Nautilus

The Strangeness of Black Holes

This essay is one of the five winners in the 2019 writing competition held by the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University. “The Black Hole Initiative offers a unique environment for thinking about the topic of black holes more creatively and comprehensively,” says BHI director, Avi Loeb. To add context to the exciting April 10 announcement that astronomers have observed a black hole for the first time, this week Nautilus is featuring all five winning essays.

Black holes are some of the strangest phenomena in our universe. Here, we first want to discuss them as objects of a classical physical theory, where classical means that we forget about all possible quantum effects and their consequences. In the present case the underlying classical theory is Einstein’s theory of gravity. It describes space and time in terms of a collection of fields whose behavior is dictated by the Einstein equations.

One natural question to ask is how does this theory describe space and time around a massive spherical object like a star? The

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