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Black Holes Feed On Quantum Foam, Says Cosmologist
The Physics arXiv Blog ^ | 9/12/13

Posted on 09/12/2013 6:29:02 PM PDT by LibWhacker

Nobody knows how the universe’s biggest black holes grow so large. Now one astrophysicist says it’s because they feed on the quantum foam that makes up the fabric of spacetime

One of the more fascinating astrophysical discoveries in recent years is that almost all galaxies hide supermassive black holes at their cores. Indeed, astronomers believe that galaxies and black holes have a kind of symbiotic relationship so that one cannot form or grow without the other.

The evidence comes from observations of galaxies both near and far—almost all contain huge black holes.

But that raises an interesting question. We see the most distant galaxies as they were soon after the universe began. Some of these contain black holes that are a billion times more massive than the Sun but are themselves only a billion years old. The problem for astrophysicists is how these black holes could have grown so massive in such a short space of time.

Today, we get an answer from Marco Spaans at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He says that black holes can grow by feeding on the quantum black holes that leap in and out of existence at the smallest scale. These quantum black holes are part of the so-called quantum foam that physicists believe makes up the fabric of the Universe.

If Spaans is right, black holes grow by feeding on spacetime itself and their quantum feeding habits effectively solve the problem of how the biggest black holes become so massive, so quickly. “Supermassive black holes can acquire a lot of their mass through these quantum contributions over the life time of the universe,” he says.

Here’s some useful background. In 1955, the American theoretical physicist John Wheeler suggested that at very small length scales, virtual particles, including quantum black holes, must constantly jump in and out of existence creating a kind of foamy structure that is very different from the smooth spacetime we see at larger scales.

Nobody has ever observed quantum foam but there is widespread agreement that the fabric of the universe must be made of something like it.

In ordinary circumstances, quantum foam has little impact. However, physicists think it must play an important role in the most extreme circumstances where the universe is being torn apart by the forces acting on it. Black holes are clearly one of these places.

Spaans’ approach is to ask what happens when a black hole meets quantum foam. The answer is straightforward. “Quantum fluctuations in the form of mini black holes can couple to macroscopic black holes and allow the latter to grow exponentially,” he concludes.

He says this kind of growth can easily account for the observed size of relatively young supermassive black holes. And he goes on to predict that this mechanism could allow smaller black holes to grow too. In fact, he suggests these smaller objects, which would be difficult to observe from Earth, could make up a significant fraction of the mysterious dark matter that astronomers believe the universe must contain.

That’s interesting stuff but new ideas are worth little unless they make experimentally testable predictions and Spaans does not disappoint in this respect. He says that this quantum feeding mechanism must apply to the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy and that consequently, it must be growing at the rate of about 10^-3 solar masses per year.

And that ought to be measurable. Spaans says that signals produced by pulsars are particularly sensitive to their local gravitational conditions. So it should be possible to spot the the increasing gravitational field of a growing black hole by studying pulsars that orbit close by.

He points just such a pulsar was discovered earlier this year at the centre of our galaxy and that a long-time monitoring program of its behavior is now in order.

Such a program would take years or even decades to reveal the kind of changes that Spaans predicts. But when it comes to the feeding habits of black holes, knowing what’s on the menu could be priceless information.


TOPICS: Astronomy; Science
KEYWORDS: black; foam; holes; quantum; quantumfoam; spacetime; stringtheory

1 posted on 09/12/2013 6:29:02 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

Jeez, why didn’t I think of that?


2 posted on 09/12/2013 6:32:12 PM PDT by DManA
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To: DManA

Quantum Foam ? Don’t they sell that at the Home Depot ?


3 posted on 09/12/2013 6:40:10 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (Resist We Much)
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To: LibWhacker

So do I.


4 posted on 09/12/2013 6:40:58 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker

“Mmmmmmmmmmm......foam.”


5 posted on 09/12/2013 6:41:32 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: fieldmarshaldj

no QUANTUM FOAM Is what Ødramas Secret Man Cave Furniture... is made of.


6 posted on 09/12/2013 6:42:15 PM PDT by MeshugeMikey (Block Captain..Tyranny Response Team / al-Kilab Division)
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To: fieldmarshaldj

It would be fun to ask one of the kids there.


7 posted on 09/12/2013 6:42:59 PM PDT by DManA
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To: blueunicorn6

A galaxy is the head on a beer? I just knew drinking beer would make me smart.


8 posted on 09/12/2013 6:43:46 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker
"Quantum foam makes me roam."

Timeline, one of my favorite Micheal Crichton books.

9 posted on 09/12/2013 6:44:02 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: LibWhacker

Will they eat the whole universe?


10 posted on 09/12/2013 6:44:42 PM PDT by dragonblustar
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To: DManA
Inexcusable! ;-)

I myself have thought about it constantly since an incredible analogy was first put out there several years ago; namely, that spacetime itself flows into black holes. And once it reaches the event horizon, it is flowing inward faster than the speed of light. That's why even light can't escape: the space in which it is embedded is flowing inward faster than c, while the best it can do is c outward. So it is carried in. Note this was only supposed to be an analogy to help you understand! Now it appears it may be something more than that.

11 posted on 09/12/2013 6:45:17 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: fieldmarshaldj

Jeex. I bought 2 tubes of quantum foam from a bargain bin at HD 10 years ago. I put them in a storage bin. Gotta find that stuff. Any ideas what I should do if I find it? Been looking. Maybe it fell into one of those black holes that bedevil my supplies.


12 posted on 09/12/2013 6:46:10 PM PDT by Louis Foxwell (This is a wake up call. Join the Sultan Knish ping list.)
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To: fieldmarshaldj

Don’t want it; lousy R-value. ;-)


13 posted on 09/12/2013 6:46:15 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

Quantum foam is caused by human use of fossil fuels.


14 posted on 09/12/2013 6:46:49 PM PDT by Sgt_Schultze (A half-truth is a complete lie)
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To: LibWhacker

Marco might be at the University of Gruningen, but he spends most of the day in Amsterdam at the pot cafes and peeking in the windows at the red light houses.

“Foam! Ya! Is foam!”


15 posted on 09/12/2013 6:47:51 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker

When life is tearing ya apart..

Quantum Foam

a little dab’ll do ya


16 posted on 09/12/2013 6:47:57 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi --)
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To: Billthedrill

Died way too young. What a loss.


17 posted on 09/12/2013 6:48:34 PM PDT by DManA
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To: LibWhacker

Do they have quantum foam at the dollar store?


18 posted on 09/12/2013 6:53:05 PM PDT by Paladin2 (h)
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To: Paladin2

I’m going to get right on it and invent a new and improved Barbasol: The tiny black holes in it will suck the whiskers right off your face.


19 posted on 09/12/2013 6:56:59 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
Black holes, the quantum foam space/time drain plug of the universe.

Why not.

20 posted on 09/12/2013 7:02:48 PM PDT by The Cajun (Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, Ted Cruz......Nuff said.)
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To: 6SJ7; AdmSmith; AFPhys; Arkinsaw; allmost; aristotleman; autumnraine; backwoods-engineer; ...

Thanks LibWhacker.


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21 posted on 09/12/2013 7:14:03 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (It's no coincidence that some "conservatives" echo the hard left.)
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To: LibWhacker

“Almost all galaxies hide super massive black holes”

So that’s why the neighbors put up that tall fence. I suppose it will affect my property value.


22 posted on 09/12/2013 7:28:03 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: DManA

Because you did not observe the black hole in the center of the Milky Way growing in mass at a rate of 0.001 solar masses per year!


23 posted on 09/12/2013 7:28:20 PM PDT by Ken522
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To: LibWhacker

“Over the life time of the universe”

Say what? Life time? The universe has a life time? Where are we at? Is it like shedding baby teeth or is it yelling at the kids to get off the lawn?


24 posted on 09/12/2013 7:32:56 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker

“What happens when a black hole meets quantum foam”

I don’t know. They exchange business cards?


25 posted on 09/12/2013 7:34:44 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker
I guess the universe didn't know how to pour a smooth beer by avoiding the vacuum.

26 posted on 09/12/2013 7:36:20 PM PDT by BitWielder1 (Corporate Profits are better than Government Waste)
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To: LibWhacker

“Where the universe is being torn apart”

The universe is being torn apart? It’s bad enough that it has a life time, but now it’s being torn apart? Oh, it’s gonna take a quart of tequila to fall asleep tonight.


27 posted on 09/12/2013 7:38:52 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: blueunicorn6

Wait a minute. A blended Margarita has foam! Maybe the galaxy is like a margarita. A little sweet.....a little tangy......a little salty......So that means the planets are like tortilla chips and the stars are salsa? Why, it’s a fiesta!


28 posted on 09/12/2013 7:43:35 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker
The touch.....the feel of quantum.....the fabric of space time.

Where the hell is Aaron Neville when you need him?

29 posted on 09/12/2013 7:46:43 PM PDT by edpc (Wilby 2016)
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To: blueunicorn6
Where are we at?

13.7 billion years young. Very young. See The five ages of the universe, according to Adams, et al.

30 posted on 09/12/2013 7:46:55 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: blueunicorn6

Not only will the universe be torn apart, but all matter in it, right down to protons, neutrons, quarks, etc. But it’s only a theory (a very likely looking one at this point!).


31 posted on 09/12/2013 7:49:16 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
“Quantum fluctuations in the form of mini black holes can couple to macroscopic black holes and allow the latter to grow exponentially,”

If I only had a dollar for every time I've said that.

32 posted on 09/12/2013 7:52:13 PM PDT by GreenHornet
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To: LibWhacker
That Cleveland lady knows all about Obamafoam....maybe she has some insights on Quantumfoam?
33 posted on 09/12/2013 7:53:29 PM PDT by JPG (Putin Does Obama.)
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To: LibWhacker

Well, I will say one thing.... If a black hole is destined to eat us, there’s not one damn thing we could ever do about it.


34 posted on 09/12/2013 7:57:02 PM PDT by Bullish (Psalm 46)
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To: LibWhacker

You want me to read? Did my Mom put you up to this? And why do they always have to put down what a glutton the guy is? “et al”? Why not? He probably paid for all the food.


35 posted on 09/12/2013 7:58:09 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker
Rats! Skunked again!

I put all my money into Quantum Cream.

-PJ

36 posted on 09/12/2013 8:00:15 PM PDT by Political Junkie Too (If you are the Posterity of We the People, then you are a Natural Born Citizen.)
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To: LibWhacker

Well, I want to meet the black hole that can tear apart a bag of that Costco Trail Mix. I’ve pulled on those and tried to chew a little tear.....nothing. Oh, the stars may all fall away, but there will still be those little bags of Costco Trail Mix still floating around. The ones with the teeth marks will be mine.


37 posted on 09/12/2013 8:08:21 PM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: LibWhacker

Dark matter, Dark Energy, Quantum foam.

Aren’t computer models fun!!!!


38 posted on 09/12/2013 8:18:58 PM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: LibWhacker
...quantum black holes that leap in and out of existence at the smallest scale

And all this time I thought it was the dryer eating my socks.

39 posted on 09/12/2013 8:22:53 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: GreenHornet

Now you want a dollar! In addition to all those chicks?


40 posted on 09/12/2013 8:33:21 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: Billthedrill

Me too.


41 posted on 09/12/2013 8:37:43 PM PDT by Pelham (Deportation is the law. When it's not enforced you get California)
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To: NormsRevenge
When life is tearing ya apart.. Quantum Foam a little dab’ll do ya

But don't forget the diaphragm...

42 posted on 09/13/2013 3:54:28 AM PDT by trebb (Where in the the hell has my country gone?)
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To: DManA

The last time I used quantum foam peanuts to pack a box for shipping it ended up in the Alpha Centauri Galaxy.


43 posted on 09/13/2013 4:15:04 AM PDT by Rebelbase (Tagline: (optional, printed after your name on post))
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To: LibWhacker

The structures God has given us....


44 posted on 09/13/2013 8:05:30 AM PDT by onedoug
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