Black holes in quantum states have surprisingly strange masses: ScienceAlert
For most of the century, quantum physics and general theory of relativity they were a marriage on the rocks. Each perfect in their own way, the two just can’t stand each other when they’re in the same room.
Now a mathematical proof of quantum nature black holes it just might show us how the two can be reconciled, at least enough to produce a grand new theory of how the Universe works on cosmic and microcosmic scales.
A team of physicists has mathematically demonstrated the strange notion of how these incredibly dense objects can exist in a state of quantum superposition, simultaneously occupying a spectrum of possible characteristics.
Ordinarily, any garden-variety particle can exist in a superposition of states, with features such as spin or momentum determined only when they become part of the observation.
where some qualities, like chargecome only in discrete units, mass is not typically quantized, meaning that the mass of an unobserved particle can be anywhere in the range of perhaps.
Still, as this research shows, the superposition of masses held by a black hole tends to favor some measures over others in a pattern that could be useful for modeling the mass in a quantized way. This could give us a new framework for examining the quantum-gravitational effects of superposition black holes to ease the tension between general relativity and quantum theory.
“Until now, we haven’t deeply investigated whether black holes exhibit some of the weird and wonderful behaviors of quantum physics,” explains theoretical physicist Joshua Foo from the University of Queensland in Australia.
“One such behavior is superposition, where particles on the quantum scale can exist in multiple states at the same time. This is most often illustrated by Schrödinger’s cat, which can be both dead and alive at the same time.”
“But for black holes, we wanted to see if they could have wildly different masses at the same time, and it turns out they do. Imagine being wide and tall as well as short and thin at the same time—that’s the situation which is intuitively confusing since we’re anchored in the world of traditional physics. But that’s the reality for quantum black holes.”
The extreme gravity surrounding black holes makes for an excellent laboratory for testing quantum gravity – rolling the spacetime continuum according to general relativity related to quantum mechanical theory, which describes the physical universe in terms of discrete quantities, such as particles.
Models based on certain types of black holes could only lead to a single theory that could explain particles and gravity. Some of the effects observed around a black hole cannot be described within the framework of general relativity, for example. For this we need quantum gravity – a unified theory that incorporates both sets of rules and somehow makes them behave nicely.
So Foo and his colleagues have developed a mathematical framework that effectively allows physicists to observe a particle located outside a black hole that is in a state of quantum superposition.
Mass was the main property they investigated, since mass is one of the only properties of black holes that we can measure.
“Our work shows that the very early theories of Jacob Bekenstein – an American and Israeli theoretical physicist who made a fundamental contribution to the establishment of the black hole. thermodynamics – were on the money,” says quantum physicist Magdalena Zih University of Queensland.
“[Bekenstein] postulated that black holes can only have masses that are certain values, that is, they must fall within certain ranges or ratios – this is how, for example, the energy levels of atoms work. Our modeling showed that these superimposed masses were, in fact, in certain definite bands or ratios—as predicted by Bekenstein.
“We didn’t assume there was such a pattern, so the fact that we found this evidence was quite surprising.”
The results, the researchers say, pave the way for future research into quantum gravity concepts, such as quantum black holes and superimposed spacetime. In order to develop a complete description of quantum gravity, the inclusion of these concepts is crucial.
Their research also allows for a more detailed investigation of that superimposed space-time and the effects it has on the particles within it.
“The universe reveals to us that it is always stranger, more mysterious, and more fascinating than most of us could ever imagine.” Zych says.
The research was published in Physical Review Letters.
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