Scientists Gung Ho Mission To Create A Black Hole in Lab...

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Time/02112, Oct 4, 2000.

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  1. Time/02112 Senior Member Registered Senior Member

    I thought you might like this one....
    The Race to Create a Black Hole
    October 3, 2000 08:10 CDT

    Scientists are preparing to create a form of black hole, known to astronomers as one of the most devastating phenomena in the universe, on a tabletop in a laboratory at a Scottish university.

    Ulf Leonhardt, professor of theoretical physics at St Andrews University, plans to make a sort of "optical" black hole that sucks in light.

    He insists that his hole, no bigger than a raindrop and created by a whirlpool of atoms, will pose no risk of sucking the Scottish seaside town through a hole in the space-time continuum.

    "There is certainly no risk of it causing harm to beautiful St. Andrews," he said. "It is a very simple idea and the possibility of making optical black holes is becoming a reality.

    "I believe it could be possible within the next three to five years."

    Scientists believe that black holes, surrounded by vortices of swirling matter and energy many times larger than the sun, hold the key to a full understanding of Einstein's theory of relativity and other natural laws.

    The lack of knowledge about these phenomena has spurred an international race among scientists to be the first to create a working model in the safe confines of a laboratory. Leonhardt is at the forefront, along with his colleague, Paul Piwnicki, of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The optical black hole will be made when chilled atoms are forced to swirl rapidly inside a tube.

    This mimics what happens in deep space. The scientists must then slow down the speed at which light travels, so it can be sucked into the vortex.

    Slowing the speed of light was unthinkable until now. But last year scientists at Harvard University invented the BoseEinstein condensate, a low-temperature material that is half-way between being a liquid and a gas. Beams of light, which normally travel at 186,000 miles per second, slow to 38 mph when passed through it.

    Leonhardt and Piwnicki are confident they can further develop the process to slow down the speed of light to one inch per second. Their atomic whirlpool would then need only to spin at several feet per second for the light to be sucked inside.

    Other researchers in the field of theoretical physics are equally excited by the breakthrough. Matt Visser, professor of physics at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, said: "There are technical details with this specific project that need to be overcome. But something like it is almost certain to work."

    "Playing with gravity is awfully difficult and getting a real black hole is a no-go. However, I would say that five to 10 years down the line there is an excellent chance of something like this working."

    Source: London Times

    Cosmiverse Staff Writer
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