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.
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 that...
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...
In 1935, Albert Einstein and collaborators wrote two papers at
the Institute for Advanced Study. One was on quantum mechanics 
and the other was on black holes . The paper on quantum
mechanics is very famous and influential. It pointed out a...
In the public lecture “The Latest News from the Cosmos,” Matias
Zaldarriaga, Professor in the School of Natural Sciences, explores
the most detailed map of the infant universe to date. Publicly
released on March 21, 2013, the map shows relic...
In the public lecture “Gone with the Wind: Black Holes and their
Gusty Influence on the Birth of Galaxies,” sponsored by the
Association of Members of the Institute for Advanced Study (AMIAS),
Nadia Zakamska, former John N. Bahcall Fellow and Member...
The ancients thought that space and time were preexisting entities on which motion happens. Of course, this is also our naive intuition. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, we know that this is not true. Space and time are dynamical objects whose shape is modified by the bodies that move in it.
I sometimes like to think about what it might be like inside a
black hole. What does that even mean? Is it really “like” anything
inside a black hole? Nature keeps us from ever knowing. (Well, what
we know for sure is that nature keeps us from...