Black holes in review



Black holes are the theoretical space-time warps where gravitational forces are so intense that all matter and energy—even light—are effectively trapped and absorbed. So far, there has been no direct evidence, no positive acceptable proof or observation, of black holes, but their incredibly unique properties have been used by modern-day astronomers to provide explanations for many unanswered questions, including those associated with the ‘big bang,’ from which the universe is residue.

Black hole theory has provided heady excitement in the past several years as its unique aspects have emerged. For example, the Hawkings radiation effect was the result of an impressive application of quantum theory to objects of astronomic dimensions that demonstrated that black holes could be the origin of the observed X ray emissions from globular star clusters. However, as the fascination with black holes continues to grow, with new results that test the laws of physics against black hole theory, physicists are beginning to cast doubt on their validity. According to a recent report, ‘… participants at an International Astronomical Union meeting in Bandung, Indonesia, presented several papers indicating the growth of something of a backlash against the black hole as an astrophysical panacea’ (New Scientist, Jan. 14, 1982). Nonetheless, as long as black holes are in fashion, theorists continue to derive interesting physical models, such as ‘On being lowered into a black hole,’ by Newcastle-upon-Tyne University physicist Paul Davies (New Scientist, op. cit.).