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Erik Curiel on Inconsistent Definitions of a Black Hole

Black holes have become a central object for study in numerous fields of physics far beyond the field of classical general relativity. However, even in the original context of classical general relativity, the nature of black holes raises many foundational problems, such as how exactly to define them.

Erik Curiel, assistant professor at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and a Black Hole Initiative Research Fellow at Harvard University, explored this issue May 9 in his CIERA Interdisciplinary Colloquium titled “A Survey of Foundational Problems for Classical Black Holes and the Hawking Effect”. Hosted by Sandy Zabell of the department of mathematics at Northwestern, approximately 50 people attended the talk reviewing many of the proposed definitions of black holes.

Curiel discussed the classical laws of black hole mechanics, and why most people think that classical laws do not support the attribution of thermodynamical properties to black holes. He also examined the Hawking effect, and why most people think it supports the attribution of thermodynamical properties to black holes. Curiel sketched out the problems these attributions raise, and through this discussion explained why many definitions of black holes are mutually inconsistent.