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Three cosmic enigmas, one audacious answer [bye-bye to black holes?]
New Scientist ^ | March 9, 2006 | Zeeya Merali

Posted on 03/09/2006 8:34:42 PM PST by snarks_when_bored

Three cosmic enigmas, one audacious answer
09 March 2006
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
Zeeya Merali

DARK energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology.

The audacious idea comes from George Chapline, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin of Stanford University and their colleagues. Last week at the 22nd Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting in Santa Barbara, California, Chapline suggested that the objects that till now have been thought of as black holes could in fact be dead stars that form as a result of an obscure quantum phenomenon. These stars could explain both dark energy and dark matter.

This radical suggestion would get round some fundamental problems posed by the existence of black holes. One such problem arises from the idea that once matter crosses a black hole's event horizon - the point beyond which not even light can escape - it will be destroyed by the space-time "singularity" at the centre of the black hole. Because information about the matter is lost forever, this conflicts with the laws of quantum mechanics, which state that information can never disappear from the universe.

Another problem is that light from an object falling into a black hole is stretched so dramatically by the immense gravity there that observers outside will see time freeze: the object will appear to sit at the event horizon for ever. This freezing of time also violates quantum mechanics. "People have been vaguely uncomfortable about these problems for a while, but they figured they'd get solved someday," says Chapline. "But that hasn't happened and I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions."

While looking for ways to avoid these physical paradoxes, Chapline and Laughlin found some answers in an unrelated phenomenon: the bizarre behaviour of superconducting crystals as they go through something called "quantum critical phase transition" (New Scientist, 28 January, p 40). During this transition, the spin of the electrons in the crystals is predicted to fluctuate wildly, but this prediction is not borne out by observation. Instead, the fluctuations appear to slow down, and even become still, as if time itself has slowed down.

"That was when we had our epiphany," Chapline says. He and Laughlin realised that if a quantum critical phase transition happened on the surface of a star, it would slow down time and the surface would behave just like a black hole's event horizon. Quantum mechanics would not be violated because in this scenario time would never freeze entirely. "We start with effects actually seen in the lab, which I think gives it more credibility than black holes," says Chapline.

With this idea in mind, they - along with Emil Mottola at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Pawel Mazur of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and colleagues - analysed the collapse of massive stars in a way that did not allow any violation of quantum mechanics. Sure enough, in place of black holes their analysis predicts a phase transition that creates a thin quantum critical shell. The size of this shell is determined by the star's mass and, crucially, does not contain a space-time singularity. Instead, the shell contains a vacuum, just like the energy-containing vacuum of free space. As the star's mass collapses through the shell, it is converted to energy that contributes to the energy of the vacuum.

The team's calculations show that the vacuum energy inside the shell has a powerful anti-gravity effect, just like the dark energy that appears to be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. Chapline has dubbed the objects produced this way "dark energy stars".

Though this anti-gravity effect might be expected to blow the star's shell apart, calculations by Francisco Lobo of the University of Lisbon in Portugal have shown that stable dark energy stars can exist for a number of different models of vacuum energy. What's more, these stable stars would have shells that lie near the region where a black hole's event horizon would form (Classical Quantum Gravity, vol 23, p 1525).

"Dark energy stars and black holes would have identical external geometries, so it will be very difficult to tell them apart," Lobo says. "All observations used as evidence for black holes - their gravitational pull on objects and the formation of accretion discs of matter around them - could also work as evidence for dark energy stars."

That does not mean they are completely indistinguishable. While black holes supposedly swallow anything that gets past the event horizon, quantum critical shells are a two-way street, Chapline says. Matter crossing the shell decays, and the anti-gravity should spit some of the remnants back out again. Also, quark particles crossing the shell should decay by releasing positrons and gamma rays, which would pop out of the surface. This could explain the excess positrons that are seen at the centre of our galaxy, around the region that was hitherto thought to harbour a massive black hole. Conventional models cannot adequately explain these positrons, Chapline says.

He and his colleagues have also calculated the energy spectrum of the released gamma rays. "It is very similar to the spectrum observed in gamma-ray bursts," says Chapline. The team also predicts that matter falling into a dark energy star will heat up the star, causing it to emit infrared radiation. "As telescopes improve over the next decade, we'll be able to search for this light," says Chapline. "This is a theory that should be proved one way or the other in five to ten years."

Black hole expert Marek Abramowicz at Gothenburg University in Sweden agrees that the idea of dark energy stars is worth pursuing. "We really don't have proof that black holes exist," he says. "This is a very interesting alternative."

The most intriguing fallout from this idea has to do with the strength of the vacuum energy inside the dark energy star. This energy is related to the star's size, and for a star as big as our universe the calculated vacuum energy inside its shell matches the value of dark energy seen in the universe today. "It's like we are living inside a giant dark energy star," Chapline says. There is, of course, no explanation yet for how a universe-sized star could come into being.

At the other end of the size scale, small versions of these stars could explain dark matter. "The big bang would have created zillions of tiny dark energy stars out of the vacuum," says Chapline, who worked on this idea with Mazur. "Our universe is pervaded by dark energy, with tiny dark energy stars peppered across it." These small dark energy stars would behave just like dark matter particles: their gravity would tug on the matter around them, but they would otherwise be invisible.

Abramowicz says we know too little about dark energy and dark matter to judge Chapline and Laughlin's idea, but he is not dismissing it out of hand. "At the very least we can say the idea isn't impossible."

Printed on Fri Mar 10 04:05:28 GMT 2006


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: blackholes; cosmology; crevolist; darkenergy; darkmatter; eventhorizons; generalrelativity; phasetransitions; physics; quantummechanics
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Interesting to consider. Chapline and his collaborators have been talking about this for a couple of years (and have met with some skepticism, as one might expect):

"Dark Energy Stars" (December, 2004)

"Quantum Phase Transitions and the Breakdown of Classical General Relativity" (2003)

Luboš Motl has an amusing critical take on Chapline's work (in a blog posting from March 14, 2005):

Chapline: black holes don't exist

1 posted on 03/09/2006 8:34:48 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: RadioAstronomer; longshadow; grey_whiskers; headsonpikes; PatrickHenry; Iris7

Ping


2 posted on 03/09/2006 8:35:19 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored

"Because information about the matter is lost forever, this conflicts with the laws of quantum mechanics, which state that information can never disappear from the universe."

Oh, yeah. Explain THAT to the liberals that run Wikipedia.


3 posted on 03/09/2006 8:43:33 PM PST by fieldmarshaldj (Cheney X -- Destroying the Liberal Democrat Traitors By Any Means Necessary -- Ya Dig ? Sho 'Nuff.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

The Dark Side of the Universe.


4 posted on 03/09/2006 8:44:42 PM PST by satchmodog9 (Most people stand on the tracks and never even hear the train coming)
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To: snarks_when_bored
The most intriguing fallout from this idea has to do with the strength of the vacuum energy inside the dark energy star. This energy is related to the star's size, and for a star as big as our universe the calculated vacuum energy inside its shell matches the value of dark energy seen in the universe today. "It's like we are living inside a giant dark energy star," Chapline says. There is, of course, no explanation yet for how a universe-sized star could come into being.

We're still stuck inside a black hole.

5 posted on 03/09/2006 8:47:31 PM PST by Moonman62 (Federal creed: If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. If it stops moving subsidize it)
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To: snarks_when_bored
"The big bang would have created zillions of tiny dark energy stars out of the vacuum," says Chapline, who worked on this idea with Mazur. "Our universe is pervaded by dark energy, with tiny dark energy stars peppered across it." These small dark energy stars would behave just like dark matter particles: their gravity would tug on the matter around them, but they would otherwise be invisible.

Aren't tiny black holes supposed to evaporate?

6 posted on 03/09/2006 8:48:40 PM PST by Moonman62 (Federal creed: If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. If it stops moving subsidize it)
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To: Moonman62
"Aren't tiny black holes supposed to evaporate?"

This one hasn't yet.

7 posted on 03/09/2006 8:51:00 PM PST by fieldmarshaldj (Cheney X -- Destroying the Liberal Democrat Traitors By Any Means Necessary -- Ya Dig ? Sho 'Nuff.)
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To: Moonman62
The tiny dark stars aren't black holes (according to Chapline). So the Hawking evaporation process isn't relevant to them.

Maybe.

8 posted on 03/09/2006 8:52:16 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: fieldmarshaldj

"All the news that fits, we print."


9 posted on 03/09/2006 8:53:40 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored

Well, of course the dark energy exists. What else is powering hillary?


10 posted on 03/09/2006 8:54:39 PM PST by GSlob
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To: snarks_when_bored
Interesting to consider.

Even more interesting:

Look by analogy to the Michelle Malkin, Dowd(*), and Ann Coulter threads, can't we introduce some simple rules for any theoretical physics threads?

(*)Zeta-Jones discontinuity PING! ;-)

Cheers!

11 posted on 03/09/2006 8:55:07 PM PST by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: grey_whiskers
That pic of Lisa Randall is completely gratuitous and unrelated to this thread, g_w.

 

Thanks for posting it!

12 posted on 03/09/2006 8:57:47 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
Geez, and I worked for 30 whole SECONDS on the "Zeta-Jones discontinuity" phrase to make it sound all official and scientific. :-)

Cheers!

13 posted on 03/09/2006 8:58:46 PM PST by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: grey_whiskers

I didn't see the phrase...never made it that far...sorry...


14 posted on 03/09/2006 9:01:59 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: fieldmarshaldj
I see your problem. You are confusing B (black)- holes with A-holes.
15 posted on 03/09/2006 9:02:09 PM PST by Nomorjer Kinov (If the opposite of "pro" is "con" , what is the opposite of progress?)
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To: grey_whiskers

Grrrrrrrr hubba hubba ;-)


16 posted on 03/09/2006 9:03:10 PM PST by festus (The constitution may be flawed but its a whole lot better than what we have now.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

Mark for later read.

PS- "Audacious"??? Must be a Sanofi-Aventis employee...


17 posted on 03/09/2006 9:16:53 PM PST by 4U2OUI (???)
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To: snarks_when_bored
Dr Mills hydrinos(shrunken hydrogen atoms)answers the problem of dark matter. The UV lines in the solar spectrum clearly show that hydrinos are produced naturally in stars and thus hydrino molecules, which take up to 5 million degrees F to separate, is cosmic "smog". Thus as long as stars have shown, like CO2-smog producing cars have been running, shrunken hydrogen atoms/molecules have been churned out in stellar fusion-factories as a natural process. See
18 posted on 03/09/2006 9:48:38 PM PST by timer
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To: timer

Randall Mills is very good at sucking dollars out of the pockets of investors. It's much less clear that he's equally good at finding out how the world works.


19 posted on 03/09/2006 9:51:35 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
The tiny dark stars aren't black holes (according to Chapline). So the Hawking evaporation process isn't relevant to them.

Perhaps that could be the basis for a laboratory test one of these days.

20 posted on 03/09/2006 9:57:52 PM PST by Moonman62 (Federal creed: If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. If it stops moving subsidize it)
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To: snarks_when_bored

very interesting stuff!


21 posted on 03/09/2006 9:58:27 PM PST by wafflehouse
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To: wafflehouse

ping


22 posted on 03/09/2006 10:20:46 PM PST by chmst
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To: Moonman62
Aren't tiny black holes supposed to evaporate?

I though Hawking said black HOES . . .

DOH!

23 posted on 03/09/2006 10:24:47 PM PST by 1stMarylandRegiment (Conserve Liberty)
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To: snarks_when_bored
I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions.

Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.
-- Francisco d'Anconia

That's how science advances. After the Michelson-Morley experiments, Einstein questioned long-accepted premises about the universal constancy of time and the Euclidean geometry of space, resulting in the theories of special and general relativity.

-ccm

24 posted on 03/09/2006 10:38:10 PM PST by ccmay (Too much Law; not enough Order)
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To: snarks_when_bored; RadioAstronomer; PatrickHenry
"We start with effects actually seen in the lab, which I think gives it more credibility than black holes," says Chapline. With this idea in mind, they - along with Emil Mottola at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Pawel Mazur of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and colleagues - analysed the collapse of massive stars in a way that did not allow any violation of quantum mechanics. Sure enough, in place of black holes their analysis predicts a phase transition that creates a thin quantum critical shell. The size of this shell is determined by the star's mass and, crucially, does not contain a space-time singularity. Instead, the shell contains a vacuum, just like the energy-containing vacuum of free space.

It sounds to me that they're not actually *replacing* the idea of black holes with something else that's not a black hole, what they're really saying is that the physics of black holes might be different than previously thought, especially "inside" the black hole.

25 posted on 03/09/2006 10:38:13 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: snarks_when_bored; ccmay
"People have been vaguely uncomfortable about these problems for a while, but they figured they'd get solved someday," says Chapline. "But that hasn't happened and I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions."

His second statement isn't quite fair -- as shown by his first statement, people *have* questioned the contradictions, but there's not much you can do about them until you manage to come up with a good way to resolve them. And often it can take a long time for the right "aha!" insight to arrive.

26 posted on 03/09/2006 10:43:13 PM PST by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
It sounds to me that they're not actually *replacing* the idea of black holes with something else that's not a black hole, what they're really saying is that the physics of black holes might be different than previously thought, especially "inside" the black hole.

Well, as the passage you quoted states, at the heart of a black hole (should such there be) there's a spacetime singularity. That would not be the case for the Chapline dark energy star, inside of which there is vacuum but no singularity. Also, the event horizon of a black hole isn't made of any sort of 'stuff', while the quantum critical shell of a Chapline star would be. These are significant differences and would likely be enough to force a name change, don't you think?

27 posted on 03/09/2006 10:49:43 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
"It's like we are living inside a giant dark energy star,"

And it is becomer "gianter"!!

28 posted on 03/09/2006 10:56:26 PM PST by AndrewC (Darwinian logic -- It is just-so if it is just-so.)
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To: AndrewC

mer = ming


29 posted on 03/09/2006 10:58:31 PM PST by AndrewC (Darwinian logic -- It is just-so if it is just-so.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

"Because information about the matter is lost forever, this conflicts with the laws of quantum mechanics, which state that information can never disappear from the universe."

Holey moley... Where in the heck did this guy study astrophysics? He needs to get a refund on his education. The matter isn't lost. It still exists in the universe. It is simply sucked down to the bottom of a gravity well (black hole) and in fact creates that very same gravity well. If there was no matter tucked away inside of a black hole, it wouldn't have such a strong gravity well.


30 posted on 03/09/2006 11:41:38 PM PST by Kirkwood ("When the s*** hits the fan, there is enough for everyone.")
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To: Kirkwood
"Because information about the matter is lost forever, this conflicts with the laws of quantum mechanics, which state that information can never disappear from the universe."

Holey moley... Where in the heck did this guy study astrophysics? He needs to get a refund on his education. The matter isn't lost. It still exists in the universe.

Ummm, the writer says that information about the matter is lost, not the matter itself.

31 posted on 03/09/2006 11:49:31 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
From reading the article, I get the feeling these guys have never heard of Hawking, let alone read his work. I'm not saying they're wrong (that would be awfully presumptuous of me), but the article certainly doesn't explain how they discount Hawking's black hole work so readily. For one thing, Hawking worked out how information could be maintained within a black hole by examining it in multiple dimensions.
32 posted on 03/10/2006 2:13:19 AM PST by NJ_gent (Modernman should not have been banned.)
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To: VadeRetro; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Doctor Stochastic; js1138; Shryke; RightWhale; ...
SciencePing
An elite subset of the Evolution list.
See the list's explanation at my freeper homepage.
Then FReepmail to be added or dropped.

33 posted on 03/10/2006 3:40:31 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

Three cosmic enemas? We don't allow that kinky stuff on FR! Callimg all Moderators!


34 posted on 03/10/2006 3:58:35 AM PST by F.J. Mitchell (Diversity is a means to ending our existence.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
[T]heir analysis predicts a phase transition that creates a thin quantum critical shell. The size of this shell is determined by the star's mass and, crucially, does not contain a space-time singularity. Instead, the shell contains a vacuum, just like the energy-containing vacuum of free space. As the star's mass collapses through the shell, it is converted to energy that contributes to the energy of the vacuum.

The team's calculations show that the vacuum energy inside the shell has a powerful anti-gravity effect, just like the dark energy that appears to be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. Chapline has dubbed the objects produced this way "dark energy stars".

Sweet. Now question is begged, where did all OUR vacuum energy come from? Bye bye multiverse. (Specualtion on my part.)

35 posted on 03/10/2006 4:04:21 AM PST by bvw
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To: NJ_gent
I suppose you're referring to Hawking's September, 2005, paper: Information Loss in Black Holes. I've not read it, but I read a discussion of it on Peter Woit's blog: Hawking in Dublin. The upshot of that discussion was that the details of what Hawking is proposing need firming up. In the meantime, Chapline and his collaborators are going their own way, no doubt aware that Hawking and others are working on the information loss problem, but believing that they're onto something themselves.
36 posted on 03/10/2006 4:18:47 AM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
Every week, New Scientist announces some breakthrough that overturns all of physics.

As for this stuff, I'm not expert enough to critique it, but my physics sense isn't getting the warm fuzzies. A black hole is a dead-simple geometric effect that pops out of General Relativity. It's really difficult to avoid having them, in fact. And while it's true that quantum mechanics isn't exactly comfortable with them, there's no way we'll know the correct reconciliation until we have a theory of quantum gravity in hand. Without that theory, I don't see how these gentlemen could have stumbled across the correct explanation.

And since they say that if we could study one close-up, the difference between a black hole and a "dark energy star" would be very subtle, I think I'm better off sticking with the simple, well-studied model instead of this abstruse one. (That's not to say they're wrong; just that their idea doesn't seem useful right now.)

37 posted on 03/10/2006 4:46:07 AM PST by Physicist
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To: 1stMarylandRegiment

Ah, the little-known Hawkins Theory of Pimpin'.


38 posted on 03/10/2006 4:47:00 AM PST by thoughtomator (Nobody would have cared if the UAE wanted to buy Macy's...)
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To: Physicist

Yes, I take your point (follow the link to Motl's amusing critique of Chapline's work). I do think, though, that there's something to be said for encouraging a variety of approaches to fundamental questions. Just on principle.


39 posted on 03/10/2006 4:55:47 AM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored

This is very interesting stuff. I do like how someone is trying to incorporate quantum mechanics into the description of black holes. That is a very important, and fundamental, description. Perhaps this is an small, incremental step to reconcilling quantum mechanics with relativity. I suppose it won't be a clear reconcilliation until we can probe events at the Plack scale and maybe, detect and deduce any quantum nature of space. Personally, I am more comfortable with this explanation than envoking a singularity and not fully accounting for quantum properties of matter. Anyone know if the Large Hadreon Collider will be able to probe events in these energy scales? I thought I heard it could create mini black holes. If so, there is room for experiments in this area.


40 posted on 03/10/2006 5:11:44 AM PST by doc30 (Democrats are to morals what and Etch-A-Sketch is to Art.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
the objects that till now have been thought of as black holes could in fact be dead stars that form as a result of an obscure quantum phenomenon.

Hasn't this been a theory for a long time? I once saw a video of black holes forming at a UC Berkeley physics colloquium. Most fascinating phenomenon!

41 posted on 03/10/2006 5:19:00 AM PST by phantomworker (The joy of engineering is to find a straight line on a double logarithmic diagram. - Thomas Koenig)
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To: doc30
There's a list of purposes of the LHC in this Wikipedia article: Large Hadron Collider.

BTW, the Planck scale is far out of reach. The LHC is going to be colliding protons, mostly, and their radius is about 10-13 cm. The Planck scale is of the order of 10-33 cm, 20 orders of magnitude smaller.

42 posted on 03/10/2006 5:30:46 AM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: grey_whiskers

Nice Bosons!


43 posted on 03/10/2006 6:29:42 AM PST by kanawa
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To: zot

Ping.


44 posted on 03/10/2006 6:45:41 AM PST by Interesting Times (ABCNNBCBS -- yesterday's news.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
Motl makes many more cogent points than I could have. I suppose it comes of reading the paper and understanding it. <g>

I love the "Kyoto Count-up" feature on his page. Very enlightening. "Every day, we buy -0.000005 Celsius degrees for one half of the LHC collider."

45 posted on 03/10/2006 7:03:10 AM PST by Physicist
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To: Ichneumon; snarks_when_bored
It sounds to me that they're not actually *replacing* the idea of black holes with something else that's not a black hole, what they're really saying is that the physics of black holes might be different than previously thought, especially "inside" the black hole.

From what I read, the idea says that the thin shell of material forms just outside of where the event horizon would be. (This idea, which replaces black holes with objects called gravastars, was formulated by Mazur/Mottola some time around 2002.) If this phenomenon is true, it prevents a black hole from forming, but just barely. The surrounding space-time would still apparently behave just like a black hole outside the event horizon (but there would be stronger ejected matter jets & x-ray emission than in a standard black hole).

I have to honestly say that I don't understand how this would solve the dark matter problem any more than saying it is tucked away into black holes, though. (Primordial black holes would have to evaporate into observable photons by Hawking radiation, whereas these entities don't, I'm guessing...)

Some older links on the matter:

Los Alamos researcher says 'black holes' aren't holes at all

Thick-Skinned Gravastars Vie to Replace Black Holes, in Theory

Is black hole theory full of hot air? (Typically misleading title courtesy of CNN)

Great article, snarks - always fun to discuss true controversies in science.

46 posted on 03/10/2006 7:14:20 AM PST by Quark2005 (Confidence follows from consilience.)
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To: Physicist; Doctor Stochastic; snarks_when_bored
Every week, New Scientist announces some breakthrough that overturns all of physics.

While the UnDiscovery Institute's motto is "Teach the controversy"; the motto of the New Scientist seems to be "Preach the controversy"....

In the meanwhile, I'll just drop this article in my Ipcress File for safe keeping.....

47 posted on 03/10/2006 7:31:44 AM PST by longshadow (FReeper #405, entering his ninth year of ignoring nitwits, nutcases, and recycled newbies)
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To: Ichneumon

that's because historians are pretty dumb when it comes to physics. :P


48 posted on 03/10/2006 7:34:21 AM PST by Constantine XIII
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To: snarks_when_bored

Sure, the information is lost, too. Black holes are considered to be in a state of maximum entropy. They can even screw around with the baryon number of the universe.

They're mean that way. :)


49 posted on 03/10/2006 7:36:15 AM PST by Constantine XIII
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To: snarks_when_bored

So we will have wormhole warp drives in a few years?


50 posted on 03/10/2006 7:42:47 AM PST by razorback-bert
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