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Scientist Has Found Evidence of Hawking’s Radiation Theory Using a Lab-Made Black Hole

Aug 16, 2016 05:39 AM EDT
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In 1974, Stephen Hawking theorized that black holes may not be entirely dark and that there might be a way out of it. Today, a scientist thinks that he might have just proven this theory.
(Photo : Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation)

A physicist thinks he might have just proven one of Stephen Hawking's most famous predictions: the Hawking radiation.

In 1974, Stephen Hawking theorized that black holes might not be the inescapable, bottomless void people have thought it to be. Which means that, as the famous physicist said, black holes could have a possible exit, and that through this exit energy could escape.

This is known as the "Hawking radiation." Matter and antimatter pairs of particles constantly obliterate each other. But if one of these particles is pulled in the event horizon of a black hole just before the pair annihilates, one would fall into the black hole while the other would escape and become Hawking radiation.

Jeff Steinhauer, a physicist at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, has created an artificial black hole in his lab. According to Steinhauer, the experimental black hole, which was done using the laws of sound rather than the laws of light, showed compelling evidence of the Hawking radiation.

The analogue black hole was created using cold rubidium atoms that entered the quantum state called Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). Using laser beams, Steinhauer created a waterfall effect: atoms moved slowly but as they poured over the edge, they accelerated at speeds faster than the speed of sound. Thus, the acoustic black hole was created.

In the acoustic black hole, phonons - the individual units of sound - could not escape past the energy waterfall as the condensate was flowing faster. Like swimming against a river, a person could not move forward or back if the river is flowing faster than the person swimming, Steinhauer told Business Insider. The same happens with black holes, except that in space black holes, the light particles could not escape the light-speed pull of gravity.

Steinhauer also observed that when pairs of phonons were created near the analogue black hole, one particle fell in while the other escaped. He said that this is the same with a photon escaping a real black hole.

In the experiment, Steinhauer also explored the idea of "entanglement," which is one of the most important principles of the quantum mechanics. Entanglement happens between two particles, where even if one particle falls into the black hole and the other escapes, the particle outside will still carry the information of the trapped particle.

"The reason people care about black holes and Hawking radiation is not to learn about the black holes themselves so much as to test the new laws of physics," Steinhauer told Business Insider.

"Verifying that Hawking radiation really occurs is a good step toward trying to figure out what the new laws of physics are."

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