[ This blog is dedicated to tracking my most recent publications. Subscribe to the feed to keep up with all the science stories I write! ]
Part 4 of my 4-part series on black holes for Medium members is up; part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here. If enough of you read, they may keep me around to write more, so please read and share! And yes, the title is a John Donne reference, because I was an English minor and am required to make literary references as often as I can get away with.
The discovery that black holes emit particles and might eventually evaporate threw theoretical physics into chaos. Here’s why.
Hawking ended up being one of the very rare ALS patients to survive the condition, at the eventual cost of being confined to a wheelchair and communicating primarily through a computer. And his work on black holes — along with the work of a small handful of other physicists — opened up a new field of research in quantum gravity.
The most shocking discovery to come out of Hawking’s work: Black holes can emit radiation and can eventually evaporate.
Unfortunately for physicists, the radiation from a real black hole is too faint to be seen, and even a smaller black hole, like the ones seen by LIGO, would take a mind-blowingly long time to evaporate. However, the prediction of this Hawking radiation and death of black holes exposed a major problem in theoretical physics, one that is still unsolved today.