Quantum mechanics predicts that entangled pairs made up of a particle and its anti-particle can spontaneously pop out of otherwise empty space, exist for a fleeting moment, and then annihilate each other and disappear. In the 1970s, Hawking predicted that if such a pair were created near a black hole’s event horizon, one of its members might fall into the black hole before it could be annihilated. The partner left stranded outside the event horizon would appear to an observer to have been radiated from the black hole.
The most effective way to mimic a black hole and test Hawking's predictions is to create an artificial event horizon using a supercooled substance known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). If one region of the BEC is manipulated to move faster than the speed of sound, then sound waves travelling through the rest of the substance would not be able to keep up, effectively becoming trapped behind an event horizon. Hawking radiation should show at this boundary as the production of particle-like packets of vibrational energy called phonons.
Iacopo Carusotto at the University of Trento in Italy and his colleagues claim to have seen just that in a computer simulation of a BEC, which shows that phonons do appear at the event horizon – and that one member of the pair falls into the “black hole” while the other remains outside as predicted. Both phonon partners created identical density patterns in the surrounding BEC, confirming that they were entangled.
Posted by Casey Kazan.
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