In her inaugural lecture, Sera Markoff focuses on the way similarities in the structure of black holes of all sizes help us understand the way they work.
Black holes are a direct consequence of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, predicted well before they were actually discovered. These objects are so compact that they distort space-time around them (which we interpret as gravitational force) to the point where light cannot escape their pull.
We now know that there are myriads of black holes, both supermassive in the centres of galaxies like our own, and those left behind as remnants of massive stars. When black holes gravitationally capture material, their 'engines' are activated, and the supplied power is channelled into a variety of energetic processes that can have a major impact on their surroundings.
We see the same structures form in black holes of all sizes, driving the same processes. The discovery of this 'self-similarity' has been a major boon to our understanding of how black holes work, allowing comparisons over an immense lever arm in physical scale. Self-similarity also seems to occur in academia, and is perhaps not as much of a boon to science.
S.B. Markoff, professor of Theoretical High-Energy Astrophysics: As Above, So Below: Self-Similarity in Black Holes, and Academia.
This event is open to the public.