TEL AVIV – An Israeli physicist may have proved one of Stephen Hawking’s most prominent theories about black holes, a groundbreaking new study published this week in one of the world’s top science journals claims.
Professor Jeff Steinhauer of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology authored the research – published in Nature Physics – which contributes to affirming the veracity of “Hawking Radiation,” a phenomenon proposed four decades ago that suggests that subatomic light particles are sometimes emitted back out of a black hole and are therefore causing them to slowly evaporate.
So far, no one had been able to prove the theory, mostly because light particles from black holes are too small to be detected from Earth.
Last year, Steinhauer and his team of researchers were able to recreate conditions similar to those of a black hole in a lab, using sound waves in order to study how subatomic particles behave on its edge, known as an event horizon.
“This is experimental confirmation of Hawking’s prediction about the thermodynamics of the black hole,” said Steinhauer.
Steinhauer explains how he simulated a black hole event horizon by cooling helium to just above absolute zero (-273.15°C or -59.67°F) and then heating it very quickly in order to prevent it from emitting sound waves in the same way light from a black hole cannot escape.
However, Steinhauer found that the sound waves did indeed escape his black hole, in line with Hawking’s prediction.
Steinhauer’s discovery could earn Hawking his first Nobel Prize.
In an ironic twist, Hawking has voiced support for the academic boycott against Israel. In 2013, the physicist cancelled his participation in the President’s Conference in Jerusalem organized by then-president Shimon Peres. Initially, he said he would not be able to attend due to ill health but later retracted his statement, saying that he was heeding the call of Palestinian academics who had urged him to withdraw.