A team of physicists has mathematically demonstrated something strange about how densely curved objects exist in a state of quantum superposition, while at the same time occupying a range of potential properties.
Their calculations showed that the superposition of mass in a theoretical type of black hole called a BTZ black hole occupies suddenly different ranges of masses simultaneously.
Ordinarily, any particle can exist in a superposition of states, with properties such as spin or momentum only being determined once they become part of observation.
When certain attributes, such as charge, come only in discrete units, mass is usually not specified, which means that the mass of an unobserved particle can lie anywhere within a range of separators.
However, as this paper shows, the superposition of masses carried by a black hole tends to favor some scales over others in a pattern that can be useful for quantitatively modeling mass. This may give us a new framework for probing the effects of the quantum gravity of black holes in superposition in order to ease the tension between general relativity and quantum theory.
Theoretical physicist Joshua Foo, from the University of Queensland in Australia, explains: “Until now, we haven’t investigated in depth whether black holes exhibit some of the weird and wonderful behaviors of quantum physics. One such behavior is superposition, where particles can exist on a quantum scale in states But, for black holes, we wanted to see if they could have completely different masses in time. Himself, and it turns out they are. Imagine you’re wide and tall, as well as short and thin at the same time – an intuitively puzzling situation because we’re so ingrained in the world of conventional physics. But this is the reality for quantum black holes.”
The intense gravity surrounding black holes is an excellent laboratory for probing quantum gravity – the continuous, rolling streak of space-time according to the general theory of relativity associated with quantum mechanics, which describes the physical universe in terms of discrete quantities, such as particles.
Models based on certain types of black holes could lead to a single theory that could explain particles and gravity. Some of the effects observed around a black hole cannot be described in terms of general relativity, for example. For this, we need quantum gravity – a unifying theory that somehow joins the two sets of rules and makes them play nicely.
Therefore, Fu and his colleagues developed a mathematical framework that effectively allows physicists to observe a particle outside a black hole that is in a state of quantum superposition.
Mass was the main property they looked at because mass is one of the only properties of black holes that we can measure.
“Our work shows that the very early theories of Jacob Bekenstein – the American and Israeli theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to establishing black hole thermodynamics – were based on money,” says quantum physicist Magdalena Zyck, from the University of Queensland. “[Bekenstein] hypothesized that black holes do not They can only have masses of certain values, i.e. they must fall within certain ranges or ratios – this is how energy levels work in an atom, for example. Our models showed that these superimposed masses were, in fact, in some ranges Or specific ratios – as Bekenstein predicted. We didn’t hypothesize any such pattern, so the fact that we found this evidence was very surprising.”
The researchers say the findings provide a path for future investigation of concepts of quantum gravity, such as quantum black holes and the vacuum of spacetime. In order to develop a complete description of quantum gravity, the inclusion of these concepts is crucial.
Their research also allows for a more detailed investigation of this superposition of spacetime, and its effects on the particles within it.
“The universe reveals to us that it is always more strange, mysterious, and wonderful than most of us could have imagined,” says Zeke.
The research was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.