Is the long-held scientific theory that our universe began with a big bang wrong? A pair of scientists think it might be, and they've done the math to prove it.
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill sent out a press release Tuesday on a paper by UNC physics professor, Laura Mersini-Houghton, who claims to have proven mathematically that black holes don't exist. If the numbers are proven to work out, scientists will be forced to "reimage the fabric of space-time" and "rethink the origins of the universe."
Scientists have long thought that black holes were formed when a massive star collapsed under its own gravity, creating a singularity or single point in space with a gravitational pull so strong that even light could not escape it. The singularity is thought to be surrounded by an invisible membrane, known as the event horizon.
The event horizon is the point of no return. Anything crossing it is swallowed by the black hole's strong gravitational pull, disappearing forever.
Black holes are bizarre in that they pit conflicting scientific theories against each other. Einstein's theory of gravity supports the formation of black holes, but a fundamental law of quantum theory states that nothing from the universe can ever disappear. The efforts to combine the two theories create mathematical nonsense – what is known as the information loss paradox.
But what does the existence of black holes have to do with the Big Bang Theory? Scientists believe that the universe originated from a singularity that began expanding with the Big Bang. If black holes don't exist, then there was no singularity – meaning the theory is wrong and the Big Bang may never have happened.
The UNC physicist's work is based Steven Hawking's 1974 finding that black holes emit radiation. Scientists have since then used Hawking radiation to locate black holes, such as this recently discovered one reported by The Inquisitr. However, in her new work, Mersini-Houghton shows that by giving off Hawking radiation, the collapsed star also sheds mass. In doing so as it shrinks, it no longer has the density to become a black hole.
Mersini-Houghton's work says that before a black hole can form, the dying star swells one last time and then explodes. A singularity never forms nor does an event horizon. Therefore, no black hole can exist.
"I'm still not over the shock," said Mersini-Houghton. "We've been studying this problem for a more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about."
"Physicists have been trying to merge these two theories – Einstein's theory of gravity and quantum mechanics – for decades, but this scenario brings these two theories together, into harmony. And that's a big deal."
Mersini-Houghton's paper was done in collaboration with Harald Peiffer, a University of Toronto numerical relativity expert. Their work has not yet been peer-reviewed, but the UNC physicist says that the mathematics are conclusive.
According to Phys.org, experimental evidence has not conclusively proven or disproved the existence of black holes, so it remains to be seen if she is correct.
What do you think? Do black holes really exist? Or will we have to rethink our ideas on the universe?
]Image via Maximum PC]