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October 19, 2009 6:21 AM   Subscribe

It's armageddon all over again. Chinese have created a black hole.
posted by strangeguitars (66 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Armegeddon outta here!

/rim shot

But seriously, folks, this is nothing new... I've had a black hole in my pocket for years! I can't save a nickel!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:26 AM on October 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Designed by scientists at the Southeast University in Nanjing, China, this eight-and-a-half-inch-wide disk absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation you throw at it, with none of the pesky time dilation and Hawking radiation associated with the larger, interstellar versions.

Then how did they take a photograph of it?
posted by zoomorphic at 6:29 AM on October 19, 2009 [34 favorites]


this eight-and-a-half-inch-wide disk absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation you throw at it,

So if I have one of these in my pocket, and the person next to me is conducting a really annoying conversation on their mobile phone...
posted by permafrost at 6:30 AM on October 19, 2009


As we have learned from countless novels, comics, television shows, and movies, this is a plan that cannot possibly go wrong!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess the "pop" in "popsci" makes you put the lead paragraph, with the actual facts, as the last paragraph.
posted by chambers at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


These discs don't destroy the energy of the trapped light, and emit heat when trapping ambient radiation.

The Chinese are getting to be better international citizens: now at least they obey the law of conservation of energy.

That means these metamaterial black holes could serve as the basis for solar panels that capture every wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Seems more likely as a use for coating a stealth aircraft. Which makes it puzzling why they'd publish this. Unless it *can't* be used that way but they want to scare us...
posted by DU at 6:32 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not a black hole in the gravitational sense, simply a surface that's very very absorbent to a certain range of EM radiation. How much more black could this be? The answer is none. None more black.
posted by Electric Dragon at 6:33 AM on October 19, 2009 [16 favorites]


If only there were some form of black hole which I could use to suck in all sensationalistic, overblown, crappy science writing and leave it trapped there, forever.
posted by adipocere at 6:38 AM on October 19, 2009 [29 favorites]


That really sucks.
posted by WPW at 6:39 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Will there be a 35% import duty imposed on these things to protect American manufacturers of similar items?
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 6:40 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The metamaterial "resonators" that make up the rings affect the magnetic properties of passing light, bending the beams into the center of the disc, and trapping them in the etched maze-like grooves.


Chinese got a lot of hells.
posted by total warfare frown at 6:41 AM on October 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Snark away, it can absorb all the meh we throw at it.
posted by hermitosis at 6:42 AM on October 19, 2009 [14 favorites]


The Chinese are getting to be better international citizens: now at least they obey the law of conservation of energy.

If I'm laughing this hard at 9:45, it's going to be a good day.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:42 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, the linked article reads a whole lot better if one imagines it being read by one of those mid-Atlantic announcers of the 40's with a MovieTone Newsreel backing track.
posted by Electric Dragon at 6:47 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


First our fingers and now our light?! Damn these Chinese and their traps!
posted by Atreides at 6:48 AM on October 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


So what? Wile E. Coyote had one of these YEARS ago!
posted by briank at 6:48 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


> Seems more likely as a use for coating a stealth aircraft. Which makes it puzzling why they'd publish this. Unless it *can't* be used that way but they want to scare us...

Your stealth aircraft shouldn't thwart its own attempts at communications. And it probably shouldn't be vulnerable to overheating simply for flying in daylight.
posted by ardgedee at 6:51 AM on October 19, 2009


Your stealth aircraft shouldn't thwart its own attempts at communications. And it probably shouldn't be vulnerable to overheating simply for flying in daylight.

It only works in a given slice of the spectrum. Tune it for radar freqs and...bingo.
posted by DU at 6:52 AM on October 19, 2009


Not actually a hole... or black by the look of that photo. So that's two lies in two words...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:52 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


How much more black could this be? The answer is none. None more black.

The emo kids will be lining up around the block to get one.
posted by chillmost at 6:54 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The metamaterial "resonators" that make up the rings affect the magnetic properties of passing light

It's getting harder and harder to differentiate between the crackpots and the real scientists these days.
posted by ook at 7:02 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


In their next study, these scientists will be constructing a house entirely made of neutron beams.
posted by gsteff at 7:02 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Metamaterial research is an international scientific effort, so if you want to panic over the accomplishments of "The Chinese," you'll want to pick something else to wring your hands over.

There's a New Scientist article with more facts.

The current design only affects microwaves, that's why it doesn't look black. Modifying the design to affect visible light is the next step.

Applications of metamaterials that affect visible light include improved solar panels (using this "light-only black hole" to focus light to a specific area for improved power generation in dim conditions), and invisibility cloaks (we've had microwave-invisible cloaks for a few years now).
posted by GameDesignerBen at 7:12 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


The missing noun in this FPP must have fallen into it.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 7:17 AM on October 19, 2009


There's a New Scientist article with more facts.

Heh.

( though TBH New Scientists reputation on MeFi is a little undeserved and largely based on the rather odd selection of articles Mefites choose to post from there. )
posted by Artw at 7:20 AM on October 19, 2009


Very cool! But, erm, ok, this could use a few more links.
Popsci
via Nature News (a little better)
via Cheng, Q. and Cui, T. J. (you can browse their previous work on metamaterials here too)
also, physorg.com, for a decent writeup

Comparing it to a black hole is a bit silly. It's no more a black hole than your car radio antenna is a black hole for radio waves. This is a uniquely structured mm-scale material that is very efficient at absorbing a certain range of wavelengths in the microwave band. It's cool, but it has no relation to a black hole, except in that it absorbs some radiation, and it's circular

Ok, i'll admit that the paths that light rays take toward the center are reminiscent of geodesics entering a black hole event horizon, but really, the resemblance is coincidental
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:25 AM on October 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


I suspect they got the idea from the internet, which is, after all, a complex set of interlinking sites on increasingly obscure and detailed topics that draw in and concentrate attention so that it can never escape. Except as angry forum and blog posts.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:39 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Surely it would be more apt to simply call this an ideal black body, no?
posted by Rhomboid at 7:58 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Absorbs radiation and emits heat? That's not a a black hole, but it does describe a black body.
posted by TedW at 7:59 AM on October 19, 2009


Dammit, scooped again!
posted by TedW at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2009


How much more black could this be? The answer is none. None more black.

Even the white bits are black.
posted by hangashore at 8:05 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


So where does the Red Matter go?
posted by Artw at 8:05 AM on October 19, 2009


I wonder if this is an extension of the research going on with the "invisibility cloak" and if so, I wonder what the next crazy-ass thing the press will call it will be. I'm guessing either Time Travel or Perpetual Motion on a plate.
posted by quin at 8:06 AM on October 19, 2009


Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:15 AM on October 19, 2009


Yeah, it uses metamaterials like the invisibility cloak. AFAICT, it's not really a singularity like the real black holes. It just absorbs all of the electromagnetic waves and emits them as heat. (Question: isn't heat a form of electromagnetic wave? or is that just some forms of heat?)

One thing I don't get is when they say it could work for solar panels. Do they mean photovoltaic cells, which take photons to generate electricity, or do they just mean thermal solar power, where light is used to heat something? It's a lot more intriguing if they could somehow put a cell at the center of the black hole to curve all the light to it. Could they use titanium oxide instead of silicon and get good results despite it being white because of the way it curves the light?

/armchair physicist who doesn't know anything
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:17 AM on October 19, 2009


Snark away, it can absorb all the meh we throw at it.

If your read the article, the disc can actually only absorb snark at certain wavelengths.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:18 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not so farfetched when you realize the galaxy is on Orion's belt.
posted by jeremias at 8:26 AM on October 19, 2009


Question: isn't heat a form of electromagnetic wave? or is that just some forms of heat?

Not really. At its most basic, heat needs there to be something that is hot. Electromagnetism doesn't need there to be anything to carry it. Both heat and electromagnetism are forms of energy, so you can generally convert one into the other in a variety of ways.
posted by rusty at 8:32 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It just absorbs all of the electromagnetic waves and emits them as heat. (Question: isn't heat a form of electromagnetic wave? or is that just some forms of heat?)

It doesn't in fact absorb "all the electromagnetic waves", only those in the microwave range for which it's tuned. (In the paper they indicate they ran simulations for 18 GHz and 50 GHz.)
posted by Rhomboid at 8:36 AM on October 19, 2009


Black bodies absorb radiation like this.
White bodies emit radiation like THIS.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


What's often confusing is when people are told that infrared radiation (IR) is the same thing as heat. This is a misconception. Heat is essentially just kinetic motion on the molecular scale. But the energy that drives this motion can be transmitted between molecules using IR. An excited molecule will randomly emit its energy in the form of a photon in the IR spectrum (and, in doing so, become unexcited). Whatever molecule absorbs this photon will then become excited by an equivalent amount.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:49 AM on October 19, 2009


Okay, I've read in the past about the idea of using solar powered satellites to beam microwaves toward earth for power -- if they put a giant one of these out into the desert some where, it seems that it would be a great way to power a steam turbine.
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on October 19, 2009


An excited molecule will randomly emit its energy in the form of a photon in the IR spectrum (and, in doing so, become unexcited)

Rather, such is the behavior of molecules at temperatures near those our species is used to. In general the physics doesn't give a shit about what we call the "IR spectrum." This flexibility is the fundamental operating principle behind incandescent and HID lighting and, for that matter, goes a long way in describing the popular interpretation of sun- and starlight.
posted by 7segment at 9:21 AM on October 19, 2009


Could this FFP have possibly been framed any worse? This is Metafilter, not Fox News. Let's leave the inflammatory, completely inaccurate headlines to them.
posted by Caduceus at 9:44 AM on October 19, 2009


Gracious, but bad science journalism with wildly misleading headlines makes me want to punch someone right in the clambasket. Which is a real shame about this article - a story about weird metal discs etched with bizarre mazelike geometry that have the power to warp the very fabric of surrounding observable space is something that is very... relevant to me and the fam.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:48 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


This energy-absorbing black disc has released a statement of its own.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 10:03 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess the "pop" in "popsci" makes you put the lead paragraph, with the actual facts, as the last paragraph.

Well, sure, because with this kind of mainstream journalism, you need your opening paragraph to be as sensationalistic and arresting as possible, to attract lots of eyeballs, and therefore ad revenue. It's a monetary decision, really.

In other words -- they're trying to turn a lede into gold.
posted by webmutant at 10:13 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Will pocket black holes be available for Christmas giving?
posted by Cranberry at 10:37 AM on October 19, 2009


iRobot Roomba: Event Horizon Model
posted by orme at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2009


Rather, such is the behavior of molecules at temperatures near those our species is used to.

Yes, the general principle of photon absorption and release is independent of wavelength. But as I understand it, IR and the microwave range are the only parts of the spectrum that cause molecular vibration/rotation, which is what ultimately represents heat. While all types of electromagnetic radiation take the form of photons, only parts of the spectrum, when absorbed, result in thermal energy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:51 AM on October 19, 2009


I don't think this post could be any worse. The deceptive "black hole" terminology (coming either from an idiot researcher or some idiot PR idiot), the bizarre jingoistic framing, the fundamental misunderstanding that confuses the confusing "black hole" terminology with the actual meaning of the term "black hole". It's just a giant fucking mess, and it would be better off not being here.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:30 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've got a hole in me pocket.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:30 AM on October 19, 2009


It's getting harder and harder to differentiate between the crackpots and the real scientists these days.

Nah. If this shows up on Fox News, we'll know automatically: crackpot.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2009


Yeah, this is hype.

It's not a "black hole" any more than a stack of razor blades is a black hole.

Next time you're at Home Depot, go to wherever they sell straight-edge blades (for utility knives and such) and look at a big pack of blades. Notice that the sharp sides, when they're all stacked together in a pack, appear black, rather than silver as you might expect them to be. This is because most of the light hitting the sharpened edges gets reflected in-between the blades and eventually absorbed (to be re-radiated as heat) rather than reflecting back out.

If the blades are very sharp (non-'heavy duty' blades are best), it's about the "blackest" black you can get; definitely more absorbent than anything you'll find in the paint aisle.

Stacks of blades are sometimes used as beam dumps on laser tables.

What the Chinese seem to have done is made it into a circle, reflecting the incident light in towards a single point where it gets absorbed, but the overall principle doesn't seem any different from the razor blades.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


They should probably have called it a Chinese light absorbing razor disk then, because that sound way more accurate, honest, and scary.
posted by quin at 2:03 PM on October 19, 2009


So what? Wile E. Coyote had one of these YEARS ago!

Yeah, I thought of that too, although it is more than a little bit unrelated (besides being a black disk). Still, Warner Brothers dedicated an entire cartoon in 1955 to the Portable Hole concept, which, second to 'One Froggy Evening', is my favorite one-shot Looney Tune (even with the stereotypical nagging wife character).

And here's a new variation on the theme, with the dual lessons of (1) don't get greedy and (2) always use more scotch tape than you think you'll need.
posted by wendell at 3:44 PM on October 19, 2009


...a Chinese light absorbing razor disk then

Indeed, a common mispronunciation of "laser" here in the Inscrutable Orient!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:27 PM on October 19, 2009


One step closer to a real Bag of Holding!
posted by theButterFly at 4:59 PM on October 19, 2009


I was hoping for a sphere of annihilation to show up in the arcana aisle of Wal-mart.
posted by Tashtego at 8:50 PM on October 19, 2009


Indeed, a common mispronunciation of "laser" here in the Inscrutable Orient!

Goddamn it, i was going to make a joke about buy bootleg razor disks in china town :(
posted by empath at 8:52 PM on October 19, 2009


For those complaining about how I framed the FPP:

I did it that way quite deliberately. It's too bad a few of you interpreted it as a bad attempt at a Wikipedia article or whatever. Of course there were many better articles I could have linked to, but I found the PopSci one to be hilarious; I thought it was satire upon first reading. I knew that Mefites would come up with better links in the discussion. It wasn't out of laziness that I didn't put them in -- I wanted people to experience the same giddy WTF that I did.

I didn't feel that this was in any way like Fox. Fox has a much more bitter, chip-on-a-shoulder flavor.
posted by strangeguitars at 9:47 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a usual day in news-land when the Americans have misinterpreted yet another article into a gaudy, glittering sideshow of barely-correct information and throwaway sensationalism.
posted by suedehead at 9:53 PM on October 19, 2009


Kadin2048: Not exactly. The interesting thing about metamaterials is you can give them optical properties that don't or can't exist in normal materials (but only for a narrow range of wavelengths, usually). The "invisibility cloaks" make use of negative indices of refraction, for example.

The "black hole" of this post has anisotropic and inhomogeneous optical properties which funnels light into the center of the disk regardless of its original direction. I'm pretty sure this is impossible with a conventional lens— as Salvor Hardin notes, the path the light takes is similar to geodesics near a black hole, but I think this is by design, not coïncidental.
posted by hattifattener at 10:11 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a usual day in news-land when the Americans have misinterpreted yet another article...

Yes indeed, the Americans. Each and every last one of 'em. Miserable lot.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 AM on October 20, 2009


Metafilter sucks now. There, I said it. It doesn't have to.
posted by uni verse at 8:21 PM on October 20, 2009


Yes indeed, the Americans. Each and every last one of 'em. Miserable lot.

Of course, every one of them. So you got my point?
posted by suedehead at 6:03 PM on October 22, 2009


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