Black Hole of Brookhaven, Redux

By Phil Plait | May 15, 2005 6:09 pm

Back in March, I posted one of my first blog entries about an experiment that some people thought might have created a teeny weeny black hole. I’m no quantum mechanic, so I didn’t speculate too much on it, but made some predictions based on past experience.

One was that I’d get lots of emails. I was wrong. I only got one, really, from a fellow named Jay Kane. I’d introduce you, but I’ll let him do it himself. His email is reprinted with his permission.

I’m a fan of your website (and Randi’s) and I noticed in your blog you mentioned the “black holes” at RHIC at Brookhaven National Laboratory. As it turns out, I (2 weeks ago) received my PhD in heavy ion physics, and my research was carried out at BNL. And, as it further turns out, my thesis was about the disappearance of jets mentioned in that black hole paper.

You mentioned that there were probably more mundane explanations for this “jet quenching”, as it is known. You’re right, and this was an effect that was predicted as early as 1982 by Bjorken. The jet quenching that we see is thought to be a result of the interactions of these very high energy partons with a medium of deconfined quarks and gluons, aka the Quark-Gluon Plasma. [Ed.: well, duh.]

This result, although far from definite, is very exciting, and, in my opinion, a better explanation than black hole theories.

I try not to argue from authority, but am generally willing to take advice handed to me from people far more knowledgeable in the appropriate field than I am. So thanks, Jay. I appreciate the email and the update.

Also, a press release of sorts came out of Brookhaven, clarifying the black hole stories. Basically, the original statements made by Horatiu Nastase, the scientist from Brookhaven, is not that a black hole might have been made, but that the phenomenon is analogous to a black hole. In other words, the math is similar, but the real physical effects are very different. So not only was this phenomenon observed not a black hole, it was never really claimed to be one either.

I so knew it wasn’t a black hole.


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