White Holes: What happened to black holes?

Author: Ted Isidor

Editors: Liane Xu

Artist: Denise Suarez

The cosmos is a vast and mysterious world. Through mathematics, physicists and other scientists alike can explore the cosmos for clues on the interworkings of the universe. Recently, our compass of the cosmos has pointed us to one of the most unusual theories of our universe: white holes. To gain an understanding of this mystery of the possibility of white holes, we must first understand the relationship between white holes and black holes, which is a relationship that can be modeled by Pacman and his intestines.

A Breakdown of the Holes of our World

In their quest to find out more about the existence, properties, and characteristics of white holes, scientists have found it rather easy to compare white holes to black holes. Black holes and white holes have two things in common regarding their structure: a singularity and an event horizon. Black holes are formed when the mass resulting from a dying star collapses into a tiny region of space, with the area in which that mass once filled as the singularity of the black hole. The event horizon, on the other hand, serves as a bouncer for this black hole. The event horizon is an area surrounding a black hole, and once you pass it, there is no coming back. As black holes and white holes both share these two parts, what differences do they have? Well, black holes and white holes are like Pacman, the well-known video game character who can never get enough pellets. The mouth of Pacman resembles a black hole, as it sucks in matter but does not expel it. White holes are like Pacman’s intestines; they expel matter quickly but do not suck it back in. Physicist Sean Caroll’s statement that “A black hole is a place where you can go in but you can never escape; a white hole is a place where you can leave but you can never go back” helps explain the difference between black and white holes. Yet, many would argue that this analogy for the white hole has its weaknesses and limitations as it suggests that there exists a connection between white holes and black holes but, this statement is exactly what physicists expect.

White Holes, Wormholes, and other Knots in Our Understanding

To grasp the connection between white holes and black holes, we must go on a journey in explaining the mathematics behind this bizarre prediction of a new cosmic conundrum. General relativity is a theory that tries to explain the force of gravity in our universe. The theory states that there is a curvature in the fabric of space-time due to the presence of mass. The equations that justify these claims have been manipulated to find a startling discovery that our world may have wormholes, one of the most synonymous objects with science fiction. Wormholes are bridges in spacetime that connect two points, allowing for longer distances to be traveled in less time than what is physically possible in the normal world. As every tunnel has an opening and an end, what is the cosmic version of these openings for wormholes? Black holes and white holes because matter entering a black hole passes through a wormhole and comes out of a white hole. Although we have plausible ways in which black holes are connected to white holes, one issue resides with the theory of general relativity. At the singularity of a black hole, general relativity breaks down and is no longer able to explain these cosmic phenomenons. This misfortune leaves physicists in the dark with the research of white holes. However, another theory on the fabric of space tells us that we may have already seen white holes at this age of time.

Loop Quantum Gravity and Trampolines

The loop quantum gravity theory aims to solve one of the most troubling obstacles in describing gravity in the quantum world. General relativity explains gravitational phenomena at large scales but fails to do so when we peer into the very smallest of things. One reason for this is its inability to coincide with a theory explaining the realm of atoms, particles, and many more quantum mechanics. Loop quantum gravity tries to solve this problem by providing a median between the two. It states that the fabric of space is an intrinsic connection of loops and nodes, with gravitational phenomena being the curvature of this intrinsic loop. White holes can be created by black holes through this theory. But for now, let us compare it to a trampoline. Imagine a non-tearable trampoline in an open field. You are on a crane ready to drop a heavy ball onto this. When you drop the heavy ball, the trampoline curves extremely and seems like it will rip apart. However, instead, it launches the object in the other direction. Spacetime and black holes work similarly based on loop quantum gravity theory; when a star dies, the mass can in some time reach very close to the point of creating a tear in spacetime, which is a black hole, but instead it is flicked outwards, leading to matter shooting out from the former star and therefore becoming our elusive white hole. Researchers who believe in this possibility regarding the formation of white holes state that astronomers may have already discovered white holes in the form of supernovas, in which a large amount of matter that is heated did not result from the death of a star, but rather from a white hole. This hole in our understanding of the world has led to remarkable predictions and intellectual thoughts being dedicated to it and other areas of the field of physics, which helps keep curiosity alive.

Placing the Plug on an Unusual Cosmic Hole

White holes, as interesting as they are, provide new meaning to the field of physics. Physicists and other curiosity seekers alike begin seeing our world differently. From making predictions on the future to peering into the unforeseen, from white holes to the Big Bang, there is much more to be discovered in this adventure of science. Therefore, dare yourself to look deeper into white holes and other cosmic mysteries, expand your horizons, and most importantly, remember the words of Carl Sagan: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Citations:

“Are White Holes Real?” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 19 Aug. 2014,

www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/are-white-holes-real/.

Bianchi, Eugenio, et al. “White Holes as Remnants: A Surprising Scenario for the End of a

Black Hole.” ArXiv.org, Cornell University, 17 Mar. 2018, arxiv.org/abs/1802.04264.

Black Holes - Introduction. 2016,

imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/science/objects/black_holes1.html.

Cain, Fraser. “What Are White Holes?” Phys.org, Phys.org, 9 Oct. 2015,

phys.org/news/2015-10-white-holes.html.

White Holes and Wormholes, Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics,

jila.colorado.edu/~ajsh/bh/schww.html.

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