After a few minutes, Richard Feynman had worked out the process of spontaneous emission, which is what Stephen Hawking became famous for a year later.WikicommonsThe amazing image of a black hole unveiled Wednesday, along with data from the Event Horizon Telescope, may not substantiate Stephen Hawking’s famous theory that radiation, an example of spontaneous emission at the quantum level, is emitted by a black hole. But the news did remind us of a story that physicist and writer Alan Lightman told Nautilus: Richard Feynman came up with the idea for spontaneous emission before Hawking. Here is Lightman in his own words:One day at lunch in the Caltech cafeteria, I was with two graduate students, Bill Press and Saul Teukolsky, and Feynman. Bill and Saul were talking about a calculation they had just done. It was a theoretical calculation, purely mathematical, where they looked at what happens if you shine light on a rotating black hole. If you shine it at the right angle, the light will bounce off the black hole with more energy than it came in with. The classical analogue is a spinning top. If you throw a marble at the top at the right angle,…Read More…
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