NYU physicist Georgi Dvali has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the European Research Council to investigate the properties of black holes. The work will build upon a physical property theorized by Albert Einstein and his colleague Satyendra Nath Bose—a Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC), which is a state of matter of a boson, or elementary particle, once it is cooled.
Under the five-year ERC grant, Dvali and his collaborator, Cesar Gomez, a professor at Madrid’s Instituto de F´ısica Te´orica, will seek to determine if black holes possess matter marked by the properties outlined by Einstein and Bose.
Such a finding would upend our understanding of black holes and, more significantly, potentially alter our conception of gravity and, with it, the space-time model—a fundamental aspect of the laws of physics that govern our Universe.
“Though black holes are perhaps the most mysterious objects in physics,” Dvali explains, “we do know they are remarkably efficient in diversifying their appearances in an incredible number of so-called quantum micro-states. That is, a black hole that, for an outside observer, appears as one large object is, in reality, composed of a huge variety of forms, only distinguishable by the make-up and organization of microscopic particles. For example, a black hole as light as a few single-celled amoebas would have billions of distinct quantum ‘faces’!”
However, he adds, the underlying quantum physics that allows the black holes to be so efficient remains unknown.
But, Dvali and Gomez believe, after receiving relevant literature in the field, that they may have insights into understanding black-hole properties. They have theorized that black holes are a collection of Bose-Einstein condensates.
“This is an interesting and surprising phenomenon of nature because we usually associate ‘quantumness’ only with microscopic objects,” says Dvali. “For example, we usually think that small objects are quantum whereas large objects, such as elephants, are classical—that is, they are well-described by laws of classical physics.
“But, black holes prove this intuition wrong, meaning its properties cannot be properly understood because their make-up does not conform to the laws of classical physics. In other words, we need to be viewing them as we would a microscopic object rather than as something significantly larger.”
Their project will develop a detailed application of their concept to various aspects of black hole physics in order to find support for the theory.