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Mysterious black holes may be exploding into ‘white holes’

Published time: July 25, 2014 03:36
Reuters / NASA

Reuters / NASA

A new scientific theory suggests that when black holes reach the end of their lifespan, they explode into “white holes” and release all of their matter into space.

If true, the theory could help put to rest the debate over whether or not black holes actually destroy the matter they end up devouring.

As noted by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, when a dying star ends up collapsing under its own weight, at some point the collapse becomes irreversible, resulting in a black hole that consumes light and anything else within its surrounding area. Although Vice noted that black holes do slowly leak radiation over time – ultimately draining the black hole completely – this doesn’t account for all the other matter that the dying star has consumed.

Since quantum theory does not allow for the possibility that information can be lost, though, two researchers from France’s Aix-Marseille University believe they’ve discovered an explanation for this so-called “information paradox.” According to physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal Haggard, a black hole eventually reaches a point where it cannot collapse any further and the internal pressure begins to push outwards. This essentially turns the black hole inside out and expels everything it once consumed back into space.

Notably, the scientists believe that these white holes are created not long after the black hole’s original formation, and we humans can’t see it because gravity dilates time and makes the black hole’s lifespan seem to last for billions or trillions of years. Their current calculation is that it only takes a few thousandths of a second for a black hole to turn into a white hole.

“Importantly, the process is very long seen from the outside, but is very short for a local observer at a small radius,” the researchers wrote in a paper on the subject, according to Vice.

Ron Cowen, a science writer at Nature, explained further.

“If the authors are correct, tiny black holes that formed during the very early history of the Universe would now be ready to pop off like firecrackers and might be detected as high-energy cosmic rays or other radiation. In fact, they say, their work could imply that some of the dramatic flares commonly considered to be supernova explosions could in fact be the dying throes of tiny black holes that formed shortly after the Big Bang.”

Although Rovelli and Haggard aren’t completely dismissing the idea that black holes leak radiation, they said the trickles of energy would not be sufficient enough to deplete the dying stars of all the energy they’ve consumed. Radiation may very well seep out, but their work is primarily concerned with discovering what happens inside a black hole.

Still, both Rovelli and Haggard admitted that their theory needs to be tested further with more comprehensive calculations. If research confirms their ideas, however, theoretical physicist Steven Giddings of the University of California Santa Barbara says, “It would be important. Understanding how information escapes from a black hole is the key question for the quantum mechanics of black holes, and possibly for quantum gravity itself.”