Black holes are the future

Cygnus X-1A particle falling into a black hole is doomed. Whether or not any information about it is ultimately preserved (an area of active research), that particle can never return to the outside Universe, nor can it send any signals about its fate. For the particle, the black hole is the end of time, its entire future. The boundary of the black hole — its event horizon — is the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.

However, the event horizon is in our future, too. Not that we ourselves will cross it: just that any particle we observe falling into a black hole will enter it at some point in the far future from our perspective. That’s because from our perspective, the particle’s time appears to slow down, so that we never see it cross the event horizon. Even though light takes time to reach us, in a sense we’re observing an event that is yet to come. Forget Doctor Who: a black hole is the true end of time. There’s a whole other blog post in this topic, which (if I’m feeling procrastinatory this week in the face of heavy deadlines) I might write soon.

Analogously, white holes are a kind of beginning of time: particles originating inside the white hole event horizon must exit and never return to the region inside. If that feels weird to you, it should: white holes don’t act like normal gravitational objects. In fact, there’s good reason to believe white holes don’t exist at all, as I explain in my latest for Nautilus:

Black holes are common in the cosmos—nearly every large galaxy harbors a supermassive one in its nucleus, not to mention smaller specimens. However, astronomers have yet to identify a single white hole. That doesn’t rule out their existence entirely, since it might be hard to see one: If they effectively repel particles, there’s a small possibility they could be lurking out there somewhere, invisible. Nevertheless, none of all the diverse objects astronomers have observed seem to resemble what we’d expect from white holes.  [read more...]


2 Responses to “Black holes are the future”

  1. 1 Richard A Jowsey May 5, 2014 at 18:50

    I’ve got some math for that: [link removed for random promotion of personal theory]

  2. 2 Richard Jowsey May 6, 2014 at 19:23

    Dear Sir, I find your “link removed” comment baffling, and somewhat patronising. I was prompted to share some interesting new physics, soundly based on rigorous math, by your statement: “The asymmetry of time in gravity isn’t inherent, but seems to arise from the behavior of matter and energy: gravitational collapse at the end of time, initial expansion at time’s beginning. The deep meaning of that is something physicists are still trying to comprehend.” I agree. For the past several years, I have been studying and researching this exact question, and based on “personal theories” such as Hawking’s “imaginary time” proposal and “no boundaries” conjecture, Susskind’s “holographic principle” and Maldacena’s “AdS/CFT conformal boundary” conjecture, I am currently writing a dissertation on the implications of complex time for the gravitational force. I placed a pre-print summary of the key equations relevant to this study on my website, not to “promote” anything, but simply to share (and perhaps disseminate) some of these evolving tools and concepts to the wider scientific community, with purely collegial motives. You’re welcome.

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