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We Knew Black Holes Have a Temperature. It Turns out They Also Have a Pressure

14 Sep 2021, 19:03 UTC
We Knew Black Holes Have a Temperature. It Turns out They Also Have a Pressure
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In the classical theory of general relativity, black holes are relatively simple objects. They can be described by just three properties: mass, charge, and rotation. But we know that general relativity is an incomplete theory. Quantum mechanics is most apparent in the behavior of tiny objects, but it also plays a role in large objects such as black holes. To describe black holes at a quantum level, we need a theory of quantum gravity. We don’t have a complete theory yet, but what know so far is that quantum mechanics makes black holes more complex, giving them properties such as temperature and perhaps even pressure.

Temperature is perhaps the best known quantum property of a black hole. Because of the fuzziness of quantum particles, energy cannot be completely bound by a black hole’s event horizon. Sometimes energy can escape its gravitational prison through a process known as Hawking radiation. The amount of energy that escapes is tiny, but it means that black holes have a (very cold) temperature. And that means black holes can be described in terms of the laws of thermodynamics. For regular matter, thermodynamics describes not just the temperature of an object, but also properties such as ...

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