The term “black hole” refers to regions in space formed when a star dies and collapses under the pressure of its own gravity to a single point in space called a singularity.

The gravitational forces on a specific singularity are so intense that even the light cannot escape them, and that is why they are called ‘black holes’.

Up to now, we have heard a lot of theories about what is going on in a black hole, even the ones claiming that these mysterious space objects might contain entire universes. We have heard that time slows down inside black holes due to the effects of relativity, and we have heard of proof of their existence, mostly based on the matter that swirls around them having been pulled by their gravity.

All that is now thrown away as theoretical physicist Dr. Laura Mersini-Houghton of the University of North Carolina has published her research, which says that black holes do not exist because it is mathematically impossible for a black hole to even form!

A solution for the black hole information loss paradox?

The research was greeted with due skepticism by her peers, and, in her own words, her findings are difficult to swallow. Her research proposes a potential resolution of the “black hole information loss paradox”.

It results from a conflict between Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which suggests that physical information can disappear in a black hole forever, and quantum mechanics, which states that no “information” can ever be permanently lost in the universe since it is encoded in its wave function until the time that this function collapses.

If this indeed is so, then Drs. Houghton and her colleague Dr. Harald Pfeiffer, who is a relativity expert at the University of Toronto, have achieved a holy grail of physics, which is the unification of the theory of relativity with quantum mechanics, something that scientists have been trying to do for decades.

According to their publication, a collapsing star sheds mass and stops collapsing at a certain radius from its center, and then the core explodes.

The theory is based on the Hawking Radiation discovery of 1974 and essentially points out that when the star collapses, it produces tremendous amounts of Hawking Radiation, which results in the loss of mass. At the time that a singularity is supposed to be created, there simply isn’t enough mass left of the star to form it.

The remaining matter rebounds outward through an ordinary explosion. Furthermore, the scientists claim that through their explanation, a lot of theories about the strange and almost incomprehensible properties of a black hole can be simply eliminated.

If their hypothesis is correct, theories that have been put forth as to the origin of our universe will have to be revised. As expected, Drs. Houghton’s paper has been met with disbelief from a number of her peers.

Criticisms

Dr. Max Tegmark, who is a cosmologist and a physics professor at MIT, states that he is not convinced.

As per his words, seeing numerical calculations is great, but when the result differs from published, proven, and accepted findings, then there must be a number of incorrect assumptions. Before anyone can prove that black holes do not exist, they must first offer a valid and plausible explanation for all the observational evidence.

Dr. David Garfinkle, who is an expert on singularities and gravitational fields and teaches physics at Oakland University, called the research “interesting”, but went on to say that there is not enough knowledge about singularities to correctly identify if the hypothesis is correct or not.

Even if it is so, it is a long way from saying that black holes do not exist, as there is a multitude of astronomical proofs that objects behaving like black holes, as per Einstein’s theories, do exist.

Stephen Hawking’s new theory claims that black holes do not exist

The argument becomes even more complicated as Stephen Hawking (no need to introduce him), has stipulated in an online paper he published that black holes indeed do not exist. According to the prominent physicist’s new theory, black holes are probably not what he considered them to be in his previous theory 40 years ago.

Being one of the “fathers” of the modern theory of black holes, Hawking now comes to challenge some key aspects of his own theory, which are considered almost “doctrines” of contemporary physics. In essence, he claims that there are no black holes, at least as they are imagined by the scientists so far.

They are, in fact, “grey holes”, as he calls them. In this paper, he claims that the idea of an event horizon, which captures even the light, is flawed. The British scientist argues that this boundary of a black hole does not exist because it is incompatible with quantum theory.

Instead, Hawking suggests a concept of an “apparent horizon“, or a surface along which the light is not blocked forever from ‘escaping’ out of the black hole. What happens is that light rays during their attempt to rush away from the singularity’s core, are stuck on a treadmill and eventually shrink, emitting radiation.

According to the “Nature“, Hawking calls for a redefinition of the concept of the black hole, above all, the abolition of the term “event horizon”, which is an invisible boundary that supposedly surrounds each black hole in the universe and prevents light from escaping.

He says that the alternative “apparent horizon” only temporarily keeps matter and energy within the black hole, until it finally sets them “free” again, albeit in a different form.

Thus, while the dominant theory of physics supports that any escape from the black hole is impossible, Hawking insists that this cannot be happening because it is contrary to the quantum theory. Of course, as he admits, a complete explanation of the process requires an equally comprehensive theory that could unify gravity with the other fundamental forces in nature, which so far does not exist.

The new work of Hawking is expected to intensify discussions among physicists on the nature and function of black holes. The main argument is that quantum effects around a black hole force spacetime to “wave” so strongly that the existence of a clearly defined boundary such as the “event horizon” is impossible.

Already in the 70s, the British theoretical physicist had shown that black holes may slowly shrink, eliminating the so-called “Hawking radiation”.

Now, he suggests that the “apparent horizon” is a real (temporary) boundary of a black hole. As Hawking writes in the new publication,

The absence of event horizons suggests that the concept of a black hole that does not allow the light to escape is wrong.

Unlike the event horizon, the ephemeral “apparent horizon” can disappear, which ultimately means that anything can eventually emerge from a black hole, in a different form from the original though. However, so far, Hawking does not describe by what mechanism the disappearance of the “apparent horizon” may occur.

If all these are true, then the information consumed by a black hole is ultimately not destroyed but merely “deformed” and can get out again in an unrecognizable form through the Hawking radiation.

What if Hawking and the US researchers are correct?

If Dr. Mersini-Houghton’s theory is proven correct, then it will shake all the beliefs about the creation of the universe, as currently, the scientists believe in the famous “Big Bang Theory”, which stipulates that our universe originated as a result of a singularity that began expanding.

This is actually the definition of a white hole (the reverse of a black hole). How could that be possible if singularities do not exist, either as black or as white?

If proven correct, this response to the decades’ old attempt to unify the theory of relativity with quantum mechanics will result to even more questions than answers. Questions that exist since the beginning of time itself and up to now were thought to be answered. Questions like “Where do we come from?

One thing is certain if black holes really do not exist. It will reignite religious fanaticism against science, which has disputed the dogma that everything was created by God. And until the question of the creation of the universe sees tangible scientific proof, the religious answer will be the only one available.

References:

  1. www.huffingtonpost.com
  2. www.phys.vt.edu
  3. unc.edu
Yiannis Alexiou, B.Sc., M.Sc.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Tony

    Misleading. Black holes don’t actually require a singularity, and indeed it’s been known for a very long time that the physical singularity is hugely problematic, being ruled out by QM, as it would violate Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Hawking himself was saying this as far back as A Brief History of Time:

    The final result was a joint paper by Penrose and myself in 1970, which at last proved that there must have been a big bang singularity provided only that general relativity is correct and the universe contains as much matter as we observe. There was a lot of opposition to our work, partly from the Russians because of their Marxist belief in scientific determinism, and partly from people who felt that the whole idea of singularities was repugnant and spoiled the beauty of Einstein’s theory. However, one cannot really argue with a mathematical theorem. So in the end our work became generally accepted and nowadays nearly everyone assumes that the universe started with a big bang singularity. It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe – as we shall see later, it can disappear once quantum effects are taken into account.

    Indeed, the very first line of the article is wrong:

    The term “black hole” refers to regions in space formed when a star dies and collapses under the pressure of its own gravity to a single point in space called a singularity.

    The term “black hole” actually refers to any body whose mass is entirely contained within its Schwarzschild radius, which does not require a physical singularity.

    Finally, Bill Unruh, whom the author of the paper cites no less than 10 times, including 3 in the references, has stated categorically that she has misunderstood Hawking radiation:

    “The [paper] is nonsense,” Unruh said in an email to IFLS. “Attempts like this to show that black holes never form have a very long history, and this is only the latest. They all misunderstand Hawking radiation, and assume that matter behaves in ways that are completely implausible.”

    1. Avatar
      Hunter Yavitz

      I want to mention that while the scientific method encourages falsification, in order to persuasively dispute a sound hypothesis, there is a need for an idea with even greater explanatory power, which it seems this recent publication lacks.
      Futhermore, extreme religious fundamentalism will always be at odds with science. It does not, however, offer any explanation of its own. It simply posits a larger question mark over the phenomenon, a justifies this often by claiming that we are incapable of coming up with better answers. This is contrary to what history has shown.

  2. Avatar
    Reid Barnes

    I believe that the breakdown which occurs in General Relativity, say at the singularity theoretically existing within a black hole, actually occurs because GR has conflated at its foundational level the distinction between a straight line and a curved one, that is in denying the distinction, in arriving at the ‘line’ it designates as a coordinate line. When Hilbert added the coordinate system to its elementary geometry, the non-Euclidean geometry, the geometry of General Relativity, became self-contradicting. Here is an example.
    https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/self-contradicting-non-euclidean-geometry/766736476712262

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