Latest Issue of Science News


Black Hole of Light: Laser pulses create model of event horizon

If you've ever drifted so close to a waterfall that you could no longer swim fast enough to get away, then you pretty much know what it's like to fall into a black hole. Researchers have now created a laboratory analog of such a point of no return.

"Space-time really behaves like a river," says Ulf Leonhardt of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "Gravity can be represented as if space were a medium that is flowing." A swimmer's best efforts correspond to nature's ultimate speed limit, which is the speed of light in empty space.

Black holes are regions where gravity curls space-time so much that nothing inside can escape—think of a waterfall that would trap all swimmers, no matter how fast. Both a spaceship approaching a black hole (or a swimmer edging toward a waterfall) will cross a point of no return called an event horizon. That's where space-time flows into a black hole's region so fast that even light cannot escape.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.