Research by the University of Amsterdam shows that elusive radiation from black holes can be studied by mimicking it in the laboratory.
Black holes are the most extreme objects in the universe, cramming so much mass into a space so small that nothing – not even light – can escape their gravity once they get close enough.
Understanding black holes is key to revealing the most fundamental laws that govern the universe, because they represent the limits of two of the best tested theories of physics: General theory of relativitywhich describes gravity as the result of the (large-scale) twisting of spacetime by massive objects, and the theory Quantum mechanics, which describes physics at smaller length scales. To fully describe black holes, we would need to link these two theories together and form a theory of quantum gravity.
radiating black holes
To achieve this goal, we might want to look at what manages to escape from black holes, rather than what gets swallowed up. The event horizon It is an intangible boundary around each black hole, from which it is then impossible to get out. However, the famous Stephen Hawking discovered that every black hole must emit a small amount of heat radiation Because of the small quantum fluctuations around it horizon.
Unfortunately, this radiation is not directly detected. The amount of Hawking radiation coming from each black hole is expected to be very small, and impossible to detect (with current technology) among the radiation from all other cosmic bodies.
Alternatively, can we study the mechanism behind the emergence of Hawking radiation here on Earth? This is what researchers from the University of Amsterdam and IFW Dresden set out to investigate. The answer is an exciting “yes”.
black holes in the lab
“We wanted to use the powerful tools of condensed matter physics to explore the unattainable physics of these amazing objects: black holes,” says author Lotte Mertens.
To do this, the researchers studied a model based on a one-dimensional chain of atoms, in which electrons can “jump” from one atomic location to another. The twisting of space-time due to the presence of a black hole is simulated by tuning how easily electrons can move between each location.
With the correct probability of jumping along the chain, an electron moving from one end of the chain to the other would behave just like a piece of matter approaching the horizon of a black hole. Similar to Hawking radiation, model system It has measurable thermal excitation in the presence of an artificial horizon.
Learning by Measurement
Although there is no actual gravity in the model system, looking at this structural horizon gives important insight into the physics of black holes. For example, the fact that simulated Hawking radiation is thermodynamic (meaning that the system appears to have a constant temperature) only for a certain selection of the spatial variance of the mobility probability, suggests that real Hawking radiation may also be purely thermal in certain situations.
In addition, Hawking radiation occurs only when the model system starts without any spatial difference in its navigation probabilities, simulating flat spacetime without any horizon, before being changed to one that hosts an artificial black hole. The appearance of Hawking radiation requires a change in the warping of space-time, or a change in how an observer looking for the radiation perceives this warp.
Finally, Hawking radiation requires a portion of the chain beyond the artificial horizon. This means that the presence of thermal radiation is intricately related to the quantum mechanics property of entanglement between objects on both sides of the horizon.
Since the model is so simple, it can be implemented in a range of experimental settings. This can include adjustable electronic systems, slewing chains, cold particles or visual experiences. had brought black holes It could bring us one step closer to the lab in understanding the interaction between gravity and quantum mechanics, and on our way to a theory of quantum gravity.
The search was published in Physical Review Research.
Lotte Mertens et al, Thermal conversion by artificial horizon, Physical Review Research (2022). DOI: 10.1103/ PhysRevResearch.4.043084
University of Amsterdam
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