Grace Field (Philosophy)
University of Cambridge
Title: Analogue black holes and the new landscape of analogue gravity
Abstract: In 2019, de Nova et al. observed thermal Hawking radiation in an analogue black hole. But questions remain about what we should take that observation to mean for our understanding of astrophysical black holes. By observing a phenomenon in its analogue form, can we confirm its existence in an astrophysical target system. If not, in what sense (if any) are analogue gravity experiments useful? This talk will be in two parts. In the first part, I will argue that analogue experiments can in principle confirm hypotheses about their target systems. But I will argue that such confirmation requires us to have the right kind of knowledge about the source and target systems, and about the relation between them. Given our limited background knowledge about the micro-structure of quantum gravity, existing analogue black hole experiments are therefore unable to confirm the existence of astrophysical Hawking radiation to any significant degree. The second part will ask: what else can we learn from analogue gravity experiments? With reference to emerging trends in analogue gravity research, I will argue that analogue gravity experiments are useful as exploratory tools, and for directly detecting generalised phenomena. When assessing the usefulness of analogue gravity research programmes, we should consider these new roles alongside keeping an open mind about individual experiments’ original goals.
Bio: Grace studies analogue black holes: table-top fluid systems used to model the behaviour of astrophysical black holes. She uses these systems as a case study to compare the roles of simulation, modelling, and analogical reasoning in scientific evidence production. She also writes about science, and she is a contributor at Varsity and Bluesci, and she is Finance and Fundraising Lead for the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange. Grace started at Cambridge as an MPhil student after completing a BSc in Physics and Philosophy at the University of Toronto (2018).