Black Holes

In a paper written in 1939, Albert Einstein attempted to reject the notion of black holes that his theory of general relativity and gravity, published more than two decades earlier, seemed to predict. “The essential result of this investigation,” claimed Einstein, who at the time was six years into his appointment as a Professor at the Institute, “is a clear understanding as to why the ‘Schwarzschild singularities’ do not exist in physical reality.” Schwarzschild singularities, later coined “black holes” by John Wheeler, former Member in the School of Mathematics, describe objects that are so massive and compact that time disappears and space becomes infinite. The same year that Einstein sought to discount the existence of black holes, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who would become Director of the Institute in 1947, and his student Hartland S. Snyder used Einstein’s theory of general relativity to show how black holes could form. 

On May 3, 2019, Scott Tremaine, Richard Black Professor at the School of Natural Sciences, gave a lecture on the evidence for a supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way galaxy, denoted Sagittarius A*....

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On April 10, 2019, we were presented with the first-ever close-up image of a black hole by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). This remarkable technological achievement was made possible by the collective efforts of hundreds of astrophysics,...

“From the perspective of gravity, [a black hole] is the simplest object we know of, no more than a hole in space. At the same time, according to quantum theory, it is the most complex object, the most compact way to store matter and information.” Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, discusses the paradoxical nature of black holes and their role in twenty-first-century physics.

In the last six months, Juan Maldacena, Carl P. Feinberg Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, has received three major awards: the Lorentz Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences; the 2018 Einstein...

In this public lecture, Juan Maldacena, Carl P. Feinberg Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, and Douglas Stanford, Member in the School of Natural Sciences,...

In 2012, Ahmed Almheiri, current Member in the School of Natural Sciences, coauthored a paper that confounded theoretical physicists, sparked attention from the New York Times to Scientific...

One of the surprising things about chaos is that it took so long for physicists to appreciate how common it is. This is despite the fact that people seem to come naturally programmed with intuition for the basic phenomenon: that small changes to...

On September 14, 2015, the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) observed a gravitational-wave signal from the merger of a pair of black holes. While this impressive technological triumph was celebrated...

The Institute sometimes spends money on risky ventures, giving sustained support to people who work on unfashionable and dubious projects. One example of a risky venture was Einstein, who worked here for twenty years on unified field theories...

Matias Zaldarriaga, Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, Scott Tremaine, Richard Black Professor in the School, Member Doron Kushnir, and Junior Visiting Professor Nadia Zakamska discuss LIGO's recent detection of gravitational waves,...

Black holes are among the strangest predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity: regions of spacetime in which gravity is so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape. More precisely, a black hole is a singularity in spacetime...