2012 was a big year for black holes. Or, rather, for our understanding of them. First, Scientific American published a moderately terrifying paper titled “Black Holes are Everywhere” and then a team of researchers at Princeton University numerically solved the Einstein-hydrodynamic equations in order to determine that black holes are, in fact, way easier to create than previously thought.
Their findings showed that the formation of a black hole requires considerably less energy than previous calculations suggested. Meanwhile, perhaps at least partly because of these revelations, concern over the world-destroying possibility–no matter how unlikely–of a man-made particle collider opening up an Earth-swallowing black hole has remained omnipresent in the larger conversation around atomic research.
The “Ultrarelativistic Black Hole Formation” study from Princeton University, published in 2013, developed new computer models which they utilized to show that the formation of a black hole would actually require less than half the energy — 2.4 times less, to be precise — than previous research had determined. The study reports that the researchers found that “the threshold for black hole formation is lower (by a factor of a few) than simple hoop conjecture estimates, and, moreover, near this threshold two distinct apparent horizons first form postcollision and then merge.”
Credit: W. E. East and F. Pretorius, Phys. Rev. Lett. (2013)
As a report at Phys.org explains,
“Researchers know that it is theoretically possible to create black holes because of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity—particularly the part describing the relationship between energy and mass—increasing the speed of a particle causes its mass to increase as well.”
This is what drove the Princeton researchers to form a computer model based on Einstein’s original hydrodynamic equations. The model “provides a virtual window for viewing what happens when two particles collide—they focus their energies on each other and together create a combined mass that pushes gravity to its limit and as a result spawns a very tiny black hole. That result was expected—what was surprising was that the team found that their model showed that such a collision and result would require 2.4 times less energy than has been previously calculated to produce such a tiny black hole.”
And our galaxy is positively chock-full of them.