Black Holes Explained

Black Holes Explained, by Alex Filippenko ★★★★★
This is a series of 12 one-half-hour lectures on black holes. Betsy and I had watched Filippenko’s Astronomy series previously and thoroughly enjoyed it. This short series was no exception. One cannot help but notice the enthusiasm that Filippenko has for the study of Astronomy. This series was a set of lectures as much on physics as on astronomy. The first few episodes detail the original idea of a black hole by a German physicist Schwartzschild made while he was on the eastern front during WWI, and follow it with the original descriptions of black holes and evidence for their existence. Since they are black holes, they cannot be directly seen, but only inferred. Filippenko keeps the number of physics equations to a minimum, yet later discussions on competing descriptions of black holes by the theory of relativity vs. quantum mechanics, the evaporation of black holes as described by Stephen Hawking, the possibility of mini-black holes, gravitational waves, and wormhole theory, all left one wondering as to the veracity of these claims. Since the Hadron collider at CERN and new space probes are intended to answer some of the questions of the nature of black holes, we have much to anticipate in the news as physics and astronomy work hand in hand to discover some of the “darker” secrets of the universe. Filippenko must have given us every possible joke about black holes ever written, and even demonstrated how he dressed up as a black hole every Halloween. Between his humor and compelling teaching style, this was a wonderful series to watch.