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Gideon Reich

An alternative to black holes?

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Hi Stephen,

I came across this fascinating story in New Scientist. Here's an excerpt:

DARK energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology.

The new star is termed a "dark energy star:"

"Dark energy stars and black holes would have identical external geometries, so it will be very difficult to tell them apart," Lobo says. "All observations used as evidence for black holes - their gravitational pull on objects and the formation of accretion discs of matter around them - could also work as evidence for dark energy stars."

I was also fascinated to read this:

Black hole expert Marek Abramowicz at Gothenburg University in Sweden agrees that the idea of dark energy stars is worth pursuing. "We really don't have proof that black holes exist," he says. "This is a very interesting alternative."

So they don't have any proof? Any comments?

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I came across this fascinating story in New Scientist.

Thanks, Gideon, for mentioning this. The author of the idea, George Chapline, has been around for some time; he received his PhD from Caltech in the 1960s, and was a T.A. for Feynman's famous physics lectures. In general I am sympathetic towards those who theorize about gravity as an emergent property of vacuum physics, in that condensed matter theorists at least tend to steer clear of singularities, if not nonlocal behavior. The problem is that none have ever gotten the physics right, and the uniting of general relativity with the quantum level remains illusory in their theories.

Chapline correctly dismisses the central singularity of the black hole, and attempts to replace the event horizon with a quantum phenomenon. Based on earlier work that Chapline did with Robert Laughlin (an interesting man about whom I have written) and others (Quantum phase transitions and the breakdown of classical general relativity, G. Chapline, et al, Philosophical Magazine, B, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 235-254, 2001), in his recent work Chapline creates a more well-behaved replacement for the black hole which he dubs "dark energy star." As matter approaches what would otherwise be called the event horizon, the elementary particles somehow morph into non-relativistic-like particles. Since GR can no longer describe the transition from the interior to the exterior of this "dark energy star," new physics is needed; that is where this "morphing" process comes into play. It is surmised that there exists a "quantum critical shell" around the dark energy star, and it is here that the elementary particles morph into heavy, non-relativistic particles. This is all very qualitative, with a lot of hand-waving.

As with many of these emegent theories, I remain sympathetic to their goal, but unimpressed with their results.

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