Physicists have discovered a strange twist in space-time that can simulate black holes—until they get very close. Known as “topological solitons,” these theoretical gaps in the fabric of space-time are known throughout the universe, and finding them could advance our understanding of quantum physics, according to a new study published April 25 in the journal Science. physical review d.
black holes It is perhaps the most frustrating thing ever discovered in science. Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicts their existence, and astronomers know how they form: All it takes is for a massive star to collapse under its own weight. With no other force available to resist it, gravity continues to pull until all of the star’s matter has been compressed into a very small point, known as a singularity. Surrounding this singularity is the event horizon, an invisible boundary that marks the edge of the black hole. Whatever crosses the event horizon cannot come out.
But the main problem with this is that points of infinite density cannot really exist. So while general relativity predicts the existence of black holes, and we find many astronomical objects that behave exactly as Einstein’s theory predicted, we know we still don’t have the full picture. We know that the uniqueness must be replaced by something more logical, but we don’t know what that thing is.
Related: Are black holes wormholes?
Finding this requires an understanding of gravity that is extremely strong on very small scales – something called quantum gravity. So far, we don’t have a workable quantum theory of gravity, but we do have several candidates. One of these candidates is string theorya model that suggests that all of the particles that make up our universe are really made of tiny, vibrating strings.
To explain the great variety of particles that inhabit our universe, those strings can’t just vibrate in the usual three spatial dimensions. String theory predicts the existence of additional dimensions, all curled up on themselves on an unfathomably small scale — so small that we can’t even know they exist.
And this act of wrinkling extra spatial dimensions at tiny scales can lead to very interesting things.
In the new study, the researchers suggested that these extra compact dimensions could lead to defects. Like wrinkles that you can’t get out of your shirt no matter how much you iron it, these imperfections will be immutable, permanent defects in the structure of space-time—a topological soliton. Physicists have suggested that these seltons would look, act, and possibly smell a lot like black holes.
The researchers studied how light rays would behave when passing near one of these solitons. They found that solitons would affect light in the same way a black hole would. Light bends around the solitons and forms stable orbital rings, and the solitons cast shadows. In other words, the Famous images from the Event Horizon Telescopezoomed in on the M87* black hole in 2019, would look roughly the same if it were a soliton in the center of the image, rather than a black hole.
But soon, the tradition will be over. Topological solitons are not singularities, so they have no event horizons. You can get as close to the soliton as you like, and you can always leave if you like (assuming you’ve packed enough fuel).
Unfortunately, we don’t have black holes close enough to dig into, and so we can only rely on observations of distant objects. If any topological solitons are ever discovered, not only will the detection be an insight into the nature of gravity, but it will enable us to directly study the nature of quantum gravity and string theory as well.
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