black hole black hole Physicist Jeff Steinhauer​ trapped sound waves to create a model for a black hole. (Photo: sdecoret / Shutterstock)

What happens when you shoot laser beams at a black hole?

The results are proving Stephen Hawking's famous prediction.

A black hole is a dark piece of the sky that you can get sucked into, never to return. At least, so goes many sci-fi shows. But an epic new experiment suggests black holes aren't the bottomless pits starship captains are so afraid of.

Physicist Jeff Steinhauer is from the Technion Institute, hailed as the MIT of Israel. He created a fake black hole and shot laser beams at it because some physicists have all the fun.

In this experiment, Steinhauer trapped cold particles in a laser beam, a model for a black hole. When he shot another laser at it containing sound waves, the waves were forcibly drawn into the hole and couldn't escape because too many waves were flowing toward the hole – kind of like being swept along with a crowd. And yet, when pairs of sound waves were created near the hole, he found that one wave would often fall in, and the other would escape.

These findings support Stephen Hawking's 1974 prediction that black holes might emit waves and particles, causing them to shrink over time and eventually disappear.

"This is the world’s first observation of spontaneous Hawking radiation," explained Steinhauer in a YouTube video.

Hawking theorized that these emitted waves and particles could travel to other universes.

"The reason people care about black holes and Hawking radiation is not to learn about the black holes themselves so much as to test the new laws of physics," explained Steinhauer. "Verifying that Hawking radiation really occurs is a good step toward trying to figure out what the new laws of physics are."


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What happens when you shoot laser beams at a black hole?
A physicist from Israel's Technion Institute is proving Stephen Hawking's famous prediction. Black holes may not be as bottomless as we imagine.