We all may be living in one of the most destructive known forces ever discovered: a black hole.
Sounds far-fetched, but some theoretical physicists are saying that this kooky idea can be the key to explaining the creation of the universe and solving many mysteries of cosmological science. Most notably, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking espoused this idea in his 1993 book Black Holes and Baby Universes.
Wait…so what’s wrong with our grade-school, standard Big Bang theory, which suggests that the universe began with a so-called “singularity,” a small point containing an infinite amount of matter that exploded and expanded to the size we live in today?
Well, there are several problems the theory can’t explain, such as: What started the big bang? What is creating dark energy, the force that is causing the universe to accelerate its expansion? And most strangely, what caused time to move in the direction it does or any direction at all?
These questions led some physicists to look deeper at the enigmatic nature of black holes for a solution. A popular hypothesis states that black holes have the potential to create new universes — an idea that can solve these problems and can actually combine the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics, which has yet to be accomplished.
If this black-hole theory is true, then how do these scientists explain the beginnings of the universe?
Theoretical physicist Lee Smolin describes the event, saying, “A star that collapses into a black hole very quickly squeezes down to infinite density and time stops…and rather than collapsing to infinite density, the star collapses to a certain extreme density, and then bounces back and begins to expand again. And that expanding star becomes the birth of a new universe. The point where time ends inside a black hole becomes joined to the point where time begins in a Big Bang in a new universe.”
Sounds crazy, right? This means that all matter and energy, including you and me, came from another universe. Astonishingly, our universe could just be inside a black hole in another universe, and everything we have from the laws of physics to the direction of our time could have been inherited from our parent universe.
This theory also gives an explanation for the creation of this mysterious dark energy within our universe and allows the phenomenon of time to actually exist — a notion which most physicists, including Einstein, have dismissed as an illusion. So on the grandest scale of things, these multiple universes act like a foam of interconnected pocket universes, completely symmetric with respect to time. Some universes move forward, but overall, an equal number move backward.
This hypothesis leads to another interesting conclusion. If this theory passes the test, then we can add a model of natural selection to the creation of universes — meaning that the changes passed from parent to child universe are very slight, so there can be an accumulation of fitness.
Assuming that our universe is a typical member of a population of universes that develops after many generations, it should be finely tuned to produce many black holes. That leads to the hypothesis that if you change the laws, and the numbers that specify the laws, then typically you're going to make a universe that makes less black holes. And that's something that leads to predictions that can be tested by measuring the number of black holes in our universe.
All in all, however, you shouldn’t be throwing away your Introduction to Physics books yet. The Big Bang theory is still reigning champ for the explanation of the origins of our universe. However, given time and further study, it may well be shown that we are living inside a massively destructive black hole — and are completely fine with it.