A team of scientists at the Israel Institute of Technology may have proven a way to a ‘kill’ a black hole – something once thought almost impossible.
The idea that black holes could essentially die dates back to the 1970s, when Stephen Hawking first theorised that despite current knowledge of the inescapable gravity created by a black hole, radiation was being emitted. Once enough radiation had been released, the black hole would loose energy and begin to dissipate.
Since its hard to detect and measure this radiation (known as Hawking radiation), the scientists at the Israel Institute of Technology have been attempting to recreate what happens around a black hole within the lab.
The idea is that – as quantum mechanics dictates – the vacuum of space is filled with virtual particles which jump in and out of existence. They appear in matter-antimatter pairs, where both particles have the same mass but reverse electrical charge. As a result, the pairs immediately destroy themselves.
In the case of a black hole which creates a massive gravitational swell, the pair of particles will quickly be pulled apart before they have time to destroy each other. As a result, one of the particles escapes into space, becoming what we know as Hawking radiation. The other particle – which has a negative charge – falls into the black hole. Due to this negative charge, this particle slightly decreases the mass and energy of the black hole, and once enough have been absorbed over time, the black hole itself will die.
For the scientists, recreating a black hole in the lab is obviously out of the question. Instead the scenario was recreated using a gas cooled to a temperature near absolute zero (Bose-Einstein condensate) to act as the black holes event horizon, and two quantum sound waves known as Phonons which simulate the escape of Hawking radiation.
Sending the gas down a ‘waterfall’ at a flow faster than the speed of sound, two phonons were then released into the stream in opposite directions similar to the matter-antimatter particles around a black hole. The phonon heading against the flow of gas on the slow side simulated the escape of Hawking radiation as it headed up stream, while the phonon on the opposite side could not escape, falling into the ‘black hole’.