Black Holes: Infinity And Beyond Essay

If theories of their existence are true, black holes are the most powerful force in the known
physical universe. Many people are familiar with the term black hole, but few people actually know
anything about them. A black hole forms as a result of a massive star running out of fuel to burn
(Chaisson, 193). Once the star is no longer exerting outward force by burning off gases, it begins to
collapse under it’s own intense, inward gravity (Chaisson, 193). It is like slowly letting the air out of a
balloon. Once the star is compacted to a certain size, while it’s mass, or weight, remains the same, it’s
gravity becomes so powerful that nothing can escape it (Hawking, 87). This critical size to weight ratio
is known as the Schwarzchild Radius (Hawking, 87). Once a black hole is created in this way, an
invisible area, or line around it exists. If any object crosses this line, it can no longer escape the
gravitational force of the black hole (Hawking, 87). This line is called the event horizon (Hawking, 87).

If black holes are proven to exist, beyond theoretical physics, then they would probably be a very
common anomaly in this universe. In 1915, Albert Einstein put forth the first real proposition of such
an anomaly in his ?Theory of Relativity? (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). In the 1930s, three physicists,
doctors Volkoff, Snyder and Oppenheimer, were able to prove the validity of black holes
mathematically. Since then, black holes have become a very important and integral part of science and
the over all understanding of the universe. It has been proven, mathematically, that black holes have
infinite, gravity based, escape velocities and an immense effect on light, time and even the very fabric
of space.

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All bodies in space have gravity. According to Einstein’s ?Theory of Relativity?, this is because
bodies with a large mass, or weight, actually warp space (Chaisson, 77). For example, if a two
dimensional sheet of cloth, stretched and suspended at four corners, represents space, and a bowling
ball is placed in the center, the sheet will warp downward. If a golf ball is then set at the edge of the
sheet and allowed to move freely it will be attracted toward the bowling ball, unless the golf ball is
traveling at a speed great enough to not be effected by the curve. This critical speed is known as an
escape velocity. This is the speed at which an object must travel to escape a body’s gravitational force
(Chaisson, 77). If a body is compacted, such that it’s weight stays the same but it’s radius, or size,
becomes smaller, it’s escape velocity increases in parallel (Chaisson, 196). The simple formula for this,
in physics, states that a body’s escape velocity is equal to the square root of it’s mass, divided by it’s
radius (Chaisson, 77). For example, if a body’s mass is two-hundred, and it’s size is twelve and one
half, the escape velocity would be four. If the size of the same body is reduced to two, while it’s mass
remained at two-hundred, the escape velocity increases to ten. Since a black hole’s size is always
decreasing and it’s weight is always the same, the escape velocity is infinite (Chaisson, 195). This
means that nothing can escape a black hole past the event horizon, not even light.

Light is made up of waves and particles. It was discovered, in 1676, by Danish astronomer,
Ole Christenson, that light travels at a very high, but finite speed (Hawking, 18). These properties of
light govern that it must be subject to forces of nature, such as gravity. Light travels at such a high
speed that it is not observably effected by gravity, unless that gravity is very strong. A black hole’s
gravity is powerful enough to trap light because it’s escape velocity, being infinite, exceeds the speed
of light (Hawking, 82). This is why a black hole is black. Once light crosses the event horizon it is
drawn into the hole in space. Although the light is still hitting objects, it is not able to bounce off to
indicate their existence to an observer, therefor the black hole appears as a void in space. Closing in on
the edge of the event horizon, light travels back to an observer at a slower and slower rate, until it
finally becomes invisible. This is due to heavy gravity and the effect that a black hole has on time
(Bunn, Black Holes FAQ).

According to Einstein’s ?General Theory of Relativity?, time is not a constant (Hawking, 86).

Time is relative to an observer and his or her environment (Hawking, 86). It has been proven that time
moves slower at higher speeds (Hawking, 86). An experiment was conducted in which two
synchronized atomic clocks were used. One was placed in a jet and flown around the Earth at three
times the speed of sound, while the other was left stationary, on the ground (Hawking, 22). When the
jet landed and the clocks were compared, the one in the jet displayed an earlier time. This leads to the
reasoning that time is just as volatile as light or dirt. In cosmology, a singularity is an event or point that
has a future or a past, but not both (Hawking, 49). In human life, death would be considered a
singularity. A black hole is also considered a singularity. If an object crosses the event horizon of a
black hole, it relatively ceases to exist, it has no future (Hawking, 88). Absolutely nothing in the known
universe can survive in or escape from a black hole, so it can be said logically that time is stopped
within the event horizon. The only way for an object to escape this fate would be for a strange anomaly
to occur in the fabric of space, caused by a theoretically different type of black hole.

If the mathematics that describe a black hole are reversed, the outcome is an object called a
white hole (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). As the complete opposite of a black hole, a white hole is an
object into which nothing can fall and objects are only spit out (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). At this point,
white holes are strictly theory. Their existence is highly improbable. If certain properties, such as
motion or a positive or negative charge are applied to a black hole, then the possibility of a white hole
forming within the event horizon arises (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). This leads to an even more
improbable occurrence called a wormhole (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). In theory, a wormhole would
truly be a tear in the fabric of space. Since time essentially has no effect on a black or white hole, if an
object were to fall into a worm hole, it could conceivably be spit out anywhere in time or space (Bunn,
Black Holes FAQ). If an object falls into a black hole, which has undergone the transformation into a
wormhole, it could probably avoid hitting the singularity (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). Therefor it would
not be turned into spaghetti and compacted to the size of a base particle. Instead, it would follow the
closest thing to a straight line that it could find, which would be to slip completely through the
wormhole (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). It sounds impossible, but it looks good on paper. If wormholes
could exist, according to calculations, they would be highly unstable (Bunn, Black Holes FAQ). If
anything were to disturb it, like an object passing through it, it would likely collapse (Bunn, Black
Holes FAQ). Though the equations are valid, wormholes most assuredly do not exist. If they did it
would probably send shivers up the science fiction community’s spine.

In the book, Relatively Speaking, the Author, Eric Chaisson says, ?The world of science is
littered with mathematically elegant theories that apparently have no basis in reality? (182). Although
black holes have not been conclusively proven to exist, there is strong evidence, in the observable
universe, that they do. Black holes are very important to the world of cosmology. They allow for the
study of common particles under very uncommon environmental variables. Scientists have vastly
increased their knowledge of the universe and the properties of matter through the study of a black
holes effects on light, time and the fabric of the space.

Works Cited
Bunn, Ted ?Black Holes FAQ.? NSF Science and Technology Center (September 1995): Online.

Chaisson, Eric. Relatively Speaking: Relativity, Black Holes, and the Fate of the Universe. New York:
W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. New York: Bantam
Books, 1988.


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