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. 

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....

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...

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