Feb 012010
Authors: Ryan Sheine

Monday, in Engineering room A120, about 50 students and faculty members gathered around a video projector for a virtual trip through one the universe’s most mysterious phenomena –– the black hole.

They made the trip courtesy of Andrew Hamilton, Ph.D., who used the same specialized computer software used in video games to illustrate the internal functions of rotating black holes.

“A black hole is a place where space falls faster than light,” Hamilton said. “The biggest myth about black holes is that you fall in and reach a point of singularity where time and space come to an end.”

Hamilton maintains that black holes are surprisingly simple compared with other phenomena in the universe because of the ‘No Hair Theorem,’ which states that all black holes have only three observable properties: mass, electric charge and rotation.

When approaching the black hole, what appears as a visual horizon is, in reality, a mirage known as the anti-horizon. The illusion is the result of light from neighboring stars, which has been warped around the hole.

Within a black hole there are two actual horizons, displayed in Andrew’s presentation simply as the outer horizon and the inner horizon.

Within a black hole, space itself falls much like water in a waterfall. This effect is called a “spacefall.”

Hamilton gave the example of a fish swimming through a ravine.

All things held equal, the fish can swim forward, backward, up, down and side to side in the ravine. If the fish comes upon a waterfall, it will reach the point at the top of the waterfall where the water originally begins to fall at an increasing rate.

At some point in the waterfall, the water has reached maximum velocity and the fish is helpless to swim at will in any direction. The fall only comes to an end when another force acts against; i.e. rocks at the bottom of waterfall.

In much the same way, light cannot escape the “spacefall,” which is moving beyond the speed of light.
Within the black hole exists an unseen inner horizon. Physicians have theorized that wormholes or entirely new universes could exist beyond this mysterious boundary.

Upon passing through the inner horizon of both the black hole and its coupled white hole, viewers saw an “inestimable bright flash of light that shows the infinite past of the universe and the new universe,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado. In 1993, he started teaching the subject of general relativity using visual tools in an attempt to better explain a science that he said is inherently counter-intuitive.

He has been interviewed for programs sponsored by National Geographic, NOVA and the History Channel.
The presentation blew the mind of first-year physics graduate student Russell Geisthardt, “It was very interesting. I learned a lot.”
Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at news@collegian.com._

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