Twice As Interesting: Dumb Holes

By Leonardo Yana-Romero and David Chung

What are Black Holes?

In order to understand what a dumb hole is, you must first know what a black hole is. For those who don’t know what a black hole is, a black hole is a point in space where no physical matter or even light can escape from the immense gravitational force.

Breaking down light and matter

When you break down physical objects, compounds, and even atoms, you get to the elementary particles such as quarks and what is more important to the discussion of black holes, photons. Photons are elementary particles that are the quantums of electromagnetic radiation, or to put in more simple terms; the basic unit of light. Photons have no mass and have a constant velocity of three times ten to the eighth power meters per second.

Why create dumb holes?

Now that it’s clear what a black hole is, what’s a dumb hole, and why create them? Dumb holes are in essence makeshift black holes. Since it’s not possible to create a real black hole on Earth, dumb holes in theory allow us to gain a higher understanding of black holes.

The creation of dumb holes

Now you may ask, how are dumb holes created? First, a substitute is needed to emulate photons to make a very similar version of a black hole. This enacts a force that is analogous to gravity on the larger scale, replacing the photons with sound. Sound has no mass and has a constant speed in a vacuum like photons; however, the speed for sound is much slower, at 343 meters per second.

History of dumb holes

The concept of dumb holes has actually been around for longer than you might think. William Unruh, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, proposed the theory back in 1981. After almost three decades, using a rubidium Bose-Einstein condensate, which is essentially matter that has been cooled in such a way that it’s nearly at absolute zero, and being able to move the condensate particles at near sonic speeds, scientists were able to create the dumb hole in 2009. In 2014, scientists have detected a very similar version of what would be Hawking Radiation, which is the focal point of the theory stating that any given black hole must emit some subatomic particles or electromagnetic radiation, proposed by the late Stephen Hawking.

Are dumb holes perfect?

The experiment, although revolutionary, does have some flaws. Some variables and components of the experiment aren’t equivalent with those in real black holes. Setting aside all the imperfections of dumb holes, they have still helped with understanding how black holes work.

The future of black holes

This year, scientists may be releasing what could be the very first photo of a black hole. It isn’t a normal photo; rather, it’s made with exposure to different wavelengths of electromagnetic waves. It’s also very new, so it probably won’t be a very clear image. But at least then our knowledge of black holes discovered through dumb holes can be compared to an actual black hole. Once we understand more about the functions of black holes it will be possible to discover the possible origins of the universe and evidence to other theories such as wormholes, relativity, and others. After understanding these theories, there may be a revolution in galactic and intergalactic travel. Although these are just ideas, they may become reality in the near future.


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