On Grey Holes and Strings

Despite outward appearances, we at the Alternative Physics Institute remain strong supporters of mainstream science.  To this end, we endeavour to keep close contact with those on the leading edge.  Recently we reached out to associate professor, Dr Smarmy Loudmouth, of the Advanced Institute of Conformity and Stagnation to learn what progress was being made in physics research.  Our reporter caught up with him for our weekly broadcast.

Reporter:  “Professor Loudmouth, thanks for joining us in the studio.”

Prof L.:  “It’s a pleasure to be here.  I’m always happy to help put your audience back on track.”

Rep:  “I thought we might start by telling listeners about the latest developments.  What field of research would be the most interesting?”

PL:  “Certainly.  Perhaps the most interesting field right now would be the study of black holes.”

Rep:  “Tell us about that.”

PL:  “Black holes are a type of astronomical body with so much gravity they can suck in everything around them; including stars, planets, dust, light, clocks, astronauts, measuring sticks, and possibly space itself.

There are many types.  We have regular black holes, supermassive ones, primordial black holes, black hole quasars, black hole binaries, charged black holes, evaporating black holes, holes with naked singularities, black holes without hair, and now even mini black holes.”

Rep:  “That’s quite a lot of types.”

PL:  “Indeed, and we have much to learn about them.  The only thing we can say for sure is there are a lot of them and they’re black.  When you look at a dark patch of night sky, you are possibly looking into a black hole.”

Rep:  “Could there be another reason why the patch is dark?”

PL:  “Well, it could be due to dark matter.  Or it could be dark energy.  But probably not dark energy because that’s speculative.”

Rep:  “But aren’t black holes also speculative?”

PL:  “They used to be but not anymore.  We now know so much about them.  There have been many books and articles published on the subject.  And new papers are appearing all the time.”

Rep:  “OK, but just writing about a subject doesn’t mean you understand it.  You also need to discover them.”

PL:  “Oh, but we are discovering them.  We’re discovering them all the time.”

Rep:  “You’re discovering them through telescopes?”

PL:  “No, we’re discovering them in our equations.”

Rep:  “In equations?  I’m not following.”

PL:  “General Relativity gives us the ability to understand the fabric of spacetime.  By looking at its equations we can see what black hole types must be possible and therefore also exist.

I mean, I see this sort of thing happening quite often.  Some young chap writes up a paper on Relativity and then after posting it for review, looks it over and says:
‘OMG, there’s a black hole right there!  And there’s another!  How did I miss that??’

As I’m sure you can appreciate, with all these discoveries taking place, it’s a great time to be a theoretical physicist.  After all, who knows what manner of things we might discover tomorrow?  A few new particles... some hidden dimensions… some parallel universes…

In fact, not even necessarily parallel – maybe even at right angles.  The mind boggles!”

Rep:  “I’m sure it does.”

PL:  “Anyhow, recently a new development’s occurred.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Stephen Hawking, who’s widely considered the leading expert on black hole theory?”

Rep:  “Yep.”

PL:  “Well, he had another think about it and realized that, since black holes are probably rotating, they must be emitting Hawking Radiation.  So it turns out these holes that we thought were black are actually grey holes all along and we should start looking for them again.”

Rep:  “How can he justify changing his position like that?”

PL:  “He doesn’t need to justify it, he’s Hawking.  According to the New York Times, he has a brilliant mind.”

Rep:  “Professor Loudmouth, I …”

PL:  “Please, call me Smarmy.”

Rep:  “Doctor Smarmy, we were chatting a bit before the show and you mentioned something about String Theory.  Can you tell us about that?”

PL:  “Sure.  String Theory is one of the most exciting fields to be in right now and probably the one that has the best potential for finally explaining the universe.  It tells us everything is made of vibrating strings and we live in 11 dimensions.”

Rep:  “That sounds like an awful lot of dimensions.”

PL:  “You might think so.  But let me tell you, it used to have around 26.  So getting down to just 11 was an achievement on its own.”

Rep:  “Why can’t we see these extra dimensions?”

PL:  “Because they are too small.”

Rep:  “I’m not following.  How can a dimension have a size?”

PL:  “What happens is, the extra dimensions are wrapped up in tight loops, which we call strings, and the loops are too small to see.”

Rep:  “What do these extra dimensions wrap themselves through?”

PL:  “Probably other dimensions.”

Rep:  “And why can’t we see those dimensions?”

PL:  “Probably because they are too small.”

Rep:  “Interesting.  So what leads you to believe String Theory has potential to be correct?”

PL:  “Because it has great symmetry.  You see, in physics, symmetry is beauty.  And in beauty there is simplicity.  And in simplicity there is truth.”

Rep:  “I don’t see how that follows.  The human body is incredibly complex, and yet quite real.”

PL:  “Yes but that’s biology.  We’re talking about the universe here.  Or possibly multiple universes.”

Rep:  “Has String Theory been successful?”

PL:  “Very successful.  In several decades we’ve employed hundreds of scientists, graduated numerous PhDs, won a few prizes, set up university sub-departments… and let’s not forget documentaries, conferences, book signings, you name it.”

Rep:  “Okay but what I meant was, has it been successful in describing nature?”

PL:  “We’re still working on that part.  No we’ve not had success in that specific area but have made a huge amount of progress.  We have managed to discover 10 to the power of 500 possible universe states.

Unfortunately, it turns out none of these match the universe we live in, and we need to keep looking.”

Rep:  “Do you think the theory will ever be successful?”

PL:  “In fact, yes.  With enough funding, I’m confident we can have a solution within the next ten years, or twenty at most.  Thirty for sure.”

Rep:  “So the funding is for you to do experiments?”

PL:  “There are no experiments as such.  The funding is for us to do thinking.”

Rep:  “Well it looks like we’re out of time.  Thanks again for visiting.”

PL:  “It’s been a pleasure.”


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