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“We don’t yet know” says Oxford Astrophysicist to Ryburn Students’ questions

10 Ryburn students from years 10 to 13 enjoyed an evening out at Leeds University to attend a public lecture on Black Holes, by Oxford University Professor Katherine Blundell. She presented her findings on the jets of particles which are emitted as matter falls into black holes, and explained how the process of gathering the evidence worked, including the frustrations of squirrels eating the telescope cables, and the joy of placing telescopes in schools around the world so pupils can use them at times when the scientists are not.

After the lecture, Professor Blundell was asked a series of questions by Ryburn students Caitlyn Kirby and Callum Grieve about conservation of energy within a black hole, and the emissions caused by Hawking Radiation at the event horizon. Professor Blundell explained the challenges of knowing anything about the inside of a black hole, since there is no known mechanism for information to pass from inside the event horizon to us on the outside, and the difficulty in distinguishing the theorised Hawking radiation from other emissions from near the event horizon.

Before the lecture, Dr Mannan Ali of Leeds University demonstrated the magnetic properties of superconductors, making a permanent magnet float in a fixed position above superconducting materials cooled to around -200 °C. He also described his work on ‘Spintronics’ – using a property of particles called ‘spin’ to measure magnetic fields in hard disc drives and solid state drives, demonstrating an every-day application of advanced particle physics.

We are grateful to Sarah Gardner at The School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds for kindly organising our tour and the public lecture, and we look forward to attending again next year.

Published: Thursday 10th November 2016