Warmth in the darkest of places

Black holes have been a source of fascination for physicists and science generalists for years. There is no way to actually observe what happens in a black hole, due to the fact that light cannot escape the pull of a black hole; we can theorise as much as we like but we cannot actually know. Some people like to theorise about exotic universes that lie on the other side; and as sci-fi as it sounds – we can’t even rule this theory out. There are so many exciting, surprising and unknown qualities to black holes that this would be a very long post indeed if we were to exhaust all features worth exhausting. For the purposes of this post, consider a black hole to be made of three things: 1) a horizon, 2) empty space and 3) a singularity. These are;

  1. The point at which once breached you cannot escape the pull of the black hole. Nothing can – not even light.
  2. Sounds simple – naturally there is nothing more complicated than empty space.
  3. The centre of the black hole, in theory an infinitely small point in which all the matter is crushed with mind-bending force and density.

The purpose of this post is to focus on one of the surprising qualities, the fact that black holes glow; very faintly and very cold but it has a temperature. This is a departure from the perception that most people (I assume?!) had, that they are just black and cold. The relationship with gravity is such that the greater the gravity at the horizon the lower the temperature. See how I said up there empty space was complicated? Here is why. It is the empty space which gives the black hole its glow. Now that really is exciting.

It all comes down to the creation and destruction of particles. This is something that occurs in empty space all of the time – which is what is represented in the Feynam diagram below, which shows the annihilation of an electron postiron pair. Don’t get too hung up on which particle pairs we are talking about; the below is just part of an illustration. What happens when particles collide, particle creation, annihilation, stable particles and alike are all part of the rich and fruitful pursuit of particle physics.


So what is happening is that lots of particle pairs are being created and destroyed in empty space; great. Well sometimes this happens right by the black hole horizon and rather than the subsequent annihilation one of the particles manages to escape while the other particle is pulled towards the black hole. The end result is that energy is being taken away from the black hole – and as everyone knows heat isn’t anything other than energy. This is what gives black holes their non-zero glow. Basically, the horizon causes some of the quantum fluctuations to be converted into thermal energy.

The only final thing to add is that the temperatures we are talking about are very very (very) low. Black holes millions of times the mass of the sun would only exhibit temperatures to the order of billionths of a single Kelvin – and bearing in mind 1 Kelivin is a degree above absolute zero, -273 degrees centigrade it’s hardly toasty. This has direct application to string theory, where D-branes, basically just very small black holes exhibit thermal vibrations allowing the theory to hold.


29 responses to “Warmth in the darkest of places

    • Fascinating isn’t it. I am sure every generation has felt this but we do live in exciting times. I get the sense with Hawking even he isn’t yet satisfied with where he has gotten to – I really hope the man has enough time left to complete his work. I think he will – he seems to defy all medical common sense!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Could not agree more – the better the education around the universe becomes, the less terrifying and the more exciting our lives will become.

      Thanks for reading, appreciate it

      Liked by 1 person

    • We are getting more and more skilled at detecting little things that happen around the horizon… will we ever find out what is on the other side? It’s difficult. If a black hole is nothing more than a well in space and time ripping information, light and time itself to a standstill I would be surprised if we could ever invent machinery to do that. Although it is important to keep the minds open – let’s face it most impossible things are only impossible until someone does them. When I, with all fingers crossed, take up a research post information around black hole horizons will be the center of my universe!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Am I right to assume that you don’t literally mean empty space? With dark matter, dark energy, higgs field, etc., I thought scientists now agree there’s no truly empty space. Please let me know, if I’m wrong about that.

    You know my hypothesis, Joseph, which is the absence of any objective distinction by full measure of today’s science (particle distinction described as fuzzy, blurry, etc.) hints towards the purely energetic nature inclusively of space itself (including its properties), which logically should lend heavily towards understanding the limits of black hole modulation (and literally everything else — unified theory).

    Black hole distortion is obviously relatively severe (extreme upon singularity), so I really think the relatively crude definition of spatial dimensionality (four, 11, or anything other than basically oceanic dimensionality) forms tremendous scientific friction to uphold the black hole mystery.

    I’m scientifically concerned about scientists forcing space to match the math of relativity and quantum physics. Math is a frame, but always deviates from actuality in some sufficiently distorted context (e.g. coincidentally black hole singularity). Reality is simply overwhelmingly too demonstrably complex to likely fit those tried-and-relatively-true mathematical frames, so that friction is likely severe (again, as wonderfully demonstrated by black hole distortion).

    Because any energy waveform cannot have infinite amplitude (which breaks any waveform), a pure singularity is rendered nonsense in a purely energetic reality. In understanding the true shape of a black hole (and coincidentally our universe matching another singularity), that apparently is a critical factor, yes?

    I hope Dr. Hawking and others such as yourself will take that logic into meticulous scientific consideration, and (as always) I welcome your input on my input.

    Liked by 2 people

    • By empty space I do not mean truly empty no. This is why we get the creation and subsequent annihilation of particles as we discuss in this post; just “empty” in the more commonly understood sense.

      I must tell you I firmly believe in the theory of general relativity for what it is. The mathematics works perfectly on the scales to which it is applicable and the observations are without a doubt reality. We know the majority of general relativity’s predictions click with real world observations. When we say this is not the unified theory I think people are often tricked into thinking it is wrong – it does not mean this it means we are searching for a larger, more encompassing theorem. A framework in which general relativity works.

      For me mathematics is a toy. Sometimes the results are nothing but fantasy – sometimes I build models of reality. A bit like Lego!

      How much depth have your read string theory in? To be honest large parts of it are not a million miles away from your thoughts, I believe. The vibrating strings are not much more than energy, strings are a term we use to model.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the prompt verification on the empty space front.

        “The mathematics works perfectly on the scales to which it is applicable and the observations are without a doubt reality.”

        I agree with everything you said about general relativity, but those scales are miniscule relative to the so-far unlimited reach of multiversal possibilities (e.g. universes possibly with entirely different laws of physics) — which logically grow to an even more mind-shattering degree upon the fully logically established idea of energetic spatial recognition (including basically oceanic dimensional modulation astonishingly beyond humanity’s current four dimensional reach).

        There’s objective reality (regardless of perspective), and then there’s pseudo-objective reality, which is equal to every human being only possibly honestly agreeing with a conclusion. Basically most of science is of the latter, because we cannot prove a deviation from human observation (even technologically, ultimately human observation is a factor).

        Scientists have so brilliantly broken down reality from humanity’s view, observation itself has a physical effect upon the observed. I logically maintain that’s because observation — as is everything else — is energy, so particles are resonances without objective distinction (as so far confirmed by the fuzzy nature of that so-called distinction in quantum physics). I logically disagree with the popular science concluding particle wave duality, but theorize that all quantum occurrence is purely wavy with observation being a resonator.

        You’re right in that my theory (Reality Waveform Theory) matches the idea of energetic strings. RWT also doesn’t conflict with the tried-and-true areas of general relativity and quantum physics (or any other well-established science), but shines a logical light upon the possible expansion to increasingly cover whatever mysteries unexplained by that well-established and validated math.

        RWT expands upon it by insisting that sinusoidal shape is contingent upon the shape of observation (i.e. any definition is relative). Considering one cannot possibly exist outside of existence, relativity must disappear at that logically extreme scope, so definition is also literally logically impossible there (i.e. existence/reality can only objectively be an undefinable extreme). We observe reality as complex energy, because of the energetic shape of our observation, but all energetic possibilities phase cancel to form that undefinable extreme.

        Even Lego constructs are frames. They can roughly match physical objects (cars, planes, buildings, etc.), or be wildly creative to match your fun. Scientifically useful math obviously has to line up with reality. It does so brilliantly well with quantum physics and relativity, but obviously not perfectly so. While that brilliance is greatly tuned with human experience, that experience is (repeating for emphasis) miniscule compared to even observed energetic possibilities (e.g. black hole distortions that can even stop to observation of passing time at the event horizon).

        String theorists logically need to step back from the allure of that mathematical success, and embrace the logic coming from the absence of objective distinction to explore space (and its properties) modulating energetically in all possible ways (just as mass is highly condensed energy, space is also energetic). Then understand that mathematical frames need to be carefully expanded (more granular) to reveal more of those possibilities — relative to humanity’s experience — for better understanding and utility. I’m no math expert beyond basic arithmetic, but I logically assume that requires purely waveform mathematics (trigonometry, wave function, etc.)


    • I’ve never read it but I may well give it a go, my reading list seems to be running away quicker than my eyes can manage at the moment! Glad you enjoyed and thank you for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

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