by Jeff Bernardis, Director
I’ve never been one to be into the cosmology aspects of our hobby, particularly in the areas dealing with general relativity. Some of the concepts are really paradoxical to think about, although I can appreciate the way that great minds can conceive of them. One of these great minds of our time is Stephen Hawking. Despite his physical ailments, he is, in my mind, one of the most thought provoking people on the planet. Just imagine what he could do if he had all of his faculties.
Back in the late 90’s, Stephen Hawking published a book entitled “A Brief History of Time”. I figured that here was a brilliant mind that I have ultimate respect for, who has reduced this elusive topic down to just over 200 pages. I purchased the book with the anticipation that I was finally going to be able to wrap my hands around these concepts. I’m not sure I ever finished the book. I think I got just past a discussion on event horizons when my eyes glazed over; it just wasn’t sinking in.
Through the years, I’ve gradually absorbed more knowledge about the subject, and while my level of knowledge is basic at best, at least I feel comfortable with it.
So now Stephen Hawking has raised his voice again with a somewhat controversial hypothesis. In late January, Hawking published an article in which he contends that event horizons may not be as rigid as everyone has theorized to this point. His hypothesis is that event horizons, as we have defined them, do not exist, but there are “apparent horizons” that persist for a finite amount of time. As the quantum particles within the horizon shift, the horizons themselves shift allowing energy and matter to escape.
Who knows what is right? This just a theory conceived to explain our observations. It will be interesting to see how the cosmologists debate this question.
We in the AAAP are blessed in that we have some of these theoreticians right here on the Princeton campus right in Peyton Hall. We’ve heard from some of them in the past at our meetings, and I’m sure we’ll hear more from them in the future. We might not ever know the final answers to these questions, but we are certainly in the right place to be an audience to the debate.