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.

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9 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.

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  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.

  9. Charles says:

    Though I realize that anything is possible, I have a question concerning both black holes and the theory of white holes.

    Bear with me as I know a lot of mathematicians, and physicists out there will probably disprove everything I say with a snap of the on switch of their calculator. Then again, I am one person, and surely someone else on this tiny rock we call earth will have already thought of this. But I digress and self-depreciate too much. (Just trying to defeat the “You’re so stupid because you’re so stupid” (Insert clip from Dexter’s Lab here)).

    Anyway, what if, both black holes and white holes exist. Black holes obviously you cannot “see”, but what if white holes are the very stars we see in our galaxy? After all, no one has tried to enter the sun, so we don’t know if we can. Of course no one has ever entered a black hole to tell what is at the center, though I believe I have read/seen documentaries where the theory is that there is incredible energy at the center due to everything being crushed to one spot.

    What if that one spot is the exit point of a star somewhere else? The energy and light escape from the star, and are thus, eventually re-absorbed into a black hole again. Would this not explain, or help to explain the theory that there is a black hole at the center of each galaxy? Sucking in all the light for it to re-emerge further and further out in its own galaxy?

    In turn, I propose that all these stars and black holes “pulse”. They “throb” so to speak. As a star collapses, its paired black hole expands. When the star finally collapses completely into a black hole, the location of its paired black hole a star is born. It’s like they both eventually turn each other inside out through the fabric of time and space. The opposite occurs when a black hole finally collapses past the point of singularity, and a star is born there and it’s paired star collapses into a black hole.
    Thus matter is never destroyed, it is just traded from one location to another.

    I simply don’t have the mathematical skills to figure this out alone, so I figured someone out there does.

    As I implied at the beginning, I’m sure that this has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, but it’s something that has always been in the back of my mind, and I figured I would see what other people thought. Or if this had already been proposed at some point, what was the theory called?

    Thank you for your time.

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