Jun 02 2011

White holes! (There’s a joke in there somewhere)

I’m too pumped about this possible find to bother hashing out the obvious body-part-related jokes available to me at the moment. White holes, AKA “little bangs”, AKA “time-reversed black holes”, AKA “a bunch of shit just suddenly barfed out into our spacetime at a random place and time with absolutely no warning”, may have been witnessed for the first time ever in a gamma ray burst (sans accompanying supernova) that we recorded back in 2006.

According to the linked io9 article:

A gamma ray burst back in 2006 didn’t fit with our understanding of where they come from – its long duration (102 seconds) meant that it had to be created in a supernova explosion, and yet there were no supernovas there for it to have come from. Its discoverers actually said that “this is brand new territory; we have no theories to guide us.”

Now, five years later, it’s being suggested that we might actually have caught sight of a white hole. The fierceness and duration of the explosion could well fit with a white hole briefly popping into existence, spewing out some matter, and then quickly collapsing into itself, resulting in this massive explosion. Although it’s not the most likely explanation – after all, it invokes something that many astronomers have concluded is exceedingly unlikely, verging on impossible – it can’t be immediately discounted.

The trouble is that we’ve found out all we’re going to from this particular burst, so all we can do now is wait for another of these strange hybrid bursts and see how it behaves. If these hybrid bursts really are white holes, then the universe is about to get a lot stranger.

The white hole phenomenon was postulated as part of the general theory of relativity, though physicists believed it was only possible at the Big Bang where initial conditions were much, much different than we see today because as far as we can tell, there’s no plausible mechanism by which they could emerge in our universe’s present state. A white hole acts exactly opposite to how a black hole would — matter is constantly streaming out of it (or at least until that matter is used up from its source), and nothing can ever enter, not even light. An Einstein-Rosen Bridge connects a black hole to a white hole, allowing faster than light travel (though losing any structural integrity) between two points in the universe. This is the concept that sci-fi generally piggybacks on when it postulates wormholes, Stargates, and other means of exploring this vast universe of ours.

Because the bridge connecting the two disparate places must travel outside the boundaries of the universe, and time only means something inside the context of the universe, you get instant travel. Of course, everything passing through a black hole has got to miss the theoretical singularity to get shunted through any Einstein-Rosen Bridge intact, which (as far as any math seems to be concerned) is a theoretical and practical impossibility. The really cool part about this is the fact that if this is true, where a white hole appears would suddenly collapse under its own weight and become another black hole, perpetuating the cycle possibly infinitely. The really hairy bit about this is, how does a white hole and a black hole match up? It’s plausible that, since this universe is probably 11-dimensional, those two spots are near one another on one particular dimension that doesn’t correspond with the three-plus-one we’re used to interpreting. It could mean the universe is very knotted or braney, and it could provide good evidence for the possibility that one black hole’s connected to a white hole in another universe entirely, if our universe happens to be near another one on that dimension. Who knows? Perhaps every black hole is connected to a white hole in another universe, and vice versa.

Or even hairier, some physicists postulate that this entire universe is the ejecta (via the Big Bang) from a black hole in some other one. Perhaps there’s a constant interchange of matter between any number of universes. It would certainly explain why this universe “began”, given that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. We might just be the result of some other universe’s Big Crunch. This theory, if correct, would certainly lend credence to M-Theory and would explain away a lot of issues that physicists presently have with the Big Bang.

The paper at arXiv has more details about this 2006 phenomenon and the (admittedly unlikely but awesome) postulate. Super cool.

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