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Friday, July 24, 2009

Black Hole in a Teacup

Daily Galaxy writes:

A table-top black hole might sound the worst (and shortest-lived) idea since a Tiger-based daycare, but Berkeley scientists have made it happen. They're using brand new metamaterials to create simulated black holes in a chip, and we'd like to repeat that, but can't because that much coolness in one paragraph could be damaging to the reader.

A material's properties are based on the configuration of the smallest units - everything is made of protons, neutrons and electrons, but different arrangements in different elements lead to wildly differing properties. Metamaterials are mankind realizing "We don't need to be limited by what nature made", using nanotechnology to build brand new materials with otherwise impossible properties out of tiny repeating cells. These cells are bigger than molecules, but still small enough to work.

Professor Zhang and colleagues are experts in metamaterials and their latest creation is the most impressive yet: modeling black holes by taking "analogy" out of writing and into actual hard science. By designing a metamaterial whose reaction to light looks the same as another phenomena, you can effectively examine that phenomena. This is because "looks like" isn't based on color, or shape, but on having exactly the same equations defining its motion - so that it no longer matters if it's because of metamaterials reaction to light or general relativity's to matter. By setting up this "optical-mechanical analogy" you can study an all-consuming gravitational crusher in a simple chip of material.

link: Black Hole in a Lab? Yes, from the UC Berkeley "Believe It or Not Factory"


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