Physicists Make Artificial Black Hole Using Optical Fiber

Scientists in Scotland say they have created a black hole's event horizon using laser pulses and microstructured optical fiber

4 min read

7 March 2008—Physicists at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, report that they have created an analogue to a black hole in their lab. Such a tabletop black hole, made from a length of optical fiber and laser light, may prove invaluable in understanding the characteristics of these exotic astronomical objects, scientists say.

”About three and a half years ago, in August of 2004, I realized that it is possible to use optical fibers to create an analogue of a black hole,” says Ulf Leonhardt, who reported the research today in the journal Science . ”It took us a while to do the experiment because it was very hard to get funding.”

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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