Physics

2020 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to black hole science pioneers

2020 Nobel Prize in Physics aw...
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for pioneering work on black holes
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for pioneering work on black holes
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The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for pioneering work on black holes
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The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for pioneering work on black holes
The three Laureates of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, from left: Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez
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The three Laureates of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, from left: Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three astrophysicists who made huge contributions towards our understanding of black holes. One half was presented to Roger Penrose for his proof that black holes result from general relativity, while the other half went jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for discovering the supermassive monster at the center of the Milky Way.

When Albert Einstein published his general theory of relativity in 1915, a particular solution to his field equations implied the existence of singularities where the laws of space and time cease to apply. For a while this was regarded as a mathematical curiosity rather than a description of a real object, even by Einstein himself.

But in 1965, Oxford professor Roger Penrose penned a paper demonstrating how black holes could form under realistic conditions, according to the equations set out in general relativity. The event horizon – the point at which even light cannot escape the black hole's gravitational pull – hides an infinitely dense singularity from the rest of the universe.

There’s a sad side to the story as well though. Penrose worked extensively with the late Stephen Hawking, who almost certainly would have shared in the accolade. Unfortunately, the Nobel committee doesn’t award prizes posthumously.

The three Laureates of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, from left: Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez
The three Laureates of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, from left: Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez

The other half of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, who led teams of astronomers to independently conclude that there’s a huge mass at the heart of the galaxy, most likely a supermassive black hole. Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in its 120-year history.

Both teams examined the orbits of stars very close to this mass, in particular a star called S2, which orbits it in as little as 16 years. For reference, our Sun takes more than 200 million years to complete one lap. With such a short jaunt, the astronomers have been able to track S2’s entire journey.

From the results of the two teams, astronomers were able to calculate that the object at the center of the Milky Way has a mass about 4 million times that of the Sun. A supermassive black hole is the only explanation that fits the bill.

“The discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects,” says David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. “But these exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research. Not only questions about their inner structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under the extreme conditions in the immediate vicinity of a black hole.”

The announcement follows yesterday’s announcement of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine to a trio of scientists for their work on the hepatitis C virus. Tomorrow the Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced.

Source: Nobel Prize organization

1 comment
Reid Barnes
The formation of black holes is a robust prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity, says the 2020 Nobel Committee.

From an interview of a Noble Prize winner in 2011 (announced in 2010), Adam Riess, in the Atlantic: “‘I have absolutely no clue what dark energy is’. Dark energy appears strong enough to push the entire universe – yet its source is unknown, its location is unknown and its physics are highly speculative.”

How far must they go to perpetuate a gravitational model of cosmology based on the general theory of relativity? Belief in everything from dark energy to the accelerating expansion of the universe has been propagated using Einstein’s theory.

To maintain a gravitational model based on the general theory of relativity, proponents have actually theorized that the outer cosmos is accelerating outward, receding galaxies having reached a rate of expansion faster than the speed of light! Has it become a religion masquerading as science? And now it turns out that the theory is based on self-contradicting non-Euclidean geometry.

Einstein claimed that the bending of light passing near the Sun, famously measured by Arthur Eddington during a solar eclipse, and also that the precession of the orbit of Mercury around the Sun were due to space-time deformation as characterized by his theory. In essence, he claimed that the explanation for the phenomena is that the geometry near massive objects is not Euclidean. Einstein said that “in the presence of a gravitational field, the geometry is not Euclidean.” But if that non-Euclidean geometry is self-contradicting, then Einstein’s explanation and his theory cannot be correct.

The flaw itself you can understand even if your math education advanced only through high school geometry. The non-Euclidean and Euclidean geometry, the kind taught in high school, have the same set of very elementary axioms in common, and the explanation of the flaw involves the very elementary propositions of the geometry which both systems share.

Why the non-Euclidean geometry is self-contradicting is explained in a brief Facebook Note, “Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity Is Based on Self-contradicting Non-Euclidean Geometry,” a five minute read at the link:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/einsteins-general-theory-of-relativity-is-based-on-self-contradicting-non-euclid/1676238042428763/

This is explained further in another Facebook Note (link here just below) that explains how general relativity lost its coordinate system. Part II of the Note explains why this was overlooked throughout the twentieth century:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/when-is-an-assertion-about-coordinates-merely-an-assertionan-unsupported-asserti/789731027746140.