a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Embracing the black hole concept and search for the missing mass


Early resistance to black hole concept and some current thoughts
John Wheeler Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

It's for me very hard to think of parts of the world that are taking part, acting, go to a place where they can't be seen or show anymore. The physical world is one would be my way to put it. But it's reconciled me a little to that to realize that what we're talking about, in the formation of a black hole, is in some ways the reverse of what we talk about when we talk of the Big Bang in which the universe was born. A lot of physical activity coming out of a region where there is no physical activity to begin with. Well, we're very far from being able to deal with these ultimate questions in a truly satisfactory way now. I would put the question in its largest form this way: how come existence? How come that there is anything at all? And the black hole is a standing invitation to consider that issue, because you get something going to nothing, well, then, how do you get out of nothing, something? How do you turn it around? Here we're skating at the frontier between physics and philosophy. I always say that philosophy is too important to be left to the philosophers, but it's one thing to say that, it's another thing to see what philosophical idea will carry us through this new frontier of mystery that faces us now with renewed force. Renewed force because we study the evidence for the big bang ever more fully in astrophysics, and we study the evidence of crunch to a black hole ever more in the cores of Milky Ways like ours.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008