungan


This story was posted on December 5, 2013.

One Response to Black hole

  1. Steve Theys

    December 14, 2013 at 10:05 am

    “Black Hole” just a Liberal disguise

    The erudite Mr. Dungan in Arboles has provided us with an lengthy discourse on “Black Holes”, but in reality it was just a grand set-up to malign Conservative thinkers. It reminded me of the mindset of many professors I had in the past.

    Honestly, I love Bob’s Letters to the Editor since they are always good for a laugh. I forgive him for his mis-guided political beliefs for he is a great asset to our community.

    Steve Theys

    Arboles, CO