The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rethinking Black Holes

The above-linked paper by Chapline suggests that by neglecting quantum effects, we've misunderstood the nature of the event horizon surrounding black holes. By drawing some analogies with superfluid physics, he claims that the interiors of black holes do not contain singularities, but have a normal sort of space-time with a higher vacuum energy. Weird things happen to particles as they pass through the putative event horizon ---possibly explaining the positron anhilation line seen in the galactic center---but that for particles with low enough energies, it is possible to penetrate and then escape. What he doesn't explain, at least to my reading, is what happens to the matter that collapsed to make the object in the first place. Transformed into vacuum? I'm also puzzled as to why he calls these "dark energy stars". Isn't the dark energy meant to be repulsive?

Update: What's interesting about this paper from a historical perspective is their comment at the beginning of section 2:
In the 1950s a consensus was reached, partly as a result of meetings such as (sic) famous meeting at Chapel Hill in 1957, that although quantum effects might be important blow (sic) some very small distance, on an macroscopic scale the predictions of classical general relativity (GR) should be taken seriously. In the summer of 2000 Bob Laughlin and I (i.e. Chapline) realized that this cannot possibly be correct. Indeed I am sure it will be a puzzle to future historians of science as to why it took so long to realize this.


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