This Exchange Put Black Hole Research Behind almost 40 Years

Dr. Chandrasekhar read a paper describing the research which he has recently carried out, an account of which has already appeared in The Observatory, 1934, investigating the equilibrium of stellar configurations with degenerate cores. he takes the equation of state for degenerate matter in its exact form, that is to say, taking account of relativistic degeneracy. An important result of the work is that the life history of a star of small mass must be essentially different from that of a star of large mass. There exists a certain critical mass. if the star’s mass is greater than M the star cannot have a degenerate core, but if the star’s mass is less then M it will tend, at the end of its life history, towards a completely collapsed state…

The President: Fellows will wish to return their thanks to Dr. Chandrasekhar. I now invite Sir Arthur Eddington to speak on his paper “Relativistic Degeneracy”.

 Sir Arthur Eddington: Dr. Chandrasekhar has been referring to degeneracy. There are two expressions commonly used in this connection, “ordinary” degeneracy and “relativistic” degeneracy, and perhaps I had better by explaining the difference…The star has to go on radiating and radiating and contracting and contracting until, I suppose, it gets down to a few km. radius, when gravity becomes strong enough to hold in the radiation, and the star can at last find peace. Dr. Chandrasekhar had got his result before, but has rubbed it in in his last paper; and when discussing it with him, I felt driven to the conclusion that this was almost a reductio ad absurdum of the relativistic degeneracy formula. Various accidents may intervene to save the star, but I want more protection than that. I think there should be a law of Nature to prevent a star from behaving in this absurd way!

(Royal Astronomical Society, Feb. 1935)

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2 thoughts on “This Exchange Put Black Hole Research Behind almost 40 Years

  1. Research for a character or story? Deep stuff. Not sure I get all of it, but I love the brash last line: “I think there should be a law of Nature to prevent a star from behaving in this absurd way!”

    • Yes, I don’t get it all either, but it’s still fascinating, especially as you pointed out, the brash last line, which is essentially what put scientific advances regarding black holes a bit behind.

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