Over the past 2.5 years the interdisciplinary Black Hole Initiative (BHI) has established the new field of Black Hole Science, conceived broadly to include many fields -- engaging a wide scientific, philosophical and public community from around the world.
Every galaxy similar to or larger than the Milky Way has a supermassive black hole at its center. The observational component of the BHI focuses on these entities through the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). This earth-spanning effort has linked radio dishes into an array capable of directly imaging the shadows cast by the central black holes in the Milky Way and Virgo A galaxies. EHT observations have joined with theory, models, and simulations to fuel new inquiries into the astrophysics of black holes, forging links to colliding black holes and their ability to rip apart and devour entire stars.
Astonishing as black holes are, the classical story is still incomplete. Singularities and intense spacetime curvature brings in quantum physics—giving rise to the “information paradox,” pitting general relativity (no information escapes a black hole which ultimately evaporates) against quantum physics (information is never lost). We are coming much closer to showing how the information paradox may link to EHT observations—and to mathematical inquiries into the nonlinear partial differential equations at the core of general relativity because of our work at the BHI. We are making huge progress in the questions, does quantum geometry challenge time and space—basic to philosophy since Kant? Is the inside of a black hole physically real? Our ability to work together at the BHI on theory, observation, philosophy and filmmaking allow us to collectively address this extraordinary thing, the black hole.