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A Quantum Theory of Black Holes Could Solve Physics' Mysteries

Two European physicists are attempting to explain black holes in the language of quantum mechanics. If successful, they could reconcile competing theories of how gravity works. 

What's the Latest Development?


In an attempt to reconcile Einstein's theory of gravity with quantum mechanics, two European physicists are attempting to explain black holes using the language of quantum physics. Because particles are the building blocks of quantum theory, Georgi Dvali of CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, and Cesar Gomez of the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, chose gravitons, the hypothetical particles that are thought to carry the force of gravity. "Considering black holes as an overpacked bucket of gravitons allowed the pair to solve several mysteries, including why black holes radiate energy and get hotter as they evaporate."

What's the Big Idea?

If the pair's attempt to explain black holes using quantum language is successful, black holes could act as a kind of Rosetta Stone, translating between the two competing theories of gravity and perhaps leading to a theory of quantum gravity. "In this picture, we write down gravitational properties of gravitons in the quantum mechanical language," Dvali says. "We are building a quantum version of Einstein's theory." Critics of the project, like Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, argue that black holes are more subtle than an extremely dense formation of gravitons.

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Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain

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We can promote the development of new neurons well into adulthood - and here's why we should.

Image by vrx on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
  • After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
  • Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
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How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

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