AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 58 Astronomy Education Research
Poster, Wednesday, June 2, 2004, 10:00am-7:00pm, Ballroom

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[58.04] The river model of black holes

A. J. S. Hamilton, J. P. Lisle (JILA & APS, U. Colorado)

The river model provides a conceptually simple yet mathematically sound picture of stationary black holes that can be understood by students at all levels. The model makes an excellent subject for an in class project. In the river model, space itself flows like a river through a flat background, while objects move through the river according to the rules of special relativity. In a spherical black hole, the river of space falls into the black hole at the Newtonian escape velocity, hitting the speed of light at the horizon. Inside the horizon, the river flows inward faster than light, carrying everything with it.

The river model works also for rotating (Kerr-Newman) black holes, though with a surprising twist. As in the spherical case, the river of space can be regarded as moving through a flat background. However, the river does not spiral inward, as one might have anticipated, but rather falls inward with no azimuthal swirl at all. Instead, the river has at each point not only a velocity but also a rotation, or twist. That is, the river has a Lorentz structure, characterized by six numbers (velocity and rotation), not just three (velocity). As an object moves through the river, it changes its velocity and rotation in response to tidal changes in the velocity and twist of the river along its path.

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