April 19, 2024

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A very accurate way to simulate black holes in your laboratory

A very accurate way to simulate black holes in your laboratory

Our knowledge of black holes does not yet allow us to understand all their secrets, but little by little cosmologists are beginning to reveal some of their secrets. Fortunately, we already have some answers to help us Get to know them a little betteralthough the physicists who study it are keenly aware of how much we don't yet know about one of the most exciting things we could find in the universe.

We can describe one of these cosmic objects as a limited region of space that has enough mass within it to be able to generate a gravitational field so intense that no particle can escape from it. Not even photons, the elementary particles that transmit light. The black holes that astrophysicists know best are cosmic black holes, which come from the collapse of massive stars, but there are also other types, such as supermassive black holes found at the centers of some galaxies.

As we can imagine, studying the properties of these objects is very difficult, but physicists have used their ingenuity and created tools that help them understand them better. Without leaving your laboratory. One is gravitational simulators, which are very broadly laboratory systems that are distinguished because small excitations in them, such as sound waves, behave like fields propagating through the curved geometry of space-time.

This is the closest thing to a black hole that can be recreated in a laboratory

Experimental physicists can simulate gravity using fluids, but their viscosity must be zero, so in their experiments they often use superfluids, such as liquid helium or ultracold clouds of atoms. Using this type of gravity simulator, researchers have succeeded in verifying some of the predictions made by quantum field theory in curved spacetime. Interestingly, they discovered that to accurately simulate a black hole, it is a good idea to produce a vortex using a superfluid.

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The purpose of this experiment is to recreate the gravitational environment of the black hole as accurately as possible to determine how the space-time continuum around it is distorted.

It sounds like a difficult thing to achieve, and it certainly is. The formal definition of vortex is not very intuitive, but we are interested not to overlook it: it is the chaotic movement of fluid molecules rotating around an axis, describing a closed circular or open spiral path. This definition is not very helpful in precise understanding What are we talking aboutBut it can help us to form a more or less accurate picture to know that hurricanes are eddies that occur in the Earth's atmosphere, which in turn contains gases that together behave like fluids.

The interesting thing is that a group of physicists from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom were able for the first time to generate a vortex in superfluid helium, a gas that in this case has a very low viscosity. His goal was to recreate the black hole's gravitational environment as accurately as possible in his laboratory to determine how the space-time continuum around it was distorted and to verify whether his theoretical predictions were correct. It may seem unbelievable, but yes, this ingenuity is the most accurate black hole simulation ever performed in a laboratory.

As we saw in the first lines of this article, studying black holes is very difficult because they do not emit any type of radiation that we can detect. The only thing we can determine is… Radiation emitted by the rotation of hot matter Which falls inward while remaining trapped in the black hole's gravitational field.

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Fortunately, thanks to simulators like the one created by these physicists from the University of Nottingham, it is possible to more precisely understand the interaction that occurs between black holes and the space-time continuum. Because yes, no matter how surprising it may be, this laboratory “imitation” works. Silke Weinfurtner, one of the physicists who devised this experiment, Confirms “Using this method we can predict how quantum fields will behave in curved space-time near a black hole.” This is the place.

Image | a pot

More information | nature

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