Q:

Hello, can you please tell me what is the shape of the singularity in a black hole? I am thinking its a perfect sphere.

- david weaver (age 49)

gloucester uk

- david weaver (age 49)

gloucester uk

A:

Hi David,

Einstein's general relativistic laws actually predict a singularity of a single, dimensionless point for a stationary black hole. This should make sense, since the singularity of a black hole is defined as the region in which the quantities that are used to measure the gravitational field (namely the curvature of space-time) become infinite so that the density of the mass concentrated there is also infinite. These infinite values are just a mathematical limit -- a statement that the interior of the black hole approaches some theoretical point in much the same way that a curve approaches an asymptotic value on a two-dimensional graph. If such a curve were to break the rules and intersect with that value somewhere down the line, all bets would be off. The singularity behaves the same way; space and time cease to exist. Scientists think that just before you get down to that point, general relativity should break down due to quantum effects. From there, we can't really say what goes on.

Here's a little visualization, though -- as you might have guessed -- it's not quite as simple as pointing to the singularity on a chart.

I hope that helps!

Best,

Becca

Einstein's general relativistic laws actually predict a singularity of a single, dimensionless point for a stationary black hole. This should make sense, since the singularity of a black hole is defined as the region in which the quantities that are used to measure the gravitational field (namely the curvature of space-time) become infinite so that the density of the mass concentrated there is also infinite. These infinite values are just a mathematical limit -- a statement that the interior of the black hole approaches some theoretical point in much the same way that a curve approaches an asymptotic value on a two-dimensional graph. If such a curve were to break the rules and intersect with that value somewhere down the line, all bets would be off. The singularity behaves the same way; space and time cease to exist. Scientists think that just before you get down to that point, general relativity should break down due to quantum effects. From there, we can't really say what goes on.

Here's a little visualization, though -- as you might have guessed -- it's not quite as simple as pointing to the singularity on a chart.

I hope that helps!

Best,

Becca

*(published on 01/29/2012)*