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More Hawking radiation misinformation

  1. Sep 11, 2009 #1
    typical poor science reporting on our national media - this time about HR on msnbc.com:

    the article states:
    "Contrary to popular belief, black holes do not suck up absolutely everything around them. They actually emit a tiny amount of heat, known as Hawking radiation, as matter and energy is sucked into the singularity."

    presented as an established fact, when it is not at all proven or demonstrated.

    the article goes on to say:
    "The beam eventually breaks into two separate photons, similar to a train's engine separating from its cars. Like an unbound engine, one of the photons continues to race forward, leaving its counterpart lagging behind."

    uh huh - what exactly would be the mechaism by which one photon would somehow have a different velocity than any other photon? and the diea of a "beam" "splitting" into 2 photons? what? photons are individual entities already, hmmm?

    "When the particles split, a tiny bit of heat should be released, which the scientists should be able to detect. If trace amounts of heat are found, that will help bolster the case for true Hawking radiation."

    excuse me? are they saying a 3rd photon ("heat") is created here? from what energy? and the use of the word "particles" - are they referring to the "beam" from the previous statement, and trying to indicate that the original beam was a "particle" which then split into two (3?) photons?

    i pity any poor layperson who might try to understand this sad effort at science reporting.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 12, 2009 #2


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    That was actually quite a good bit of reporting. Even if you think Hawking Radiation is unsound (for no good reason, apparently), this article is reporting on an experimental test of the principle.

    Seriously, you should be feeling really ashamed of yourself right now for arguing against accurate reporting on an experimental test of Hawking Radiation.
  4. Sep 14, 2009 #3
    chalnoth - i am always ready to be corrected or educated on any issue - i fully understand that i am a total layperson, and may often be completely wrong. so, rahter than just poke at me, why dont you please try to address the comments i posted and improve my understanding? i thought my questions were valid. thanks.
  5. Sep 14, 2009 #4


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    Well, the very first thing you should do is not misrepresent your source. Yes, bad science reporting does happen very often, but this article was actually pretty good.

    My objection was not with your understanding of the science nearly as much as your complete misrepresentation of the article. The article is entirely about presenting information about a proposed test of Hawking Radiation, and only mentions what Hawking Radiation is as background information. Your complaints that Hawking Radiation is being "presented as fact", then, are completely without reason, because if it were presented as fact, then there'd be no point in testing for it, would there?

    However, that said, Hawking Radiation for black holes (and other horizons) can be derived using a variety of different methods, and is generally thought to be a highly robust prediction of the combination of General Relativity and quantum mechanics. There is obviously the caveat that we don't know the full quantum nature of gravity, but there are some things we do know, and the prediction of Hawking Radiation is highly independent of those things we don't know. As a result, it is currently considered extremely likely that Hawking Radiation exists.
  6. Sep 15, 2009 #5


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    Seconded. While no direct measurements of Hawking radiation have been made to date, the theory is mathematically supported on several fronts. A good, if brief treatise can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_metric
  7. Sep 15, 2009 #6
    I largely agree with Chalnoth: I find nothing objectionable in the discussion....(except that you were relying on MSNBC (LOL) .....considering it was for TV, it's quite good....

    We should give the media some credit for reporting anything reasonably accurate about science.....few have gotten "man made" global warming described with ANY accuracy,for example....

    I would have perhaps preferred they mentioned "virtual photons" but that would have likely required further explanation and I'd guess the reporter might be stumped trying that...Virtual anything stumps me!!

    On the other hand "radiation" "beam" and "photon" should have been related as 99% of the public would not know there was any connection whatsoever....perhaps something like "Hawking radiation is a beam of photons and is believed to carry heat from a black hole just like you feel heat from a campfire ..... etc,etc
  8. Sep 15, 2009 #7


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    Are you sure 99% of the public doesn't know light is composed of photons? Which city is this?
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