The “Hoop Conjecture” of Kip Thorne and Spherically Symmetric Space-times

Abstract. (This being a rather long post, I feel the need to write one.) In the post I first gather some miscellaneous thoughts on what the hoop conjecture is and why it is difficult to prove in general. After this motivation, I show also how the statement becomes much easier to state and prove in spherical symmetry: the entire argument collapses to an exercise in ordinary differential equations. In particular, I demonstrate a theorem that is analogous, yet slightly different, from a recent result of Markus Khuri, using much simpler machinery.

The Hoop conjecture is a proposed criterion for when a black-hole will form under gravitational collapse. Kip Thorne, in 1972 [see Thorne, Nonspherical Gravitational Collapse: a Short Review in Magic without Magic] made the conjecture that (I paraphrase here)

Horizons form when and only when a mass M gets compacted into a region whose circumference C in EVERY direction is bounded by C \lesssim M.

This conjecture, now widely under the name of “Hoop conjecture”, is deliberately vague. (This seemed to have been the trend in physics, especially in general relativity. Conjectures are often stated in such a way that half the effort spent in proving said conjectures are used to find the correct formulation of the statement itself.) Read the rest of this entry »