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General Relativity Standard Model Is Breaking Down, Black Hole Data Reveals

Dec 14, 2016 08:16 AM EST
General Relativity Standard Model Is Breaking Down, Black Hole Data Reveals
Every thousand of years, a star drifts close and finds itself ripped apart by the powerful gravity of the black hole. This process is known as a tidal disruption. Then, the study observed, the shredded debris and gas products can form into planet-sized objects that are whipped back out into space – just like a spitball.
(Photo : NASA/ESA via Getty Images)

Black holes remain to be one the most perplexing objects in the night sky as they constantly appear to be contradicting the very laws of physics. However, recent data suggests there is really more to black holes than meets the eye, and it can shake the foundation of a lot of theories.

Gravitional wave data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) suggests signs of "firewalls" and other exotic physics occurring around black holes. And we're only just beginning.

According to Scientific American, it can be remembered that despite Einstein's general theory of relativity rocking the scientific world to its core, the discovery of gravitational waves provide the first evidence that the theory may break down along black holes. 

Now, it seems they have found "echoes" of the waves that seem to contradict general relativity predictions. 

If the waves do not disappear despite having more data, then it's proof that general relativity could really break down in extreme scenarios, such as the black hole's edge, too far from its core.

If they do go away eventually, then general relativity is safe and its calculations are still accurate. However, the LIGO detections are proof that a new era in physics may be coming. Steve Giddings, a black hole researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said this is an opportunity to "investigate a new physical regime."

According to Nature, the edge of the black hole - or the event horizon - was long thought to be too far from experimental reach. General relativity states that anything that crosses the barrier will be captured by the black hole without any chance of escape.

This means there's a chance that if someone gets to cross it, there wouldn't be any changes.

Not according to some researchers. According to Nature, if quantum physics is correct, then the event horizon should have a "firewall," or a ring of high-energy particles that burn everything around it.

But that contradicts general relativity - and if the black holes are firewall-free, then quantum theory is wrong. So where do we go from here?

These are just some of crazy theories associated with relativity. For instance, some versions of string theory say that black holes are really "fuzzballs" or tangled-up threads of energy.

All this changed in February after the discovery of gravitational waves during the merger of two black holes. A team of physicists led by Vitor Cardoso at the Superior Technical Institute in Libson proposed that if strange deviations from relativity such as black holes release "echoes," then black hole mergers must be releasing them as well.

These "echoes" are from a smeared-out region at the traditional event horizon, or where particles can't escape. Its outer edge, however, is more porous and will allow some light to get through. These, along with some gravitational waves, can bounce back and forth - hence "echoes."

Afshordi said that there's a chance that their detections may be flukes, and they had to be detected in future black hole mergers as well. Regardless, the research so far suggests a radical departure from general relativity. 

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