Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the cosmos. Due to their extreme nature -- a singularity cloaked by an event horizon -- they are foundational in many fields. Mathematicians use them to study the very stability of space and time; for astronomers, they are powerful actors on the Cosmic stage, not only determining the evolution of galaxies but also forming during the cataclysmic death of stars; for physicists, the unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics at the singularity has occupied center stage for decades; and for philosophers, the event horizon boundary raises unique epistemological questions. Even the curious public wonders at these objects, imbuing them with imagined and fantastic properties that have found their way into literature, art and film.
The Black Hole Initiative formed in 2016 to create a meeting point for all these groups, conceived with the notion that cross disciplinary study would open bold new lines of attack on the big questions: what are black holes and how do they affect the Universe? The BHI has succeeded beyond all expectations. Our interdisciplinary community of scholars captured the first image of a black hole, we devised new approaches to the flow of information through the event horizon, and we harnessed modern computing to simulate the unknown black hole interior as well as the turbulent exterior; all this was recounted in a philosophically-minded feature length film that made these discoveries accessible to humanity.
In this next phase of the BHI, we propose to answer fresh questions posed by these accomplishments and enabled by our unique community. We will move from still images to making movies of black holes, we will simulate the evolution of black holes across cosmic time, the infinities encoded in photon orbits at the event horizon will be mined for new observational tests of gravity, and the cosmic censorship that shields singularities from view will be challenged.