Are black holes really arbiters of doom?

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Published: June 17, 2015 3:31:11 PM

As per a physicist, the recently proposed idea that black holes have "firewalls" that destroy all they touch has a loophole, suggesting that they are not necessarily arbiters of doom.

As per a physicist, the recently proposed idea that black holes have “firewalls” that destroy all they touch has a loophole, suggesting that they are not necessarily arbiters of doom.

In a paper posted online to the arXiv preprint server, The Ohio State University’s Samir Mathur, takes issue with the firewall theory and proves mathematically that black holes are not necessarily arbiters of doom.

In fact, he says the world could be captured by a black hole and people wouldn’t even notice.

More than a decade ago, Mathur used the principles of string theory to show that black holes are actually tangled-up balls of cosmic strings. His “fuzzball theory” helped resolve certain contradictions in how physicists think of black holes.

But when a group of researchers recently tried to build on Mathur’s theory, they concluded that the surface of the fuzzball was actually a firewall.

According to the firewall theory, the surface of the fuzzball is deadly. In fact, the idea is called the firewall theory because it suggests that a very literal fiery death awaits anything that touches it.

Mathur and his team have been expanding on their fuzzball theory, too, and they’ve come to a completely different conclusion. They see black holes not as killers, but rather as benign copy machines of a sort.

They believe that when material touches the surface of a black hole, it becomes a hologram, a near-perfect copy of itself that continues to exist just as before.

“Near-perfect” is the point of contention. There is a hypothesis in physics called complementarity, which was first proposed by Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind in 1993. Complementarity requires that any such hologram created by a black hole be a perfect copy of the original.

Mathematically, physicists on both sides of this new fuzzball-firewall debate have concluded that strict complementarity is not possible; That is to say, a perfect hologram can’t form on the surface of a black hole.

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