Black holes are actually giant fuzzballs of string, claims new research

A new paper strengthens the theory that black holes are like balls of space yarn and debunks the idea of "firewalls".

Black holes are wonderfully strange and trying to understand how they work has put many a crazy-sounding theory into the spotlight. In 2012, a group of astrophysicists concluded that black holes featured firewalls on their outer edges, potentially burning up anything that may end up caught inside. The idea that the event horizon had a ring of fire, swarming with high-energy particles, was startling and added to the potential paradoxes scientists have proposed in relation to black holes. Now, physicists have found that there may be no firewalls after all. Instead, they think black holes work like growing balls of strings or “fuzzballs”.


The team from Ohio University, led by the professor of physics Dr. Samir D. Mathur, calculated what would happen if an electron fell into an average black hole, with a mass similar to our sun's. Their work shows that the electron would not be likely to burn up. 

“The probability of the electron hitting a photon from the radiation and burning up is negligible, dropping even further if one considers larger black holes known to exist in space,” said Mathur.

Mathur’s work adds to his previous theory from 2004 that proposed black holes to be like gigantic balls of yarn or “fuzzballs”. He thinks they grow as they suck in more and more objects.  

The paper by the physicists uses string theory, which supposes that the universe is made of string-like tubes of energy, to discount the notion of firewalls.  

“The question is ‘Where does the black hole grab you?’ We think that as a person approaches the horizon, the fuzzball surface grows to meet it before it has a chance to reach the hottest part of the radiation, and this is a crucial finding in this new physics paper that invalidates the firewall argument,” explained Mathur. 

What would really happen to a person falling into a black hole? Certainly, no one knows precisely. Mathur thinks a person suffering such a fate would get “tangled up in strings” but not sure what that would look like, aiming to do more detailed calculations. Interestingly, the paper says the "infall energy" of the falling person would create new fuzzballs, and this "motion gets encoded in the evolution of these new fuzzballs."

You can check out the new paper here. It is published in the Journal of High Energy Physics.

 

a-black-hole-in-our-own-backyard

Plants have awareness and intelligence, argue scientists

Research in plant neurobiology shows that plants have senses, intelligence and emotions.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • The field of plant neurobiology studies the complex behavior of plants.
  • Plants were found to have 15-20 senses, including many like humans.
  • Some argue that plants may have awareness and intelligence, while detractors persist.
Keep reading Show less

Vaping changes blood vessels after one use, even without nicotine

E-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but they come with their own risks.


John Keeble
/GETTY
Surprising Science
  • A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
  • The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
  • The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.
Keep reading Show less

Space is dead: A challenge to the standard model of quantum mechanics

Since the idea of locality is dead, space itself may not be an aloof vacuum: Something welds things together, even at great distances.

Videos
  • Realists believe that there is an exactly understandable way the world is — one that describes processes independent of our intervention. Anti-realists, however, believe realism is too ambitious — too hard. They believe we pragmatically describe our interactions with nature — not truths that are independent of us.
  • In nature, properties of Particle B may be depend on what we choose to measure or manipulate with Particle A, even at great distances.
  • In quantum mechanics, there is no explanation for this. "It just comes out that way," says Smolin. Realists struggle with this because it would imply certain things can travel faster than light, which still seems improbable.
Keep reading Show less