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Boffins in 'let's create black holes in the lab' jape

SQUIDs. Is there anything they can't do?

Boffins in America say they have worked out a method of creating small black holes in the laboratory for experimental purposes. They seem unconcerned at the prospect of possibly destroying the earth, creating a portal into a parallel universe where peckish man-eating dinosaurs rule etc.

Many scientists, of course, have sought to create desktop black holes for various purposes. But thus far people have tended to fool about with such things as supersonic fluid flows, ultracold bose-einstein condensates and nonlinear fibre optic cables. As one might expect this has achieved little.

But now, topflight brains at Dartmouth College* have at last proposed that an array of superconducting quantum interference devices, or SQUIDs, should be placed inside a magnetic field-pulsed microwave transmission line.

This should be done, they say, not for the purpose of creating interdimensional portals or whatnot, but for taking a gander at the "Hawking radiation" which may (or may not) actually be emitted by black holes - which are called "black" because it may (or may not) be completely impossible by definition for any radiation to be emitted from them. The notion of Hawking radiation comes to us, of course, from calculations by renowned wheelchair robo-voice uberboffin Stephen Hawking.

"Hawking famously showed that black holes radiate energy according to a thermal spectrum," says Paul Nation, a grad student at Dartmouth. "His calculations relied on assumptions about the physics of ultra-high energies and quantum gravity. Because we can't yet take measurements from real black holes, we need a way to recreate this phenomenon in the lab in order to study it, to validate it."

"The new SQUID-based proposal may be a more straightforward method to detect the Hawking radiation," adds Prof Miles Blencowe.

The scientists add that their SQUID-tastic desktop collapsar would not be anything like as potentially destructive as the gargantuan galaxy-gobblers sometimes seen (or inferred from things seen, anyway) in the night skies. Indeed, strictly it wouldn't seemingly be an actual pukka black hole at all, just a sort of black-hole-like set of conditions.

The Dartmouth boffins describe it as "reproduction" and "imitation", rather than a genuine rip in the vary fabric of space-time. They add that it would be "much-tinier" than its "celestial counterparts". ®

*Not, of course, the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in Devon, officer academy of the Royal Navy; this is a different and more obscure Dartmouth located in New Hampshire, America.

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