# Black Holes, fact or fiction?

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by thed, Jan 17, 2002.

1. ### thedIT GopherRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
1,105
New Scientist
http://www.newscientist.com

Contact:
Claire Bowles, New Scientist Press Office, London
Tel: +44(0)20 7331 2751, email: claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk

EMBARGOED UNTIL WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002, 2:00 PM EST

Black holes: fact or fiction?

Has the reign of black holescome to an end? Hazel Muir introduces a new
dark lord of the heavens

NOBODY has ever seen a black hole. Yet, despite this lack of direct
evidence, most scientists believe that a massive star at the end of its
life can implode to form an object so dense that nothing -- not even
light -- can escape.

They may be about to change their minds, however. Two researchers in
the US are pointing out that physicists have swept some "humiliating"
problems with black holes under the carpet. By confronting these
problems, they say, they have found an alternative fate for a
collapsing star. Emil Mottola of the Los Alamos National Laboratory
in New Mexico and Pawel Mazur of the University of South Carolina
in Columbia think it might turn into an exotic bubble of superdense
matter, an object they call a gravastar.

According to Mottola and Mazur, gravastars are cold, dense shells
supported by a springy, weird space inside. They'd look like black
holes, lit only by the material raining down onto them from outside.
In fact, they seem to fit all the observational evidence for the
existence of black holes.

So far, however, physicists have mixed feelings about the idea of
gravastars. Their verdicts range from "outstandingly brilliant" to
"unlikely". What's certain is that gravastars will rekindle a great
debate of the early 20th century: are black holes fact or fantasy?

The idea of black holes dates back to the First World War, when German
astronomer Karl Schwarzschild solved the equations of Einstein's
newborn theory of gravity while serving on the Russian front. He
showed that space-time around any massive star would be curved.
Squeeze a large enough star into a tiny enough space and its density
would become infinite and the curvature of space-time would spiral
out of control. The gravity near one of these objects would be so
strong that nothing -- not even photons -- could escape its grasp.

Einstein shared the view of most physicists of the time that such
objects, later dubbed black holes, were too outrageous to exist. He
argued that it was all academic anyway, since stars never shrink
this small. But scientists gradually became convinced that they
do. If a star is very massive, it will blast apart in a supernova
explosion at the end of its life and if a core twice as heavy as the
Sun remains, no known force can prevent gravity squeezing it to a
point.

The result is a "singularity" with infinite density, where the known
laws of physics break down. The singularity's gravity would be so
powerful it would be cloaked in an "event horizon", a boundary beyond
which matter or light couldn't get out. The dramatic idea of a black
hole, which would rip to shreds anyone caught inside it, fired the
imaginations of scientists, artists and writers alike. But no one
has ever rooted the drama in fact. "So far, there is no direct
observational evidence to show that any of the things astronomers
call black holes have event horizons or central singularities," says
Neil Cornish, an astrophysicist at the University of Montana in
Bozeman.

We know there are compact objects millions of times as heavy as the
Sun that hog the centres of galaxies. These black hole candidates give
themselves away because hot stars, gas and dust spiralling towards
them emit bright X-rays. But that doesn't mean there's a cataclysmic
black hole in the vicinity; it could simply be a very massive object.
The debate petered out decades ago but there's still no ironclad proof
that black holes exist.

But never mind the lack of physical evidence -- there are enough
problems in black-hole theory itself to make their existence seem
implausible to say the least. These problems stem from the fact
that our Universe is actually very different from the one that
Schwarzschild considered. If we're to produce a proper description
of the Universe we live in, Einstein's classical theories need to be
meshed together with what we know about the quantum laws governing
the behaviour of fundamental particles and fields.

Mazur and Mottola have been thinking about quantum gravity for nearly
a decade. They began by examining the nature of "quantum fluctuations"
in space, time and even in energy fields. Empty space, for example, is
never really empty. On the tiniest scales, little particles are popping
in and out of existence all the time, creating a seething, fluctuating
fluid. "Like a fish in a calm pond, who is not aware of all the
incessant jiggling of the water molecules, we are usually not aware of
the quantum medium we are immersed in," says Mottola.

And they have found that quantum fluctuations in the electromagnetic
fields that describe tiny things like photons can influence
gravitational phenomena on the large scale -- such as black holes. So,
they reasoned, when early black-hole theorists ignored quantum effects
they were creating an unreal space-time.

This traditional approach to black holes has produced strange anomalies
anyway, and these have remained unresolved, Mazur and Mottola claim.
There are problems, for instance, with a black hole's entropy, a
measure of the amount of information it holds. An object that contains
many possible states has high entropy, in the same way that a computer
with more bits of memory can store more information. When a star forms
a black hole, all the unique information about the star -- its chemical
composition, for instance -- appears to be squashed out of existence.
Yet current theory suggests black holes have enormous entropy -- a
billion, billion times that of the star that formed them. No one can
fathom where all this extra entropy comes from or where it resides.
"Where are all these zillions of states hiding in a black hole?" says
Mottola. "It is quite literally incomprehensible."

Another seemingly impossible feature is that photons falling into a
black hole would gain an infinite amount of energy by the time they
reach the event horizon. But the gravitational effects of this
enormous energy are ignored in the classical theory. Mottola says
these problems have forced physicists to dream up far-fetched
excuses. They say, for example, that some of the black hole's entropy
might be hidden in other universes. Mottola doesn't buy these
"esoteric assumptions", and concludes that black holes are a bag of
contradictions that don't make a good case for their own existence
at all.

But is there an alternative? Could it be that when a star collapses,
something happens to prevent a black hole forming? Mazur and Mottola
think so. They have shown that quantum effects can make space-time
change into a new and curious state that would lead to the formation
of a strange new object.

That change is a phase transition, like liquid water turning into a
solid block of ice. They believe that in the extreme conditions of a
collapsing star, space-time undergoes a quantum version of a phase
transition. The phenomenon is nothing new. The Nobel Prize for
Physics in 2001 was awarded for the observation of just such an event
in the lab: the transformation of a cloud of atoms into one huge
"super-atom", a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). This clump of atoms,
which all share the same quantum state, forms at temperatures within
a whisker of absolute zero.

When an event horizon is about to form around a collapsing star,
Mazur and Mottola believe that the huge gravitational field distorts
the quantum fluctuations in space-time. These fluctuations would
become so huge they would trigger a radical change in space-time,
very similar to the formation of a BEC. This would create a condensate
bubble. It would be surrounded by a thin spherical shell composed of
gravitational energy, a kind of stationary shock wave in space-time
sitting exactly where the event horizon of a black hole would
alter the space-time inside the shell. According to Mazur and
Mottola's calculations, it would exert an outward pressure. Because
of this, infalling matter inside the shell would do a U-turn and head
back out to the shell, while matter outside the shell would still
rain down on it.

In a paper submitted to Physical Review Letters, Mazur and Mottola
have shown that, like classical black holes, gravastars are a stable
solution of Einstein's equations. What's exciting, they say, is that
gravastars don't suffer any of the mathematical ailments of black
holes. There's no riotous singularity where the laws of physics break
down. There's no event horizon to imprison light and matter. And the
entropy of a gravastar would be much lower than that of any star that
might collapse to form it, dodging the problem of excessive entropy
that plagues black holes.

Take a gravastar with a mass 50 times that of the Sun, for example.
Like the event horizon of a black hole with the same mass, the shell
would be roughly 300 kilometres in diameter. But it would be around
just 10**-35 metres thick. Just a teaspoonful of the material would
weigh about 100 million tonnes. But Mazur and Mottola have shown it
would have a temperature of only about 10 billionths of a degree above
absolute zero. And it wouldn't emit any radiation, making it as black
as any black hole would be.

Dark energy

Gravastars would be just as much fun for sci-fi buffs -- in fact
they'd be even more ruthless. Imagine a black hole of a million solar
masses, like the one thought to sit in the centre of our Galaxy. You
could cross its event horizon without feeling a thing: it's only as
you approached the singularity that you'd be torn apart by the huge
gravity gradient. But if you were drifting towards a gravastar of the
same size, you'd never get anywhere near its centre. As soon as you
hit the shell you'd explode into pure gravitational energy.

Marek Abramowicz, an expert on black holes at Gothenburg University in
Sweden, calls the idea of gravastars "outstandingly brilliant". "Their
unique and remarkable properties could explain several high-energy
astrophysical phenomena that now are puzzling." He thinks they might
explain gamma-ray bursts -- ultra-intense flashes of gamma radiation
from a distant source that appear somewhere in the sky about once a
day.

Astronomers aren't certain what causes gamma-ray bursts. It might be
the formation of a black hole in a supernova explosion, but this
process would struggle to muster enough energy. The birth of a
gravastar, on the other hand, would be extraordinarily violent and
might shed enough energy to account for gamma-ray bursts.

Mottola points to another possible connection between gravastars and
astronomical observations. Three years ago, data from distant stellar
explosions suggested that the expansion of the Universe is getting
faster all the time (New Scientist, 11 April 1998, p 26). Many
physicists ascribe this acceleration to a mysterious "dark energy"
that gives space an outward pressure. Mottola says that if you scale
the size of a gravastar up to around the size of the visible Universe,
the pressure of the vacuum inside roughly matches the pressure that
seems to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe. So our
Universe might be one cosmic gravastar: a giant shell trapping the
Milky Way and all the other galaxies we see. "We might be able to
entertain the really radical notion that we -- and everything we see
in the Universe -- could be inside such an object," Mottola speculates.

It's a bold claim, and he and Mazur are still working out whether it's
justifiable. Unlike their hypothetical gravastar, the Universe contains
copious ordinary matter and its visible edge is always ballooning
outwards. But they're keen to see what happens when they modify their
gravastar model to include these complications. "It is certainly
premature at this point, but the seeds of a possible new cosmological
model are contained in the gravastar solution," says Mottola.

Fact or fantasy?

In the meantime, they are trying to figure out how they could tell
ordinary-sized black holes and gravastars apart. The differences might
be subtle -- after all, in isolation, they're both dark and the
gravitational fields outside a black hole event horizon and the
gravastar shell would be the same. But a good guess would be that
gravastars would shine more brightly, since matter falling onto one
would be turned into radiation. Black holes would gobble all the
matter, but a gravastar would let its energy escape.

The next step is to identify the telltale signs of a gravastar,
Mottola says. "It is the only way to convince the sceptical --
including ourselves -- that nature really behaves this way." Yet
physicists aren't even sure what black holes look like. In October
last year, they reported seeing what appeared to be a heavyweight
black hole, but material falling onto it is emitting far brighter
X-rays than theories predict. The excess energy is roughly equivalent
to the output of 10 billion Suns. If it is a black hole, it's not
clear why it's so bright.

The object may be whirling round and dragging magnetic fields at the
event horizon with it, and these could generate the extra energy by
whipping up and heating nearby gases. But Mazur thinks there's a
better explanation for that extra energy. The "black hole" could be
a gravastar, he says. Stars, gas and dust raining down onto its shell
would violently dissolve into pure gravitational energy that might
emerge as bright X-rays.

To try to resolve this issue, Mazur is working out what a rotating
gravastar might look like. Like every other compact object in the
Universe, a gravastar would almost certainly be spinning rapidly.

Not all astronomers are as enthusiastic about gravastars. Cornish
questions whether an exploding star could really lose enough entropy
to form a gravastar, given that the second law of thermodynamics says
that the entropy of an isolated object will always tend to increase.
"In other words, a cup can break into a thousand pieces, but it is
highly unlikely that a thousand shards of pottery will spontaneously
come together to form a cup," says Cornish. "Mazur and Mottola talk
about a star shedding entropy in some way to make the formation of
a gravastar possible, but I don't think that is a likely scenario."
But Mottola points out that when exploding stars form other remnants,
such as neutron stars, they do shed entropy.

And although Cornish admits that black hole singularities are
mathematically troublesome, he also believes that a satisfactory
quantum theory of gravity will cure this problem. Then there'll be
no need for gravastars, he says. Robert Wald of Chicago University
adds that Mottola and Mazur have put forward no arguments about how
gravastars could form in the devastating collapse of a massive star.
Even if they did form, how would they survive the onslaught of matter
raining down on them? "What happens if a gravastar has accreting
matter showered upon it? Won't it collapse to a black hole?" he says.

"The gravastar is stable," counters Mottola. He says that matter
falling onto the shell could make it wiggle and radiate away energy,
but because the gravitational pull of the shell balances the force of
the springy vacuum inside, it couldn't actually collapse. Any matter
that fell onto the shell would simply become part of it, he says.

All the same, Mottola and Mazur admit there are still unsolved issues
with the formation of gravastars. "We must have a better idea of how
this phase transition actually occurs in the gravitational collapse
process," says Mottola. The exact nature of the exotic stuff inside
the gravastar shell is still open to debate, and they hope to find
out whether gravastars can really form in the mayhem of a star's
violent death -- and whether gravastars could merge to form the
heavyweight objects that sit at the centre of galaxies. They are
encouraging others to join the investigation. "There are many
unanswered questions and we are really just opening a new direction
for future research," says Mottola.

But if gravastars can weather the controversy, then maybe there'll
no longer be any need for black holes -- maybe they really are pure
fantasy. It wouldn't be the first time that Einstein's dazzling
intuition has been proved correct.

###

New Scientist issue: 19th January 2002

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE OF THIS STORY AND, IF PUBLISHING
http://www.newscientist.com

3. ### c'est moiall is energy and entropyRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
583
interesting! thanksssss

5. ### Mr. Greality.sysValued Senior Member

Messages:
5,109
As neither blackholes nor gravastars have been directly observed/sampled, the debate remains limited to conflicting mathematical models.

Those who say that if it can be imagined it must exist are again satisfied beyond all rational proportion.

On the other hand, one, the other, neither, or both may actually exist. No problem.

Frankly, the uncertainty is so enjoyable.

7. ### Adam§Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥Registered Senior Member

Messages:
7,415
I've always felt that black holes and many other such theoretical constructs are basically the scientific equivalent of religion/superstition. There's never been any proof of their existence, yet they continue as a means of plugging up the holes in current theories. Personally, I'd mucyh prefer people to go out and try figuring things out rather than just keep dribbling on about the existence of such superstitious mumbo-jumbo.

8. ### thedIT GopherRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
1,105

There is a huge difference between superstition/magic and the scientific method. If no objects had been observed that appear to have the properties of Black Holes, the idea wuold have been dropped.

You can not deny that objects have been observed with stellar masses that are not stars, they emit no light. Hubble recently observed a gas flow infalling into a suspected black holes candidate and simply disappearing at about where the event horizon would be. Pretty good proof for me.

9. ### Adam§Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥Registered Senior Member

Messages:
7,415
The problem is that every person I have ever asked or read from has a different idea about what exactly a black hole is. Also, while these observations have been made, the actual reasons are not even slightly clear; the black hole thing is still just speculation. Gravity lensing caused by all manner of things in space blanks out huge areas or the sky for us, refraction means we only see what makes it our way, and apart from that everything we see is thousands of years old or more. I know there are massive sources of gravity out there, but the black hole idea is counting your chickens before they're hatched.

10. ### flamethrowerJuniorRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
75

In a way you're right. We can't be certain about Black Holes or Gravastars since they have not been directly observed. Their properties are of a theoretical nature. However, these objects, whatever the are, are based on general relativity, which is a theory that seems supported by available evidence. And we can discuss GR at another time.

Primarily your concern is the fact that you've uncovered various versions of what these objects might be perceived. And perhaps the conclusions to the observations, correct? I would ask then, what is your interpretation of the observations and the evidence?

11. ### Adam§Þ@ç€ MØnk€¥Registered Senior Member

Messages:
7,415
My theory is that there seems to be some incredibly powerful source of gravity in certain areas, and it should be researched more. So every company in the world should freely donate 99% of their profits to a joint international space programme! Yeah, like that would ever happen.

12. ### MandraxRegistered Member

Messages:
3
Bosenova

The idea of gravastars is very entertaining. If they indeed exist and bear properties of Bose-Einstein condensates we will some day be able to verivy there existence as we are in the lucky position today to study the bose-einstein condensate on a nanoscopic scale i think this will ultimately lead to understanding of how to verify this matter on a macroscopic scale.

Messages:
420
14. ### VortexxSkull & Bones SpokesmanRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
2,242
Some problems with black holes is that they seem to have too much entropy, I was thinking, how about those heavy gravity waves some black holes are theorised to produce at formation time, wouldn't that be a manner to get rid of entropy?

Do gravastars also evaporate like black holes , hawkins radiation etc?

what would be interesting is that if two

- black holes merge you would expect one new larger black hole

- if two gravastars collide at the moment their thick dense shells impact, you would expect them to annihillate instantly both into pure energy an event that would even dwarf the energy released by a Gamma Ray Burst ? Somebody asked on this board the impossible question, what happens if an unstoppable force hits an immovable object, well, this is as close as it gets...

Maybe we get to observe the merge of black holes / gravastars / or whatever they might be , someday....

Maybe, we can with the aid of the coming Large Hadron Collider determine what happens if two nanoscale black holes / gravastars merge, you would have to produce two and smash them together before they decay by Hawkins radiation.

Also the event of two heavy neutron stars colliding would be interesting as it would maybe or maybe not produce a black hole /gravastar without a preceding supernova / implosion.... The outcome might be different

Last edited: Feb 7, 2004
15. ### blobranaRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
2,214
For all intent and purposes a gravastar would behave exactly like a black hole.
There would be hawkins radiation , but no loss of entropy due to gravity waves (imho).
The only reason to consider the gravastars theory is the entropy problem of blackholes..
Im sure that there will be some intense debate on this, and the problems of the black-hole entropy may be solved through leakage to other compactified dimensions ( the singularity being no smaller than 10<sup>-33</sup> and directly <b>compatible/communicating</b> (?)` with the other 6 compacted dimensions)
(er, just a thought)

16. ### GravageRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
1,241
All of you like it or not,black holes DO exist,the way Hubble is finding them is when they are eating an star,that star before it disappears(gas and dust) are geting extremely hot and they emit radiation,in this way we actually see black holes,like it or not it's a fact.It has been proven so many times.

17. ### ZarkovBannedBanned

Messages:
657
To create a black hole you must believe in an "attracting mechanism" for matter.

Attraction or pull is philosophically unsound.... matter can only push matter.

In ESGT spin fields can compress matter as per 'gravity'. but it is the field that is doing this not the matter.

To create a spin field strong enough to simulate a BH IMO is impossible.

BH are a GR mathamatical division by zero.

No one should have even contemplated them in the first instant, let alone create this whole black hole fan club.

This shows to me, the state of cosmology at the present moment is dominated by illusion.

18. ### 2inquisitiveThe Devil is in the detailsRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
3,181
Zarkov, there is undeniable observational evidence for massively gravitating bodies
in the universe, call them black holes, gravistars, rubber duckies or whatever you
want, they are still there. Kind of puts the hurt on push-gravity models, doesn't it?

19. ### 2inquisitiveThe Devil is in the detailsRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
3,181
quote:
"Attraction or pull is philosophically unsound....matter can only push matter."
============================================================

Ever heard of a magnet? Opposites attract. Who's living an illusion?

20. ### ZarkovBannedBanned

Messages:
657
>> Ever heard of a magnet? Opposites attract. Who's living an illusion?

Haahahh

Yep easy words, but opposites contract, the lines of force are likened to rubber bands, stretch and contract.

When you get the observations correct, theory becomes much easier to both formulate and understand.

21. ### 2inquisitiveThe Devil is in the detailsRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
3,181
A force that "contracts" is not pulling two objects together? What is the difference
between a "contracting" force and an "attracting" force other than a play on words?

22. ### ZarkovBannedBanned

Messages:
657
>> A force that "contracts" is not pulling two objects together?

For contraction there must be a medium, eg a rubber band can be stretched and then it will contract, a two way mechanism.

'Spooky action at a distance' was one way only, with no apparent mechanism other than "gravitation" ( the only one way force in the Universe).

Stretching is achieved by motion (energy in), whereas contraction or relaxation is always towards the inertial state ( lowest energy state).

Mechanisms are still unfolding, as in electric and magnetic fields. Waves everybody agrees upon... so why not fields?? which are nothing but standing spherical waves in 3D space.

We use pulling to depict "push from the front" as opposed to "push from behind". It was all to do with the motion of the body.... and nothing to do with physics.... but it has created confusion ever since.

But this is off subject see "spooky action at a distance" thread

Last edited: Feb 29, 2004
23. ### ZarkovBannedBanned

Messages:
657
Just as an exercise, try pulling a door open, without vice gripping the perimeter of the door knob (this would be becoming part of the door, still a push) or placing your fingers behind the door knob ( this would be pushing from behind the door knob).

There is no way you can, in a physics sense, pull open/shut a door, or anything for that matter.

Force has to be transmitted via push.

So gravity is a push to the centre of field spin (not planet rotation),...... and in the motion of the planets the electric force drives the motion which modifies the contracting magnetic fields -----> circular motion..... however elliptical motion is seen, this is due to an electrostatic force pushing all the solar bodies away from their centres of spin.