What's the Latest Development?

Since it's impossible to run a controlled experiment on a distant star the way terrestrial scientists work with lab mice, astronomers are attempting to recreate stellar conditions on Earth. A scientist at the International School for Advanced Studies, in Trieste, Italy, plans to make a black hole in a bathtub. "The bath in question, properly called a flume, is a water-filled receptacle 3 metres by 1.5 metres and 50cm deep, across which carefully crafted trains of ripples can pass." If the water rushes down the tub's drain faster than ripples propagate, "the ripples which stray beyond the aqueous 'event horizon' (a black hole’s point of no return) will not make it out."

What's the Big Idea?

Creating a black hole may be small beer compared with making an alternate universe, or at least simulating one. Such is the ambition of Igor Smolyaninov of the University of Maryland. "Two years ago Dr Smolyaninov suggested an experiment with various metamaterials, corresponding to universes with different properties lashed together into a home-brewed multiverse." Some astronomers have their doubts about the efficacy of such bold experiments but this does not deter them from cheering on their colleagues.  As Cliff Burgess, a theoretical physicist from Ontario, said: "Like tap-dancing snakes, the point is not that they do it well, it is that they do it at all."

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