Black Holes: The Membrane Paradigm. Kip S. Thome, Richard H. Price and Douglas A. Macdonald, eds. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1986. 367 pp., illus. $40 HB, $14.95 PB.

Black holes have entered our everyday discourse, used as metaphors for entities like the U.S. federal budget that swallow up all the country's resources. Astrophysically, black holes are formed when a sufficiently large amount of matter occupies a sufficiently small space. Gravity becomes so strong that the matter collapses in upon itself, and nothing can escape from the resulting black hole. However, for layman and physicist alike, black holes have generally remained mysterious objects, whose detailed properties are tied up with the arcane subject of general relativity.

Black Holes: The Membrane Paradigm treats a black hole as an object completely described by the properties of its surface. The surface is regarded as a membrane of fluid endowed with familiar physical...

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