back to article Prof Stephen Hawking: 'There are NO black holes' – they're GREY!

Brit uber-boffin Prof Stephen Hawking has quietly published a new paper proposing a radical rethink of the nature of black holes, which have been a major part of his life's work. Hawking's paper [PDF], Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes has been submitted for peer review and attempts to apply both …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. dssf

    They should patent that because they've just...

    Created a better mouse trap.

    Best to avoid that event, apparently, hehehehe...

  2. Jemma Silver badge

    "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

    even after cashing the huge cheque I got for writing a book about them..."

    comes to mind..

    Also

    "So you called my theory a fat sack of barf & then you stole it?! !"

    "Welcome to Academia..."

    I've honestly never been sure if Hawking is one of the best scientific minds or the best "stand up philosopher"* the universe ever produced...

    * bullshit artist.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Jemma Silver badge

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        You didn't watch futurama I take it...

        The clang you just heard was you missing my point..

        Its entirely possible he & his colleagues are dead right - its also entirely possible that they've all been coming up with utter twaddle in order to sell impenetrable books to the facebookwits.. without being in the same business at the same level no one can tell...

        black hole astrophysics & associated fields are wonderful academic areas of study for a simple reason - not only do you not need to prove anything conclusively - you can't.

        Its kinda like the US Government & honesty - they tell you they're being honest but won't let you verify they're being honest because they're honest..

        And has anyone else wondered about this peer review idea? A better description might be "agreeing that its possible & calculable because he's the leader in the field & I'm indirectly reliant on his ideas for my salary & position"? but of course that doesn't affect anyone's decision not to call another academic out..

        To quote 'free will hunting'

        "Philosophy is for them that don't have to work for a living..."

        1. itzman

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          No science can be proved conclusively: that's not what science does.

          Science proceeds by coming up with models that fit the data as data is currently understood.

          If they provide predictions as to what the data should be in areas other theories do not, and that data fits the theory, then they gain weight.

          They are never conclusive: they are always just 'better pictures of reality' and even there, first of all you have to have a metaphysical concept of what 'reality' is.

          But they are - or can be - very USEFUL.

          The photoelectric effect was one of the few unexplained things that dented the 19th century classical world: that and radioactivity led to the idea of subatomic structure, which 'explained' the abitrary nature of elements, and led eventually to quantum theory, whose main obvious every day effect was the transistor and the laser, without which computers would have been hard to make.

          So black hole theory is not random bollocks: it is an attempt to see what happens at extremes of mass within the universe, and predict what we should be seeing where it exists.

          If it calls into question our very understanding of what space, time, energy and mass are, so much the better. Perhaps these are all manifestations - or could be represented as manifestations - of some more abstract thing.

          That wouldn't prove the abstract thing existed, merely that it was a good way to look at things we take for granted DO exist.

          1. Identity

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

            I believe it was Freeman Dyson who posited, some decades ago, that on the other side of black holes are 'white holes' from which the matter/energy effluvia 'masticated' by the black hole spews...

            1. Kevin Fairhurst

              Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

              The Cat: So, what is it?

              Kryten: I've never seen one before - no one has - but I'm guessing it's a white hole.

              Rimmer: A *white* hole?

              Kryten: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A black hole sucks time and matter out of the Universe; a white hole returns it.

              Lister: So, that thing's spewing time...

              Lister: [donning his fur-lined hat] ... back into the Universe?

              Kryten: Precisely. That's why we're experiencing these curious time phenomena on board.

              The Cat: So, what is it?

              Kryten: I've never seen one before - no one has - but I'm guessing it's a white hole.

              Rimmer: A *white* hole?

              Kryten: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A black hole sucks time and matter out of the Universe; a white hole returns it.

              Lister: [minus the hat] So, that thing's spewing time...

              Lister: [donning his fur-lined hat, again] ... back into the Universe?

              Kryten: Precisely. That's why we're experiencing these curious time phenomena on board.

              Lister: What time phenomena?

              Kryten: Like just then, when time repeated itself.

              The Cat: So, what is it?

              [Kryten, Rimmer, and Lister stare at Cat]

              The Cat: Only joking.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: coming up with models that fit the data

            I thought that theoretical physics, at its highest levels, was more to do with using the imagination and then seeing if the maths worked or not.

          3. dssf

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

            Rather than a stupefyingly powerful gravity well, suppose "black holes" are more akin to "galactic sewer pipes". Instead of all the violent, inward crushing that has been postulated, imagine if it is less violent, but a sucking (and, sucky) experience wherein it is akin to a combination of tsunami, rogue waves, and beam seas. You might not BE killed by the gravitational and other forces at work, but all through it you might wish you WERE killed as an act of cosmic mercy.

            What I mean is, similar to worm holes or space folds, could it be possible that there is some "cosmic ductwork" (obscured pipes, ducts, culverts, or canals, metaphorically) into which thing "fall" or get sucked into, but we just don't have the tech, tracking, or speed to observe things randomly popping up (out of a pipe end or over the wall's edge/bank, metaphorically) elsewhere with their original or recognizable signatures intact?

            I'm just winging it, know virtually nothing about cosmology, and have not concocted this from reading any sources. (Of course, I've seen plenty of Trek and all the "oh my gods we are trapped and cannot get out episodes of the week... But I'm talking about stuff less dramatic than a movie or tv show using dramatic plot devices to keep rapt audiences from changing the channel...)

        2. Hollerith 1

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          @Jemma, do you know anything about the scientific process, what 'proof' means, what peer review actually involves, and why it is a fundamental part of the scientific approach to testing knowledge? I am no defender of the hothouse that is academia, but my experience has been that the first-rate scientists learn how to operate the system in order to be effective in their scientific work. They are generous and passionate and enthusiastic and honourable. Another Commentard's comments on Ellis sum up the best of the breed.

          Again in my experience, the second-raters are the ones ass-kissing and trying to game the system, but that type are with us in every institution. Why pay any attention to them when you can spend time getting your brain around the insights that Penrose, Hawking, etc have given us? We should count ourselves fortunate to be living at the same time as these giants.

        3. hammarbtyp Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          Well @Jemma I look forward to seeing your alternative work and proofs showing how Mr Hawking is wrong.

          While we wait for that, lets look at the areas that Hawking is working in and see why they are important even if if we cannot experimentally verify them.

          He is studying the very fundamentals of nature itself. There is no man made experiment at present or in the foreseeable future that would allow such regions to be studied, however nature itself provides a great experimental area in the universe itself. Stephen Hawking has put forward a hypothesis that mathematically is correct. That is his job. Now it is for others to study the ramifications and ways that it can be tested by developing experiments. Those experiments could involve looking at areas where black holes are known to exist and matching the observations with the expected results from the new theory. If they tally, we have a potentially deeper understanding of the universe. If not we move on. That is the scientific method and it works.

          But if the theory can be proved then what it does is move us closer to the holy grail of a unified theory encapsulating relativity and quantum physics. If so it would be one of the pinnacles of human achievement

          And yet while I write this I am struck by the absurdity of defending a man who despite the type infirmity that would defeat the best of us has managed to maintain his position at the forefront of theoretical physics while being virtually locked into his wheelchair and communicating through muscle gestures (with a good deal of humour too). It may always be beyond science to definitively prove his theories but that does not in any way lesson is life or achievements.

        4. Franklin

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          "its also entirely possible that they've all been coming up with utter twaddle in order to sell impenetrable books to the facebookwits.."

          I think you have Dr. Hawking confused with Deepak Chopra.

      2. Jemma Silver badge

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        And you know exactly why Penrose & Ellis didn't get the same recognition - they've not got MND & don't spend their down time playing chase the nurse..

        The name Penrose does actually ring a bell somewhere but I'm not sure where and in what context I heard it.

        I guess I'm not all that happy with the idea of cut & paste science - its like the Robot Chicken Pi sketch...

        Nameless Peon: "I wonder if future generations will believe I discovered Pi"

        Pythagoras: "No, they won't. But they'll believe *I* discovered it..."

        1. Denarius Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

          Dr Penrose wrote two books on the fallacy of equating Von Nueman computers and human thinking. Probably not popular in some parts of MIT as a result :-) The Emperors New Mind and Shadows of the Mind. Using the work of Godel, Turing and set theory, Penrose does an excellent job of explaining that human thought at high levels is not a Von Nueman architecture at work. I believe his world view model is neoPlatonist from his description of getting insight while solving the Tiling problem with 5 sided tiles. Open to correction on that. Heard him lecture once. An excellent concise speaker.

          As for Hawking, his longevity after the ALS diagnosis has puzzled me. The 24 hour care must account for much of it. But we digress. Regardless of black hole "colour" what difference does the event horizon colour make ? If black and radiating or grey and radiating, what is the difference ? Being pulled into spaghetti or baked while being ripped apart makes little difference. Is it that the quantum foam forming the event horizon of a singularity radiate the source of Hawking radiation rather than a vague quantum uncertainty ? Much as Hawking is an amateur like everyone else in theology, just less coherent, when he sticks to cosmology it is great to see him at work still.

          1. a pressbutton

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

            I read the emperors new mind back in the 90s

            Basically a few hundred pages that said that

            'human minds cannot be replicated by computers'

            because

            'human minds have some features where quantum phenomena may be able to occur'

            on the same level as searles chinese room example - good for provoking argument in class, but does not hold up once you think a bit.

            1. Spiracle

              Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

              'human minds cannot be replicated by computers'

              because

              'human minds have some features where quantum phenomena may be able to occur'

              on the same level as searles chinese room example - good for provoking argument in class, but does not hold up once you think a bit.

              Penrose hasn't spent the years since 'New Mind' sitting on his hands. He and Stuart Hameroff have a well worked out theory of quantum conciousness (Orch-OR) that's just recently been getting some interesting scientific attention.

            2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

              on the same level as searles chinese room example

              Actually, Searle's Chinese Room argument is very different from Penrose's argument, not least because they arrive at opposing conclusions.

              Searle believed mind is the result of a deterministic mechanical process, and thus can, in principle, be achieved by machines; and saw no reason why Von Neumann computers couldn't be those machines. The Chinese Room argument is simply meant to show why one approach, which Searle called "symbolic manipulation", could not achieve computation equivalent to thought.

              Penrose doesn't believe mind is a deterministic mechanical process. I find his argument woefully uncompelling, personally, but to blithely dismiss it with "does not hold up once you think a bit" rather calls into question your thinking, and not Penrose's argument.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

            @denarius "As for Hawking, his longevity after the ALS diagnosis has puzzled me". It has puzzled doctors too (Hawking is not the only "longevity" one) and it's quite possible that his ALS will be called something else eventually. ALS is rare and there is no great amount of funding to solve it. If you have a look at the Wikipedia they distinguish between 21 types. Also from the Wikipedia " D90A, is more slowly progressive than typical ALS and patients with this form of the disease survive for an average of 11 years".

            Cheers to Hawking. As for black or grey hole I think the name is dumb from the start.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

            That's von Neumann.

            I'm amazed Penrose would need to write two books on the fallacy, because anybody who knows basic physiology knows that the brain is nothing like a von Neumann architecture. The computing elements in the brain are something like gates which have one pulse coded output and a varying number of inputs which can be differently weighted. That's why people do research into neural nets and how they can be used to solve problems in computing.

            1. Denarius Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

              @ AC number ???

              If one read much of what passes for science in popular media, the issue of programmed determanism would be obvious. Shadows of the Mind was a more detailed argument following on from the Emperors New Mind. As for brain doing somethings that von Neumann architectures cannot, I think this is analagous to Newtonian and General Relativity. in understanding of motion. You assume the electrical activity is all that is going on.. Penrose makes no claim that he knows either. He speculates quantum activity may be involved.

              BTW, this laptop is dying so my spelilng is not all my own fault for once. Keyboard is as bad as every autocorrect on any mobile device used.

            2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

              anybody who knows basic physiology knows that the brain is nothing like a von Neumann architecture ... That's why people do research into neural nets and how they can be used to solve problems in computing.

              And what sort of architecture do you suppose those researchers implement their neural nets on?

              This has to be one of the dumbest claims in a forum filled with howlers.

          4. Thicko

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

            I read The Emperors New Mind a few years ago. It was a fascinating experience. I been bored by many a book but this one I simply drowned in. I recommend it to anyone who is half interested in the subject but don't be surprised if you get lost a few places along the way. (Its more a reflection on me, not the writer or the quality of the writing). I plodded on as best I could anyway and felt rewarded by the experience and surprised I had not really heard of him before.

            Its sad that he is not as well known as Hawking, he certainly deserves it.

          5. Norman Hartnell

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

            @Denarius: "his longevity after the ALS diagnosis has puzzled me"

            Occam's razor: he doesn't have motor neurone disease, but something else with a much longer decline rate.

          6. Shaha Alam

            Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes..."

            "Being pulled into spaghetti or baked while being ripped apart makes little difference."

            well, yeah, from your perspective there's little difference as you're not getting close to one and never will be.

            but for some future-era descendant of yours, it makes all the difference when deciding whether to buy the heat-shield or the anti-spaghettification adaptor for their space mobile.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          Penrose was the name of an anthropomorphic pig in the fictional kids TV series Jolly Farm Revue, shown on Family Guy (Road to Europe). If you're quoting Futurama that could be why it sounds familiar...

        3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          Jemma» The name Penrose does actually ring a bell somewhere but I'm not sure where and in what context I heard it.

          Hint: He's the greatest | he's fantastic | wherever there is danger he'll be theeeere | dangermouse | de dum de dum | daaaangermouuuuse | de dum de dum de dum | daaaaaaangermouuuuuuusssse....

          Oh bugger, I've just it wrong, haven't I? Oh well, my memory for early 1980's cartoons is not what it was.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        Mr Ghost.

        They're all great scientists but I do wish Penrose would go and read Finkelstein (62) a bit more closely.

      4. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        "...but I can assure you that [Hawking] is still one of the best scientific minds Britain produced in the 20th century."

        If by "scientific" you mean physics and by "produced" you mean "born", then Dirac wins hands down. If we open it up to people who did their most important work in the 20th Century, or to non-physicists, then it gets very interesting; I imagine most people round here would rate Turing ahead of Hawking.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          "...but I can assure you that [Hawking] is still one of the best scientific minds Britain produced in the 20th century."

          Whilst he's smarter than the average bear, Sanger, Turing, Kroto, Pople, Penrose, Cornforth, Wilkinson, Hinshelwood, Higgs, Cockroft, Thomson, Chadwick, Dirac, Bragg senior, Bragg junior and many more all contributed more to the advancement of science in the 20th century than Hawking.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      5. Nuke
        Thumb Down

        @HolyFreakinGhost - Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        Wrote :- "I can assure you that he is still one of the best scientific minds Britain produced in the 20th century"

        I will give you and Hawking the benefit ot the doubt over that one, it being completely beyond me to verify Hawkings cosmology.

        However, seeing a brilliant mind (I must suppose) having stooped to appearing in "Go Compare" adverts disgusts me, and my opinion of him *as a man* has gone a long, long way in the direction of the above icon.

        Sorry.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Jemma Silver badge

      Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

      Wow...

      "feel the hate flowing at me" - Emperor Palpatine, Coruscant War Crimes Tribunal.

      Still at least one person got what I was trying to say.. or liked the quotes *sigh*

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        Could anyone comment on the quantum structure of the event horizon of the progressively deeper hole that one Reg Commentard is digging?

        1. Zot

          Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

          "Could anyone comment on the quantum structure of the event horizon of the progressively deeper hole that one Reg Commentard is digging?"

          They are called 'brown holes.'

      2. Sander van der Wal

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        No harm done, but try better next time. Practice, after all, makes perfect.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

      All I want to know is this, will I be sucked into one, and if so will it hurt?

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        @AC Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        Yes and No. But most likely no, since you will be shredded before the electric impulse hits your brain.

        Of course because you're in the event horizon and space/time is all mucked up, it could be that you feel it and what would appear to be instantaneous could be an infinitely long time of pain and suffering.

        Naw, just kidding.

        You'll end up dead somewhere along the trip to the black hole that you're investigating.

    4. Lars Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

      I know nothing either, but I think I know they will never be called brown holes, although, perhaps, that would suit the hole hole better. Something able to "seething mass of high-energy particles and lethal gases". But even as I know I am better at choosing the colo(u)r of the hole with more understanding of the hole than Hawking, I hope, and think, he knows more about the hole hole. Anyway, there are no reasons to under estimate him.

    5. Wilseus

      Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

      Wow Jemma, 62 downvotes (as of 14.22 on the 27/1/14) must be a record on here, surely. A well deserved record too!

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: "I know absolutely nothing about the black holes...

        >Wow Jemma, 62 downvotes (as of 14.22 on the 27/1/14) must be a record

        Nah pretty sure a number of Eadon's old posts reached triple digit down votes.

  3. Blitterbug
    Boffin

    When you consider...

    ...that by most medical standards the guy should have been Hawkin's Ghost decades ago, yet is still managing to contribute strongly in the field, one can only be in awe of the man. Einstein rattled around in Princeton for years trying in a similar vein to unify seemingly unreconcilable theories, without success. Our best and most agile thinking tends to get done in our third decade, sadly, but experience and wisdom still counts for a hell of a lot in later life.

    1. Jemma Silver badge

      Re: When you consider...

      That's true - and its always puzzled me how he's lasted so long when most people with his condition at best manage a few years. It might be interesting to sequence his genome & see if there's a reason there - although I don't know if there can be the same sort of genetic 'immunity/protection' in MND as there is with the AA32 gene in HIV/Y.Pestis immunity.

      What he's managed to achieve is amazing but sometimes I wonder if slapping a new idea into a major cosmological theory like you are welding up a hole in a Lancia's subframe could be referred to as "good science". But then again I don't have 40+ years in astrophysics...

      1. Vociferous

        Re: When you consider...

        > I wonder if slapping a new idea into a major cosmological theory like you are welding up a hole in a Lancia's subframe could be referred to as "good science"

        That's exactly what "good science" is. That's what progress looks like.

        I suspect people get confused about what is good science and what (and how) science is covered in mainstream media -- there is an overlap, but it's not big.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: When you consider...

          Or looking at in anopther way, science is a jigsaw puzzle. Odd pieces are found that don't make a lot of sense, then others are found and small clumps develop. Someone finds a piece that links two clumps and it all looks a lot clearer. Then someone else finds a piece already fitted doesn't quite fit as well as a new piece they found and suddenly the entire picture changes.

          Also, unlike a lot of people, Stephen Hawking has sufficient humility to not only publicly admit to being wrong, but also sometimes being the one to first make the anouncement.

  4. Elmer Phud

    Nice one Mr H

    He will defend his position until he's proved wrong and checked it out.

    Then he goes 'Ah, bugger, you're right -- but you've sparked something else'.

    (If only this were the case with bankers-- they issue scant apologies, we reward them for bankrupting us, then re-employ them.)

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Nice one Mr H

      > He will defend his position until he's proved wrong

      That's ALSO how good science works. If you don't believe in your results you shouldn't publish them, if you believe in them you should defend them, and if it turns out you were wrong you should admit it.

  5. thomas k.

    So ...

    It's nothing like the Disney movie, then?

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      Re: So ...

      Fortunately...!

  6. Paul Ireland

    How could we have been so stupid?

    "Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it - in a decade, a century, or a millennium - we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid?"

    Professor John Archibald Wheeler 1986

    A quote that sums up for me the gravy train of science that has been going on for a long time, and will continue to do so, coming up with a lot of complex "stupid" theories, which unfortunately a lot of people think are clever theories, because they are so complex.

    1. Vociferous

      Re: How could we have been so stupid?

      > A quote that sums up for me the gravy train of science

      Yeah, because reality should conform to your ideals.

      Let me guess, this being The Reg and all: you're talking about clima1e science, right?

      1. Paul Ireland

        Re: How could we have been so stupid?

        No, I'm referring to theoretical physics, the search for a theory of everything, etc, which is what Professor John Archibald Wheeler was also referring to in his quote.

    2. Franklin

      Re: How could we have been so stupid?

      For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

      The universe isn't under any obligation to be simple, beautiful, or even comprehensible to us. In fact, given that we live in a relatively large world of things moving relatively slowly with respect to each other, it's just about guaranteed that there are bits of the universe which absolutely won't be intuitively obvious, and will vigorously defy attempts to make them seem simple and elegant to us.

      Complex theories are complex because when we test simple theories, they usually don't match reality.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: How could we have been so stupid?

        "coming up with a lot of complex "stupid" theories, which unfortunately a lot of people think are clever theories, because they are so complex."

        We all know that 1+1=2, but try proving it sometime.

        1. Gartal

          Re: How could we have been so stupid?

          If I draw back my right fist and then impart forward motion such that said fist connects with your conk and then repeat, how many times have you been punched up the bracket?

          Whilst I agree that science is a bunch of theories which are open to constant testing, revision and sometimes throwing out, that there are times when only a complex answer is possible, one should not make the mistake of assuming that because complex questions sometimes require complex answers there are not times when simple answers do in fact suffice.

          Was it Dr Paul Davies who wrote at length on mathematical proof? In which he talks about all sorts of things including demonstrating that 1+1 does not =2. It takes quite a lot of math to prove it, it is complex, though when you feel your face, the theory does not matter, a fist has dented your armour twice.

          1. Uffish

            Re: punch drunk

            If I irrationally hit you in the face will you be able to tell me precisely how many times?

            1. Rukario

              Re: punch drunk

              The square root of 2 times.

              1. Ben Bonsall

                Re: punch drunk

                Surely it's a Pi in the face for irrationality?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How could we have been so stupid?

      > A quote that sums up for me the gravy train of science that has been going on for a long time

      S'funny: that gravy train of science allowed people to build that computer on which you posted that comment.

      Special and general relativity a useless fairy story? Well without it GPS just wouldn't really work properly.

      So much of electronic theory comes from relativistic understanding.

      Frankly it staggers me that people have so little awareness of how much "silly science" is in their everyday items.

      1. Paul Ireland

        Re: How could we have been so stupid?

        Gravitational theories are models, approximations, abstractions of what is really going on (there might be some hypothesing about what is really going on too). For an IT focused website I'm surprised this isn't more understood since a lot of software is merely a simplified abstraction/model of something in real life, e.g. desktop GUI metaphors, databases, spreadsheets, games etc.

        Einstein's model/maths of gravity is more accurate than Newton's model/maths, and whilst there might be some hard to believe hypothesising behind the maths in both to explain why the maths might work (e.g. Newton's instantenous action at a distance with little in the way of describing how this works, space-time bending with Einstein) the hypothesising doesn't have to be correct for the model/maths to still be useful. If the moon missions merely used the Newtonian gravity model/maths for their calculations because it was useful and accurate enough, it doesn't mean that Newton's model is completely accurate or Newton's hypothesising was right. Nor does all the technology out there like GPS that uses Einstein's models mean that the Einstein's models are completely accurate or his hypothesising was right.

        Whilst the maths might get more complex for more accuracy, the underlying theories/hypothesis don't have to be more complex to be more true, since complexity can still be derived from simple things. There are some beautifully simple theories out there, like Darwin's Theory of Evolution. For me, I personally think it is a pity that there isn't an equivalent one, something Darwinian in its simplicity, for gravity yet.

        Theories will evolve and improve, just like evolution, but just like evolution it is sometimes easy to take a wrong turning way back in your journey that initially leads to much better things but ultimately fails to take you to the final destination. I can't help thinking that mainstream science (the science getting the majority of air-time, press and funding) might currently be taking us on a ride up those hillocks on mount improbable

        http://youtu.be/Lds99_Zn29Q?t=28m34s (hillocks on mount improbable video)

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: How could we have been so stupid? @ Paul Ireland

          Just because you want to believe that the universe operates on simple rules (the simplest being "God did it", of course), and you quote someone else who wants to believe the same thing, doesn't actually mean anything. There is a serious tendency in some people to believe that "simple" = "elegant", and therefore only a simple universe is an elegant universe, but that is only aesthetics. Personally, I'd prefer a complex universe that can never be fully comprehended - that is my idea of "elegant", but it has no more objective validity than yours.

          Oh, and Hawking - great thinker, seems to have a sense of humour, willing to put ideas out there for people to work with and improve or disprove, and accept their findings. If only there were more people like him.

          1. JohnMurray

            Re: How could we have been so stupid? @ Paul Ireland

            It could be worse. He may have gone into climate science, a financial black hole from which no cash reappears.

  7. ravenviz

    Scientists who write books accessible to a wider non-scientific audience are doing a good job in "spreading the word", taking the ideas out of academia and into the wider world. And this is a noble aim IMO; if they make a few quid out of it then good for them. It's not a gravy train, more like a gravy taxi. And being jealous of other people's wealth from a good idea that you didn't have is just fickle.

    1. Vociferous

      > Scientists who write books accessible to a wider non-scientific audience are doing a good job in "spreading the word"

      Absolutely. They're needed to counteract the constant stream of 'Dancing Wu-Li Masters' type pseudo-science. The criticism that those writing the best books aren't necessarily the best scientists in their fields completely misses the point.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. grey holes

    Hi.

    I have a hypothesis that the "Wow!" signal might actually have been caused by such a fluctuation from a nearby black hole, say within 50 light years sending the signal we sent back through time.

    Is this remotely possible? We actually did send a signal in the general direction recently on the same band, so after being deflected and possibly refocussed by the gravitational field might have been strong enough to show up in 1976.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Re. grey holes

      So, what did we make of World of Warcraft in 1976?

      I'm assuming it was along the lines of 'What is it?'

      1. Irony Deficient
        Joke

        what did we make of World of Warcraft in 1976?

        Sir Runcible, in 1976, I looked forward to watching The World of Warcraft every Saturday night on our little black and white set. It was broadcast by the local public TV station, and luckily didn’t compete with All in the Family in its time slot, or I wouldn’t have been able to see it. Hearing Sir Laurence Olivier’s mellifluous voice narrating the tragedies and triumphs of those years which my father and uncles would never discuss in front of us — it gave me a little insight into Sherman’s famous quote, When should I set the WABAC Machine to, Mr. Peabody? War is hell.

  9. Joey

    Whether you are a scientist or a theologist there is one thing for certain - we don't know what we don't know and most likely, never will. That has always been difficult to come to terms with.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      But we can try to understand bits of it and model the rest. Your statement is a classic example of anti-educationist attitudes throughout history.

  10. MrXavia
    Thumb Up

    Finally he makes sense

    I always thought it was pretty damned obvious the classic theory on black holes was wrong, i've not had time to read through the paper, but the gist of it seems much more likely to be close to the truth!

    So thumbs up to Stephen Hawkins for getting us closer to the truth...

    1. Vic

      Re: Finally he makes sense

      > pretty damned obvious the classic theory on black holes was wrong

      All theories are wrong - if they weren't we'd know everything.

      The point of each of the surviving theories is that they each model reality more closely than what went before...

      Vic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Finally he makes sense

        I bet if you start suggesting things like the laws of thermodynamics are just a theory and scientists MIGHT be wrong, then prepare to meet a mob with pitchforks...

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Finally he makes sense

          "I bet if you start suggesting things like the laws of thermodynamics are just a theory and scientists MIGHT be wrong, then prepare to meet a mob with pitchforks..."

          Sadly, the last part of your posting is correct. However, scientific laws are an area that need revisiting every century or so just to make sure they still hold good. Those who would claim questioning "accepted science" are actually confusing science with religion, to the benefit of neither.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Twm Davies

    What happens if you throw spaghetti into a black hole?

    There other more pressing questions than the current Hawkins paper

    1. dssf
      Joke

      Re: What happens if you throw spaghetti into a black hole? Err, umm, well...

      It would get pulled in like spaghetti....Or, maybe, pulled in like a human?

    2. Gartal

      Re: What happens if you throw spaghetti into a black hole?

      <What happens if you throw spaghetti into a black hole?>

      Like what?

    3. ravenviz

      Re: What happens if you throw spaghetti into a black hole?

      If the hole is spinning it turns into Trenette.

  12. Gord

    the cult of science.....

    generates so much discourse (see above).....why do we need to understand all this twaddle?

    one might say that the technological off-shoots of science are enormous and have reshaped our very existance.

    i'd say we are one step above elephants (very brainy), are occupied by evil egos that control all our needs and wants, and a black/grey hole is pure freudian slippage.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: the cult of science.....

      I take it you don't get invited to parties where the hostess' underwear are teleported 3 ft to her left?

      /obligatory DA reference

  13. willi0000000

    simply

    theories are constantly being shown to be wrong by facts.

    . . . only to be replaced by theories that are more subtly wrong.

    [progress - bit by bit]

  14. Spoonsinger

    Reminds me of the short story "Under a greying sea"...

    (I think that's the right title), however in that story, deep space is actually gray because of contrast between the void and the million stars illuminating it. (however - spoiler - the black hole was actually black, but small in visual context - but not gravitational context). Tiz a good story if you like sad sci-fi.

  15. Bubb_Stubbley

    I knew that.

    It must be nice to be able to write stuff that no one else remotely understands and there fore can not criticize.

    BS

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weather Forecasting for Black Holes

    Cloudy with a chance of meatballs?

  17. Crisp Silver badge

    Am I the only one that was disappointed that there was no maths?

    See Title.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Am I the only one that was disappointed that there was no maths?

      No, there were at least two of us. Although I must admit, these days it takes rather less time before I have to go back to the start of the proposal and read again, a little more carefully.

      I always loved getting lost in Hawking's maths.

      1. ravenviz
        Windows

        Re: Am I the only one that was disappointed that there was no maths?

        I always loved getting lost in Hawking's maths.

  18. Moosh
    Happy

    HAWKING

    One thing I always say in interviews, which tends to surprise and interest the interviewer whenever they ask me who a role model or famous person I admire is, is Stephen Hawking.

    I am intensely interested in cosmology thanks in no small part to Hawking's work, and I admire and respect his ability to still be at the forefront of his field despite everything that has happened to him. I watched a small documentary on him and watching him write things down (with the aid of a grad student) was painful for me to watch, never mind what it must be like for him.

    That a man can come across as charismatic and passionate with his condition is nothing short of remarkable.

  19. Rico

    No comprende?

    http://frenchtribune.com/teneur/1421646-stephen-hawking-says-black-holes-are-misunderstood

  20. thosrtanner

    penrose

    @Jemma: First I ever heard of Penrose was to do with Penrose tilings, and I think many non-scientists may have come across him from that.

  21. Steve Martins

    I'm amazed...

    at how many people there are who fail to appreciate the importance of the work of these physicists. A brief trawl through some of the life saving medical devices that are available to us today is proof enough that gaining a deeper understanding of the universe can have a real impact on peoples lives - as a for-instance our understanding of radio isotopes has become an essential tool in diagnosis and treatment.

    I can only surmise that there are those who are intelligent enough to understand the scientific method, and understand that it is possible to maintain a set of incomplete conflicting theories whilst benefitting from the objectives those theories present (they may not be perfect, but they can be used for predictive analysis for instance), and encapsulate those ideas in their thoughts without their heads exploding. Then there are those for whom that is too much mental effort, whose heads may possibly explode, and for whom it is easier to explain the unexplainable by 'its gods will' or some other catch all thinking which removes the need for further thought or analysis.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spaghettification?

    That sounds rather far fetched. It might look like that to an external observer, but while you are falling into a black hole, you won't experience being stretched. What you'll much rather experience is being ripped apart by tidal forces, but you will almost certainly not stretch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spaghettification?

      To clarify: I'm not an expert in this, but as far as I know, conservation of angular momentum will hinder any object to fall "straight" into a black hole. The falling object would be accelerated "sideways" at different velocities, stronger where the particles of the object are closest to the black hole, ensuring that the falling object would be shredded long before it could be warped.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Spaghettification?

        "the falling object would be shredded long before it could be warped."

        NOT if you made sure the dough was really stretchy, and were able to keep it moist in the nightmare darknesses of deep space.

        And of course, you'd feed it in slowly at first, to make sure it followed the optimum spagettification path.

        Then it's away, quick smart to the corresponding white hole, where your minions stand ready with sharp scissors and spaghetti bags.

        profit!

  23. TomChaton

    "metastable bound states of the gravitational field"

    That's going to be hard to market. I'd stick with the original name.

  24. Fluffy Bunny

    I have always thought that black holes were the physical equivalent of a divide by zero error. And that, just as better mathematical techniques let you do things without the divide by zero problem, so better mathematical techniques will let us understand black holes better.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019