Think You Know the Definition of a Black Hole? Think Again

What might be more puzzling than the innards of a black hole is the trouble of defining one in the first place. That’s what Erik Curiel found out when he asked theoretical and experimental physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers, “What is a black hole?” Curiel, a physicist and philosopher himself, at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, reported on his experience chatting with these researchers in a Nature Astronomy paper, titled “The many definitions of a black hole.” One response in particular, he thought, from Beatrice Bonga, who specializes in gravitational waves at the Perimeter Institute, was emblematic of the rest. “Your five-word question is surprisingly difficult to answer,” she told him, “… and I definitely won’t be able to do that in five words.”

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