Black Hole Tech?

The Theory Works!
The equation that Albert Einstein wrote down for the gravitational field in

1915 is simple enough:

But working out its consequences is not. And in fact even after 100 years we’re still just at the beginning of the process.

Riemann perturbations of Einstein's gravitational field equation
Millions of lines of algebra have been done along the way (often courtesy of Mathematica and the Wolfram Language). And there have been all sorts of predictions. Like that if two black holes merge, there should be a burst of gravitational radiation generated, with a particular form. And a little more than a week ago—in a triumph of theoretical and experimental science—it was announced that just such gravitational radiation had been detected.

I’ve followed General Relativity and gravitation theory for more than 40 years now—and it’s been inspiring to see how the small community that’s pursued it has progressively increased its theoretical prowess, and how the discussions I saw at Caltech in the late 1970s finally led to a successful detector of gravitational waves.

General Relativity is surely not the whole story of how spacetime and gravity work. But we’ve now just got some spectacular new evidence of how far the theory can be taken. For a long time I myself was a bit skeptical about black holes—and for example about whether true General-Relativity-style ones would actually form in real physical processes. But as of a little more than a week ago I’m finally convinced that black holes exist, just as General Relativity suggests...


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