• Maria Khan

What Do We Learn from Black Holes

There are certain constituents of the universe which are most baffling because they are so mysterious. One among them is the black hole. These are objects whose gravity is so strong that nothing that goes inside them can ever escape. Light also cannot escape the intense gravity of the black hole, which is why they appear dark. Astronomers have found that almost every galaxy contains a black hole. Our own galaxy, Milky Way, has a supermassive black hole right at the centre.

The theory that governs the gravitational effects of massive objects is called Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It is seen, however, that this theory breaks down inside a black hole. It yields absurd, infinite results. Such a point is called “singularity” in Physics. The physicist Paul Chesler explains: “A singularity is not a place where quantities really become infinite, but a place where general relativity breaks down.” When physicists encountered this black hole singularity, they realized that the theory they have is not perfect. They need a more “exact” description of gravity such that when it is applied to black holes, it does not lead to absurd, or infinite results.

To be led to a better understanding of how gravity works, physicists have undertaken a deeper study of the singularities of the black hole. They believe that knowing precisely when and where general relativity breaks down is useful in discovering what theory lies beyond it. According to Chesler, “the act of pushing Einstein’s theory to its limits and seeing exactly how it fails can guide you in constructing the next theory.”

We learn a very important principle from this scientific approach to the study of nature. When it is discovered that a particular hypothesis or theory does not explain a phenomenon properly, scientists pick up a clue from here. They begin to study various aspects of the failure of the theory and carefully scrutinize its inadequacies. This process helps them to determine what all a new theory must contain in order to describe previously unexplained phenomena accurately.

A scientific temperament of this kind is extremely useful in the development of the self. If a person’s mistakes or flaws are pointed out, he must not become adamant. He should not try to cover up and portray as though he has not erred at all, rather it is the wrong way in which others are perceiving or judging him. Instead of this mindset of refuting critique, one must be very unbiased and objective. Criticism must be taken as an occasion of great learning. In this way, an individual would begin to introspect and go into inner reflection. He would try to identify reasons for his improper behaviour, pointed out by someone. This would lead him to find ways to reform himself. If the matter concerns a difference of opinion or dissent from his point of view, he would not instantly begin to offer counter-arguments. Rather, he would deliberate over the contrary opinion, which may lead him to discover aspects that he could not himself comprehend and were yet unknown to him. This might help him in correcting his own perspective and have a more comprehensive understanding of the matter.

Just as a scientific theory is pushed to its limits to uncover more advanced theories, we can say that we have to allow ourselves to be “pushed to the limit”. Only in this way, can we become morally and intellectually enlightened.



© 2020 Maria Khan