The Discovery of Black Holes
Today, mathematics is predicting the reality that there are extra dimensions beyond the three that humans can see, the existence of additional universes outside of the one that Earth inhabits, and even the possibility that the world is just a three-dimensional holographic projection inside a two-dimensional hollow sphere. Experimental evidence cannot currently support or refute any of these possibilities, and probably will not for quite some time. This progression—a theorist throwing out a seemingly crazy idea and then waiting for an experimentalist to analyze the truth of it—is a common method of physics discovery. For example, Frank Wilczek has formed a theory describing the unification of all of the different forces in the universe, and the Large Hadron Collider will not be expected to test it for about 40 years. The discovery of black holes happened the same way. CalTech physicist Kip Thorne explains how it required the work of Albert Einstein’s theories, Karl Schwarzchild’s equations, John Wheeler’s physical explanation, a satellite’s observational evidence, and several decades for all of this to come together.
Recorded June 2010; Posted September 2010