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NGC 1365 supposedly harboring a supermassive black hole in the center.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/INAF/Risaliti Optical: ESO/VLT

Vampire Astronomy
May 28, 2009

A complex central network of filamentary structure spirals down to the center of the galaxy. Astronomers say it provides new insights into super-massive black holes. It is more likely that it demonstrates electrical effects.

If John Wheeler hadn’t invented black holes, Bram Stoker would have had to. These vampires of deep space suck the mass out of any star or hydrogen cloud that wanders within their reach, and the x-ray shrieks of their dying victims transmit gravitational dread across the cosmos. High-tech telescopes can image the mangled remains of the corpses and plot the decaying energies of their final electromagnetic wails. They have bewitched both the popular and the scientific imaginations. But these are not creatures of natural physics; they are supernatural monsters that have been created from dividing by zero.

In November of 1915, Karl Schwarzschild worked out a solution to Einstein’s gravitational equations. A year later, David Hilbert worked out a similar solution, which has since been called the Schwarzschild solution, but he made a couple of errors. His solution “differs in the range of values allowed for the incorrectly assumed radius variable…that enabled the black hole to be obtained. The variable…is in fact not a radius at all, being instead a real-valued parameter by which the true radii…are rightly calculated.”

Several mathematicians pointed out these errors in the ensuing years, but their objections were ignored and their work was buried in neglect. Work on the Hilbert solution culminated in the unnatural object that, in the 1960s, John Wheeler branded a black hole.

In recent years, Stephen J. Crothers, a kind of “black hole slayer” from Australia, has published papers that disinter Hilbert’s errors. The standard “Schwarzschild’s solution” is usually given as:



The standard interpretation is that r is the distance from the center of the gravitating mass, m. With sufficient mass that is sufficiently compacted, the gravitational force will be stronger than all forces that oppose it, and the mass will become infinite as r goes to zero—a black hole. But this entails dividing by zero, a forbidden move. Schwarzschild’s actual solution was:



R is the distance from the center of the gravitational field and r is a parameter of the curvature of the space. In Euclidian space, R=r. But the space of General Relativity—and of black holes—is non-Euclidian. In Schwarzschild’s actual solution, as r goes to zero, R—the actual distance variable—goes to α, a non-zero number. There can be no point mass and therefore no black hole. Black holes, like vampires, are purely figments of imagination.

So what are astronomers looking at when they see black holes? They observe an explosion of energy where there isn’t enough gravity to generate it. Because they are ignorant about plasma phenomena, they can’t imagine anything but gravity that might produce such energy. Electricity, which could generate such energy, is taboo, and so they must resort to the sorcery of division by zero.

By Mel Acheson


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Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.
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MANAGING EDITORS: Steve Smith, Mel Acheson
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