The Little Book of Black Holes

Authors: Steven Gubser and Frans Pretorius, professors of physics

Publisher: Princeton University Press, October 2017

Black holes, predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity more than a century ago, have long intrigued scientists and the public with their bizarre and fantastical properties. Although Einstein understood that black holes were mathematical solutions to his equations, he never accepted their physical reality — a viewpoint many shared. This all changed in the 1960s and 1970s, when a deeper conceptual understanding of black holes developed. Black holes have since been the subject of intense research — and the physics governing how they behave and affect their surroundings is stranger and more mind-bending than any fiction.

This book describes black holes both as astrophysical objects and theoretical “laboratories” in which physicists can test their understanding of gravitational, quantum and thermal physics. The authors describe the decades-long quest to observe the universe in gravitational waves, which recently resulted in the LIGO observatories’ detection of the distinctive gravitational wave “chirp” of two colliding black holes — the first direct observation of black holes’ existence. The work was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Little Book of Black Holes takes readers deep into the mysterious heart of the subject, offering rare clarity of insight into the physics that makes black holes simple yet destructive manifestations of geometric destiny.

Text and book cover courtesy of the publisher