Friday, November 5, 2010

Spielberg and Black Holes - What's the Connection?

For any of you long-time science fiction fans out there, you probably remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars as changing movie sci fi forever and bringing it into the mainstream of box-office success stories. What I've always loved about "real science fiction" is when it is written by a real-life scientist and not only entertains you, but educates you about some arcane field of science you may never have heard about before.

Imagine my surprise when I heard Dr Kip S. Thorne, The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at California Institute of Technology, announce the link.

But first, let Amaryllis tell you about his talk at the APS conference.

Dr. Thorne started off his talk with a bang. Instead of the old man wandering on to stage to lecture the audience, an attractively dressed woman walked on to stage with a fuzzy witch’s hat, cackled evilly, then said, “Hit it!” and proceeded to sing a song about gravitational waves and black holes. After the song had finished, Dr. Thorne came on stage and explained that he had pulled a few strings to get his friend to perform before his talk.

Dr. Thorne then began his talk, starting by describing black holes. He presented a rubber sheet with a massive object stretching the center as a visual image. He then preceded to talk about some very recent discoveries about black holes, namely when there is a system of two black holes. In an instance where two black holes merge, he displayed a three dimensional animation where, as the black holes got closer to one another, they extend long fingers towards each other, which mesh, followed by the merge of both black holes. If the two black holes have opposite spins at the time when they collide, the newly created black hole oscillates between a vertical ellipsoid, a sphere, and a horizontal ellipsoid. On the four ‘corners’ of the oscillating shape, the original spins of the two black holes becomes evident as the shape becomes a horizontal ellipsoid. This effects reappears each time the black holes reverts to said shape.

This research break through just happened, Dr Thorne & his associates are modeling quite a few types of black hole interactions, and will be publishing a paper on their results soon. And Steven Spielberg is making a movie, Interstellar about it. Planned to release in 2012, so mark it on your calendars.

Visit Amaryllis to learn more and share in the fun.

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