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Laser Light Re-creates 'Black Holes' in the Lab 245

yodasz writes "The New Scientist reports that a team of researchers from the UK were able to recreate a black hole's event horizon in the lab by firing a laser pulse down an optical fibre. The team's observations confirm predictions made by cosmologists and now they are trying to prove Hawking's hypothesis of escaping particles, dubbed Hawking radiation. 'The first pulse distorts the optical properties of the fibre simply by traveling through it. This distortion forces the speedy probe wave to slow down dramatically when it catches up with the slower pulse and tries to move through it. In fact, the probe wave becomes trapped and can never overtake the pulse's leading edge, which effectively becomes a black hole event horizon, beyond which light cannot escape.'"
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Laser Light Re-creates 'Black Holes' in the Lab

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  • Black Hole (Score:5, Funny)

    by gammygator ( 820041 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:37PM (#22422482)
    As long as they didn't create a real black hole.

    That would suck.

    • by CSMatt ( 1175471 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:42PM (#22422564)
      Well it certainly wouldn't blow.
    • by cHiphead ( 17854 )
      In the immortal words of Ash from Evil Dead 2... HOW DO YOU TURN IT OFF!?!?
  • Am I slow? (Score:2, Insightful)

    I'm not a physicist by any means, but I thought Hawking radiation had something to do with the force of gravity at the event horizon. This seems to me is just a bending of light.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by KublaiKhan ( 522918 )
      As far as I can tell, they're using this technique to develop a technique to measure hawking radiation--which, you're correct, involves gravitational forces et al.

      However, up until now, we had no real way to measure it unless we happened to see a small black hole blow up, something that we haven't figured out how to find.
    • Re:Am I slow? (Score:4, Informative)

      by xanthines-R-yummy ( 635710 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:43PM (#22422590) Homepage Journal
      I was under the impression it was due to quantum particle pairs forming spontaneously. Under "normal" conditions we don't see these things because the pairs collide and sort of evaporate back to wherever the hell those things come from. However, in a black hole one of the particles escapes leaving the energy balance, well, in balance. The only reason that radiation escapes is that its partner went into the black hole absorbing some of its energy. Apparently, this phenomenon will cause all black holes to shrink to nothing over a long enough period of time.

      I read about it in "The Physics of Star Trek", but Wikipedia has something on it too: []

      • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:54PM (#22422790) Journal
        Wikipedia? What? You know that's not a reliable source of information. So I looked it up in the uncyclopedia []:

        A Black hole is an impossible object which makes the Universe work. It has the useful property of being "undetectable". It's like when your spouse comes home with a dent in the car, and blames it on an invisible black mass; the dent is proof of the black mass, but you can't, and never will be able to see it with CCTV cameras, but you know it's there. "Dark matter" is an equally undetectable force that causes cars to defy gravity, and hit invisible black holes. Astronomers will tell you that lots of them have spouses with dents in their cars, and can explain this is very technical terms, so you won't be able to understand why it's not possible.
    • Re:Am I slow? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ryvar ( 122400 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:49PM (#22422718) Homepage
      IANAP, but as I understand it, Hawking radiation is caused by virtual particles pairs being created such that rather than annihilating each other and returning local space to a base 'zero' state, one of the pair escapes the singularity's gravity and the other does not.

      One fortunate consequence of this is that smaller black holes 'evaporate' more quickly, and the microscopic black holes we'll likely be generating at the Large Hadron Collider will cease to exist before they've even had sufficient time to absorb a neutrino.
      • microscopic black holes...some of these black holes grow to form the center point of an entire galaxy.

        but that wont happen at the hardon collider, because the black hole doesn't have any mass near it to grow. It's not like it's being created on a big rock or anything..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by orclevegam ( 940336 )
      Yeah, I'm no physicist either, but I don't quite follow this. They haven't simulated a black hole at all, just the optics of its event horizon.

      Artificial event horizon != Artificial black hole.

      Somehow I highly doubt that even if they can get the fiberoptics to 1000 degrees centigrade and perform this experiment that they'll get any hawking radiation out of it.
      • Re:Am I slow? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:35PM (#22424328) Journal
        The bit that's missing from this article, and that completes the explanation of why this is interesting, is the question of information.

        One of the open questions facing physics is whether the event horizon of a black hole destroys information. It's not just the event horizon itself that is interesting, the destruction of information is by itself a legitimately interesting question by itself.

        If we can create an optical event horizon that also seems to destroy information, this may allow us to witness how the Universe responds to such information destruction. This is radically easier than creating a large enough black hole to observe these effects. Black hole horizons are interesting in many ways; this may allow us to extract and experiment on one aspect of them.

        I've seen a few proposals for the creation of an optical black hole, this is the first claim I've seen that someone may have actually created one.
        • by Thuktun ( 221615 )

          If we can create an optical event horizon that also seems to destroy information, this may allow us to witness how the Universe responds to such information destruction.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by click2005 ( 921437 )
      Hawking radiation is to do with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the creation of virtual particles (pairs like Quarks/Antiquarks, Electrons/Positrons, Neutrino/Antineutrino, Proton/Antiproton etc) that only exist for a negligible amount of time and they're impossible to detect directly. Usually they annihilate each other but if a pair is created near the event horizon, its possible that one part of the pair gets swallowed by the black hole and the other escapes. As multiple particles do this, they i
      • by arminw ( 717974 )
        ....they're impossible to detect directly.....

        Not so. If you run a beam of electrons through a magnetic deflection, the will deflect in a particular direction with the degree of bending dependent on the magnetic field and the energy of the electrons. If you replace the electrons with positrons, they will deflect in the opposite direction. This also works with other charged particles and their anti-particles.

        Has anybody EVER actually observed a black hole or something being swallowed up by one?
        • You might be right but the way I understood it, the two particles annihilate each other before its possible to detect them. They can be proven to exist by the way they interact with other particles (changing energy levels of hydrogen atoms & with the Casimir Effect) but detecting virtual particles directly violates the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

        • by pugugly ( 152978 )
          No - we've only seen unimaginably dense and massive objects that throw large stars around like toys, ripping them apart with tidal stresses, which have no other detectable attributes when they aren't actively feeding on matter.

          But, no, we haven't actually 'seen' one.

      • what I don't get about hawking radiation is why this effect would cause a black hole to evaporate.

        From the descriptions it seems that these particles are being created spontanously outside the black hole, and one falls in. To me, that would mean that the black hole actually gains mass (one particle).

    • by SL Baur ( 19540 )

      I thought Hawking radiation had something to do with the force of gravity at the event horizon

      No. Hawking radiation is due an application of the uncertainty principle. Nothing can escape from a black hole inside the event horizon, however the exact location of the event horizon cannot be measured precisely and if it is in fact variable within the limits of the uncertainty principle, some mass that was previously inside the black hole could find itself outside the black hole at some instant and could theoretically escape. That escaping mass is called Hawking radiation.

      I'm not a physicist either,

    • In general relativity, light follows geodesics -- straight lines in spacetime. Black holes bend spacetime, so they also bend light. (No, I didn't RTFA.)
  • Sounds safe (Score:5, Funny)

    by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <`moc.eroomnived' `ta' `ofni'> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:41PM (#22422548) Homepage Journal
    That sounds safe, to reproduce the effects of the point at which all matter collapses into a virtual singularity. Where were they testing this again? Somewhere on Earth? Alrighty then... Taxi!
    • Re:Sounds safe (Score:5, Informative)

      by orclevegam ( 940336 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:46PM (#22422642) Journal

      That sounds safe, to reproduce the effects of the point at which all matter collapses into a virtual singularity. Where were they testing this again? Somewhere on Earth? Alrighty then... Taxi!
      They aren't simulating a black hole, the title is misleading. They're simulating the optical properties of a black holes event horizon. Subtle but very important difference.
      • Re:Sounds safe (Score:4, Insightful)

        by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:40PM (#22423546) Journal
        They aren't simulating a black hole, the title is misleading. They're simulating the optical properties of a black holes event horizon. Subtle but very important difference.

        Yeah, your way of describing it doesn't generate NEAR as many hits on the, article.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Jugalator ( 259273 )
        I agree, it's like comparing an actual stretching of a gaping asshole compared to only simulating the properties of the skin as it stretches.

        Or something. Damn, I've been scarred by goatse for life. :-(
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Sonofabitch, you mean that the article, that I didn't read because I wouldn't understand, didn't talk about the same stuff in the little blurb up there that had a bunch of stuff that I had to look up and still don't understand any better after having done so? AND there's ads? Let's just shoot down a satellite.
    • The thing people don't realize with particle physics is that we are constantly bombarded by VASTLY higher energy particles than any of our accelerators can ever manage to produce. If there was even a minor possibility that particle collisions ( and yes, that includes bosons ) could destroy the planet then we would already be doomed from the vast quantity of cosmic rays that are hitting the earth's surface all the time. Basically whenever you hear about scientists trying to do some high energy particle physi
    • by mmalove ( 919245 )
      Apparently, developing nuclear weapons with the capability to destroy the planet wasn't enough. Somehow the nations of the world have not yet asploded themselves. But perhaps with a loose black hole, we'll finally self destruct as a species, and maybe even take the sun with us.

      I have to wonder - if every species that ever formed across the galaxy runs into that delimma at some point - that their science of destruction outranges their science of defense and mobility, and one crazy guy blows the whole thing
    • Black holes don't suck. They just have really really high gravity because of the huge amount of mass.

      If I took a spoon, and somehow crushed it down to a singularity, I'd have a black hole with the same amount of mass and gravity as the spoon did. You could hold it in your hand.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )
      I'm not sure which Illuminati base you're heading to, but I'd suggest trying to find one in a different solar system. At any rate, does everyone else begin to be utterly sick and tired of the "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag? THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF MASS INVOLVED AND NOTHING COULD GO EVEN REMOTELY INTERESTINGLY WRONG.
  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:44PM (#22422602)
    Not to be picky, but you do know there's a little bit more to the event horizon of a black hole than the fact that light can't get out of it? Let's not confuse interesting optical effects with singularities. They are...different.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by frogzilla ( 1229188 )
      Why did you insert the...dramatic pause? Does it help...explain the difference?
  • Bret: Pretty scrawny black hole. It must be hungry.
    Cubert: Duh! Black holes don't need food.
    Bret: Neither do nerds!
  • oblig (Score:2, Funny)

    by ArieKremen ( 733795 )
    Move on, nothing to be seen here ...
  • by lawaetf1 ( 613291 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:48PM (#22422682)
    could someone give me a little prep on this article.. A paragraph or two on how the universe works would be good. cheers. /obligatory
    • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:21PM (#22423232) Journal
      God made the universe 6,000 years ago. If you do not worship him and subjugate yourself to his will, he will torture you forever. He just put in things like dinosaur bones and black holes to mess with your head, to get you to disbelieve in him, so that he can torture you forever without feeling guilty about it.

      He's kinda messed up because he was alone for like, eternity, until he made up some friends in his head, but he's incapable of imagining anything that is actually his peer, so he secretly hates us all for not providing the companionship he needs. That is how the universe works.
      • by garcia ( 6573 )
        Just want to let you know that I had to get a new keyboard from an unused workstation because the one I had was ruined when water came spraying out of my nose and mouth after reading that post.

        Thanks for making my day.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by deblau ( 68023 )
        A cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master. He will do it by removing an evil force from your soul that is there because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

        That's how the universe works.

    • by imipak ( 254310 )
      The story so far:

      In the Beginning, the Universe was Created.

      This has made a lot of people very angry, and been widely regarded as a bad move.

      Many races believe that it was created by some sort of god, though the Jatravartid people of Viltvodle VI firmly believe that the entire universe was in fact sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure.

      The Jatravartids, who live in perpetual fear of the time they call "The Coming of the Great White Hankerchief", are small blue creatures

  • Does anybody remembers an old SF story in which a black hole is created and contained, and then somehow it _falls_ and start eating the Earth away? Cannot remember name or a author, but it gave me the creeps back then :o)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RetiredMidn ( 441788 )
      Does anybody remembers an old SF story in which a black hole is created and contained, and then somehow it _falls_ and start eating the Earth away? Cannot remember name or a author, but it gave me the creeps back then :o)

      I remember reading a short story, probably in the 60's, with a plot like this. The story starts with investigators trying to understand a rash of mysterious structural failures around the world, and tracing them to tiny vertical holes drilled through whatever failed; including building
      • I think it's the same story, yes, and I think the AC is also right, the story sure could be "The hole man", by good old Niven. I remember the part about knowing that the black hole was falling to the center of the planet (it might well be Mars, not Earth), and knowing that it was getting some atoms here and there, getting bigger and bigger. Knowing that in time the quakes would start...

        I sure hope nothing like that happens with these experiments.
        • by Tipa ( 881911 )
          If that's the story I'm thinking of, a nerdy scientist, part of an expedition to Mars, investigating an alien communication device is being teased by a bullying coworker because he believes the device is using gravity waves as a carrier by vibrating a micro black hole. To prove he's right, he turns off the magnetic containment, releasing it to eventually devour the planet, and by the way killing the bully.

          James P. Hogan's "Thrice Upon a Time" discusses a prototype fusion reactor which accidentally sends two
      • The black hole couldn't be contained or supported (because it sucked in the material), and was basically in an "orbit" that carried it down to the center of the earth, back out the other side until it reached the same distance on the other side, and so on, like a pendulum. The rotation of the earth cause it to cross the surface at various places. The hole was becoming more destructive as it consumed more material and became larger, and the earth was doomed unless a way could be found to get rid of it.


  • by xPsi ( 851544 ) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:51PM (#22422742)
    The experiment is cool, but as far as I can tell, this is nothing like a black hole in the cosmological sense. Simply reproducing one superficial property of black hole ("light cannot escape") does not make it a gravitational singularity with an event horizon and its associated properties. For example, I seriously doubt electron-positron conversions in their light cavity would behave at all like said conversions at a real event horizon since the charged particles would be subject to very different kinds of forces from those near a real black hole. Also, Hawking radiation is related to black hole evaporation. This would not occur with the lasers in an analogous way because the mechanics of this light bubble "evaporation" is totally different. It sounds to me like a case of one subfield (photonics) sexing up their lingo by adopting the lingo of another subfield (general relativity) to get press. IAAP, but not a cosmologists/GR expert, so I'm willing to stand corrected.
    • by Biff Stu ( 654099 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:06PM (#22422966)
      I am also perplexed. I to am not an expert on relativity & cosmology, but I know a thing or two about nonlinear optics. An intense light field can modify the index of refraction of the medium through which it's propagating. This is known as the AC or optical Kerr effect. [] The second light pulse will gradually encounter a higher index as it approaches the first pulse and therefore slow down. While I know nothing about Hawking radiation, it seems like gravity must be somehow involved, and this experiment is all about electromagnetic forces.
  • Oblig... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Cervantes ( 612861 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:03PM (#22422926) Journal
    "I call it a Hawking Hole".
  • Isn't this simply a case of someone not understanding the real meaning of the words "is kind of like"?

  • rindler horizon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fëanáro ( 130986 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:21PM (#22423230)
    This reminds me of a rindler horizon []

    A phenomen that has some similarities with a black hole, but without gravitational effects involved.
    • This reminds me of a rindler horizon []

      A phenomen that has some similarities with a black hole, but without gravitational effects involved.
      Now THAT is some useful information. Should change the title of this article to 'Laser Light Re-Creates "Rindler Horizon" in the Lab'.
  • To answer this, let us keep in mind what's going on. Some guy is sending laser pulses down a fiber optic cable. One possible outcome is the end of all life and existence as we know it. Or we could develope a photonic form of life that enslaves us all. Light pulses in a piece of glass could be inherently potentially crazily dangerous and it's good that some slashbot is minding the store and protecting us from maybe the end of everything. One might be insane to let anyone do such a thing, at least without con
  • FTA:

    It should also be possible to use the artificial event horizon to help test whether anything can escape from a black hole. In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking predicted that hot black holes could radiate particles, dubbed Hawking radiation, but it's tough to check this using telescopes, because they'd be swamped by noise. The team calculates that their laser black hole shares this property, and that it will "radiate" photons if it heats up to about 1000 degrees centigrade.

    This makes me wonder how they're di

  • Since it doesn't seem to reflect that facts of the situation.
  • Did the lab collapse into oblivion or is it impossible to see???
  • Unfortunately, when they tried recreating the Event Horizon, all they heard was "Liberate tutemet ex infernis".
  • It is called a shoebox, and with the lid closed no light can escape. Why is this news?
  • The Annual Galactic Darwin Award goes to a now non-existent small blue planet near the Orion arm of the Milky Way. The funny pink creatures there thought nothing of creating black holes in their ad-hoc little labs. Now they will think nothing, period. (Copyright Galactic United Press)

"You stay here, Audrey -- this is between me and the vegetable!" -- Seymour, from _Little Shop Of Horrors_