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Experts skeptical about black hole research

The theoretical physics and cosmology professor’s theory claims to have mathematically disproved the existence of black holes.

Astrophysics professor Karl Gebhardt from the University of Texas at Austin said he was pleased with the discovery because it encourages researchers to question what most think is fact.

“It is always fun to watch as new ideas propagate,” he said. “This is what makes science great.”

However, many astrophysicists are not convinced that black holes are nonexistent and are holding out for further information before forming a solid opinion.

Physics professor Frans Pretorius of Princeton University stressed how no scientific theory is ever absolute, but upon first review of Mersini-Houghton’s work, he noticed some problems.

“My first impression was that the model they used for the quantum effects was dubious at best, and this is the crucial part to allow them to conclude black holes won’t form,” he said.

While he stated that it is too early to be sure of the validity of his concerns, his issues with the study would significantly challenge the theory.

“If my concerns are justified, my suspicion is there could be substantive changes to the paper through the refereeing process,” he said.

Mersini-Houghton could not be reached after multiple requests for comment.

Currently, only circumstantial evidence exists for black holes. Pretorius said the evidence is based on observations of how stars seem to move around dark areas in the sky at very fast speeds.

“What astronomers see in the universe are very dense objects that are consistent with being black holes,” he said.

He added that direct evidence in support of black holes might result from new research in the future. One ongoing study is trying to locate a black hole’s shadow, he said.

“If it really is a black hole, it will distort the image in a way that is very particular to a black hole,” he said.

While he said the shadow would not provide definite proof of black holes, it would be the first form of direct evidence of their existence.

Bill Unruh, a physics professor at the University of British Columbia, also found the study to be controversial.

Unruh said he believes Mersini-Houghton’s work contradicts previous work that has been widely accepted.

“The model (Mersini-Houghton) has of Hawking radiation contradicts papers looking at the energy density near the black hole from the 1970s and later,” he said.

Hawking radiation comes out of a black hole and is named after Stephen Hawking, the man who proved the existence of the radiation.

Pretorius said that while more studies will be conducted in the future, there is currently no other explanation for the objects observed in outer space that are commonly known as black holes.

“If we do not assume they are black holes, we have no definition of what they might be,” he said.

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