Q: Is there a single equation that proves black holes are real?

Physicist: Nope!

Using general relativity (which has plenty of equations), and a little borrowed knowledge from other fields (to describe star collapse), you can show that black holes should exist.  But unfortunately there are no proofs in physics, just experimental and observational evidence.

That being said, the observational evidence of the existence of the black holes has been extremely good.  For example, by looking at the movement of the stars in the galactic core we’ve determined that they must be orbiting a tiny, invisible object with several million Suns worth of mass.

Which sounds like pretty good evidence for a black hole!  Of course, at the end of every theory, proposition, and paper is a tiny invisible asterisk that reads:

“*All of the above assumes that something we’ve never heard of and/or could never have imagined isn’t what’s actually going on.  That would hella suck.”

From time to time “something we’ve never heard of” is exactly what’s going on, but there isn’t a lot that can be done about that.  Dismissing a working theory because something might be wrong is paralyzing.

So Sagittarius A* (the super-massive object in the center of our galaxy) is almost definitely a black hole, but it hasn’t been (and never will be completely, absolutely, and totally) proven that black holes exist.  I’m convinced though.

This entry was posted in -- By the Physicist, Astronomy, Philosophical, Physics. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Q: Is there a single equation that proves black holes are real?

  1. Black holes (their core at least) are kind of like life after death, in that the gravitational pull, like death, is certainly there, and nothing going into one (or dying) ever comes back to tell what it’s like. :-)

  2. jina jina says:

    that’s why mathematics > physics.

  3. Neal says:

    Philosophical point: No equation can “prove” anything is real. Physical equations are claims about how the world works. When we compare observations to equations, we’re checking how well those equations work.

  4. Pingback: Fifth Linkfest

  5. sharafali.a says:

    mathematics is not > physis…. . physics creating problems.. mathematics solving it..
    so without physics there is no need of mathematics… without mathematics physics become like news papers.

  6. Robert Mastragostino says:

    sharafali.a, while I would agree that one subject is not ‘greater’ than another, I’d have to object to the idea that math would be useless without physics. Math has many uses in physics, yes, but also in other things like economics. Plus you mentioned the major problem with your thinking: math *solves* physics problems. Without math, I could easily argue that *physics* is essentially useless, because without math you’ve taken away physics’ ability to predict results. Math on the other hand would be fine without physics. Neither is greater than the other.

  7. dude215p says:

    Question: could dark matter be black holes? We might not be able to detect them except in very few instances, but we do see their gravitational effect. Would gravitational lensing be visible in case of black holes but not in case of dark matter?

  8. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    We can see examples of lensing from both; either from nearby black holes or from dark matter around distant galaxies. Dark matter is almost certainly different from black holes. We find black holes in the same places we find stars (in the galactic plane), but we find dark matter all over the place (in the “dark matter halo“) around galaxies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *