Caleb Scharf on 'Gravity's Engines,' black holes

'Gravity's Engines' by Caleb Scharf
Book cover courtesy of publisher

In Caleb Scharf's new book, "Gravity's Engines," the astrophysicist looks at the most recent research on one of the great mysteries of outer space: black holes. Some of the latest data shows a new side to these elements of understanding space-time. The black holes actually "blow bubbles," Scharf said, shooting out beams and matter.

Scharf on the Scientific American 'Life, Unbounded' blog:

Supermassive black holes had long been suspected of being a disruptive element. As I wrote in the last piece in this series, when they consume matter they can be incredibly noisy, casting energy back out into the surrounding universe. Inside clusters of galaxies we see them blowing bubbles and generating waves in intergalactic gas, phenomena that slow down the condensation of that gas into cool nebula and new stars. In other places we see the wash of radiation and particles flooding galaxies, a sporadic but potent force. It looked like a promising solution, but was still incomplete.

I was personally convinced of the role that these giant holes play in 'pruning' galaxies and stars when my colleagues and I stumbled across a great clue in the deep cosmic past. For black holes to provide the missing link, they needed to have helped stunt the growth of the very largest galaxies. And that meant that they needed to have been involved from the very outset, something that was unconfirmed. Luckily, we had discovered just such a situation in a place some 12 billion light years away, in the early morning of galactic evolution.

Scharf joined The Daily Circuit to talk about his new book and the mysteries of black holes.

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