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A black hole with a view

Physicists have calculated what the universe would look like from inside a black hole, and not just for fun


Ever wondered what it’s like to fall into a black hole? Wonder no more! Andrew Hamilton at JILA at the University of Colorado and a pal, Gavin Polhemus, have created a video showing what it might look like (10MB .avi). And it’s an impressive peice of work.

Hamilton provides a commentary for this and other videos which dismisses some of the myths that have grown up around black holes, such as the notion that falling inside one would engulf you in darkness.

Not by any means. According to Hamilton and Polhemus, inside a black hole the view in the horizontal plane is highly blueshifted, but all directions other than horizontal appear highly redshifted.

The work is not just for fun. In fact, calculating what the universe looks like from inside a black hole is an important exercise because it forces physicists to examine how the laws of physics behave at breaking point.

Take the principle of locality, which seems to be severely tested inside a black hole. This is the idea that a point in space can only be influenced by its immediate surroundings. But when space is infinitely stretched, as physicists think it is at the heart of a black hole, the concept of “immediate surroundings” doesn’t make sense. So the concept of locality begins to lose its meaning too.

And that provides an interesting “thought laboratory” in which physicists can ask how ideas such as quantum mechanics and relativity might break down

It also throws up some entertaining corollaries. For example, space is so heavily curved inside a black hole that ordinary binocular vision would be no good for determining distances, says Hamilton.

But trinocular vision could the trick instead, he adds.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0903.4717: The Edge of Locality: Visualizing a Black Hole from the Inside



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