Science has a funny way of coming around and messing with our heads every once in a while. This is one of those whiles, because I’ve just read that stuff that gets sucked into black holes doesn’t stay there forever.
It felt a bit like that time we had all that ruckus about Pluto. Pluto was a planet, and then scientists upset a whole lot of people by saying it wasn’t. There was such an outcry, the scientists then said it was a sort-of planet, and blamed the error on a dodgy calculator or something.
When I was a kid, anything sucked into a black hole was never seen again. As I got older, my classmates and I learned that black holes are where time and space warp, causing gravity so powerful, even light is sucked into it. Einstein’s theory of general relativity says the mass of many stars is crushed into a zero-size volume at the centre of the holes. Now, I’m being told I, along with almost everyone else, will have to rethink what I learned about them.
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Cosmic Recycling Plants?
Papers published in the Physical Review Letters and the Physical Review D journals challenge the accepted theory about the inner lives and workings of black holes. The research is based on a new theory of gravity, which, the authors argue, is necessary when dealing with very small sizes.
Louisiana State University’s Parampreet Singh, and Pennsylvania State University’s Abhay Ashtekar and Javier Olmedo, took the loop quantum gravity theory and applied it to a black hole-scenario. According to their findings, still theoretical, of course, Einstein was wrong – there is no singularity at the centre.
Instead, a strong space-time curve means it continues somewhere into the future, where it becomes a white hole, where all the stuff that got sucked in, light included, gets shot out. It can be tempting to think of it as a Star Trek-style worm-hole, but that’s not the case. Instead, one theory says the curve makes matter bounce, and the powerful gravitation field in black holes slows down time, which is why the process takes so long. Basically, if their maths is right, black holes across the universe are one day going to start vomiting up everything they ever swallowed.
Possibly Explaining the Unexplained?
The new theory may even explain some unexplained phenomena. Scientists have observed high amounts of radio energy over short periods of time, known as radio bursts. They have also observed high-energy cosmic rays that collide with the atmosphere of the earth.
Neither of those phenomena are fully understood, but, if the research papers are correct, both could be evidence of a black hole turning into a white one. Is it possible that the matter that will be shot out of white holes could be the seeds of new solar systems? Could those scientists be seeing the universe recycling itself?
A Closer Look?
One reason so many scientists are unconvinced there is a singularity at the centre of black holes is because of the theoretic infinite density of objects that have mass, but no size. The theory sounds good, until you realise there are no such infinities in nature.
What nature does have, however, are various circumstances. Newton’s law of gravity applies only to objects that are far from our planet. The closer an object gets to earth, the more it weighs. However, bring it too close, or take it to the centre of the earth, and things change. The only way to understand those changes in behaviour is to use equations more complex than Newton’s. They need to accommodate factors such as the planet’s actual mass distribution.
The smaller objects get, the more differently gravity behaves, which is why quantum gravity theory was developed. If this is expanded into loop quantum gravity, space-time needs to be understood as evolving, latticed spin networks, which are mathematical ways of describing how things relate to one another. First Pluto, and now black holes. My religious aunt talks about prophecies of a new heaven and a new earth. I’m starting to wonder if she isn’t on to something.