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US News What would happen if we fell into a black hole? The answers of the Nobel Prize winner

19:45  06 october  2020
19:45  06 october  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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Andrea Ghez, l’une des trois lauréats 2020 du prix Nobel de physique attribué mardi 6 octobre. © AFP / University of California, Los Angeles / Christopher Dibble Andrea Ghez, one of the three winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded Tuesday, October 6.

American Andrea Ghez explains that she wouldn't really like it. She became the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday, October 6.

When we ask the American astronomy professor Andrea Ghez, one of the three 2020 Nobel Prize winners in physics awarded on Tuesday October 6 , how she explains a black hole to a child, she answers: An object whose gravitational force is so intense that nothing can escape it, not even light.

The definition does not always satisfy the curiosity of its interlocutors and we can understand it. But things really aren't that simple: Very few people understand what a black hole is, but a lot of people are fascinated by them, says Andrea Ghez, an hour after becoming the fourth woman to receive the physics award.

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"Difficult to conceptualize a black hole"

This summer, his group of researchers celebrated the 25th anniversary of the start of their work which culminated, using gigantic telescopes in Hawaii and countless calculations, by the measurement from the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way, called Sagittarius A *.

It's very difficult to conceptualize a black hole, she agrees. The laws of physics near a black hole are so different from those that operate on Earth that you have no intuition for the things you are looking for.

I can think of it mathematically, abstractly, but form a image is very difficult, because space and time mix.

To "see" it, you have to observe the stars

The way to see a black hole, by definition invisible, is to observe the objects that revolve around it, and which reveal the presence of the giant. In this case, the stars. Andrea Ghez confirms that after 25 years she has a very precise mind map of the stars that revolve around Sagittarius A *.

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The stars are like children whose names we all know, but they change a little bit each year, says the astronomer. Does she know exactly where the star S2 is, whose 16 years of orbit she has precisely mapped around the black hole? We keep a close eye on the star.

So ... how would it be to fall into it?

Another neophyte question: is it true, as the Swedish academy writes, that you wouldn't feel anything if you fell into a black hole? We wouldn't survive. If you were to fall with your feet forward into a black hole, the first thing that would happen is that the gravitational pull would be so much stronger on your feet than your head, that you would be torn to pieces. We would therefore not feel anything because we would no longer exist, we would not survive, we would disintegrate into our fundamental elements.

I wouldn't like that, she concluded. Andrea Ghez, PhD from Caltech (1992), has been at the University of California, Los Angeles since 1994, where she co-directs the Galactic Center. She firmly believes that many black hole mysteries will be unraveled further in her lifetime.

This is an area of ​​physics where the pace of discovery is accelerating, as technology evolves at top speed. And frankly, we know so little.

Delighted to be "a role model for young women"

Two years ago, Canadian physicist Donna Strickland was awarded the Nobel in physics, and before them only two women won, in 1963 (Maria Goeppert Mayer) and 1903 (Marie Curie). Against more than 200 men. The field has long been dominated by men, but there are more and more women entering the discipline. I am delighted to be able to be a role model for young women who are considering getting started, concludes the scientist.

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This is interesting!