Exploding primordial black holes could be detected (credit: Wired.com)

When Black Holes Explode: Measuring the Emission from the Fifth Dimension

Article Updated: 26 Dec , 2015

Primordial black holes are remnants of the Big Bang and they are predicted to be knocking around in our universe right now. If they were 1012kg or bigger at the time of creation, they have enough mass to have survived constant evaporation from Hawking radiation over the 14 billion years since the beginning of the cosmos. But what happens when the tiny black hole evaporates so small that it becomes so tightly wrapped around the structure of a fifth dimension (other than the “normal” three spatial dimensions and one time dimension)? Well, the black hole will explosively show itself, much like an elastic band snapping, emitting energy. These final moments will signify that the primordial black hole has died. What makes this exciting is that researchers believe they can detect these events as spikes of radio wave emissions and the hunt has already begun…

Publications about primordial black holes have been very popular in recent years. There is the possibility that these ancient singularities are very common in the Universe, but as they are predicted to be quite small, their effect on local space isn’t likely to be very observable (unlike younger, super-massive black holes at the centre of galaxies or the stellar black holes remaining after supernovae). However, they could be quite mischievous. Some primordial black hole antics include kicking around asteroids if they pass through the solar system, blasting through the Earth at high velocity, or even getting stuck inside a planet, slowly eating up material like a planetary parasite.

But say if these big bang relics never come near the Earth and we never see their effect on Earth (a relief, we can do without a primordial black hole playing billiards with near Earth asteroids or the threat of a mini black hole punching through the planet!)? How are we ever going to observe these theoretical singularities?

Eight-meter-wavelength Transient Array (credit: Virginia Tech)

Now, the ultimate observatory has been realized, but it measures a fairly observable cosmic emission: radio waves. The Eight-meter-wavelength Transient Array (ETA) run by Virginia Tech Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics, and the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), is currently taking high cadence radio wave observations and has been doing so for the past few months. This basic-looking antenna system, in fields in Montgomery County and North Carolina, could receive emissions in the 29-47 MHz frequencies, giving researchers a unique opportunity to see primordial black holes as they die.

Interestingly, if their predictions are correct, this could provide evidence for the existence of a fifth dimension, a dimension operating at scales of billionths of a nanometer. If this exotic emission can be received, and if it is corroborated by both antennae, this could be evidence of the string theory prediction that there are more dimensions than the four we currently understand.

The idea we’re exploring is that the universe has an imperceptibly small dimension (about one billionth of a nanometer) in addition to the four that we know currently. This extra dimension would be curled up, in a state similar to that of the entire universe at the time of the Big Bang.” – Michael Kavic, project investigator.

As black holes are wrapped around this predicted fifth dimension, as they slowly evaporate and lose mass, eventually primordial black holes will be so stressed and stretched around the fifth dimension that the black hole will die, blasting out emissions in radio wave frequencies.

String theory requires extra dimensions to be a consistent theory. String theory suggests a minimum of 10 dimensions, but we’re only considering models with one extra dimension.” – Kavic

When the Large Hadron Collider goes online in May, it is hoped that the high energies generated may produce mini-black holes (amongst other cool things) where research can be done to look for the string theory extra dimensions. But the Eight-meter-wavelength Transient Array looking for the death of “naturally occurring” primordial black holes is a far less costly endeavour and may achieve the same goal.

Here’s an article on a theory that there could be 10 dimensions.

Source: Nature

37 Responses

  1. roger caspaccio says:

    Dear Mr O’Neill,

    I love your articles.
    On no other site I find such inspiring and well researched compilations.

    Most of the information I find elsewhere is sober, uninspired and boring.

    You are like an eagle soaring in the highest heights of science.
    You think the thoughts noone else can describe – without dispensable ballast of empiric proof or mathematical evidence.

    Thanks for the constant source of unprecedented ideas, unmatched scientific thought leadership and jounalistic excellence.
    This world of sterile scientists owes you for the firework of fantasy, free associations and progress at the frontiers.

    Thanks at on, keep it coming.

  2. UNdistinguished says:

    What kind of radio signature would be produced from the “snapping” in the 5th. 29-47MHz abounds with a lot of man-made emissions. How to tell Black Hole from man-made? Could this be detected by anyone with a reciver capable of the 29-47MHz range like the snow on TV channels from the cosmic background radition of the Big Bang?

  3. Ian O'Neill says:

    To Roger (and Dave!): Wow, thank you so much! So happy you are enjoying my articles, keep an eye open for more very soon 🙂

    To Astrofiend: I am totally blown away by this implication too – I will be following this story. I love the simplicity of the equipment used when compared to the exotic physics we could discover.

    To UNdistinguished: Apparently, the 29-47MHz range was chosen as there is strong manmade short-wave transmission interference at below 30MHz, and strong television broadcast interference at above 50MHz. The range allows astronomers the best “window” in frequency to observe strong space emissions. I’d imagine you’d need a high powered antenna though. Also, out of interest, the antenna used in the ETA has a range of 300 light years…

    More info here: http://www.ece.vt.edu/news/ar06/exoticexplosions.html

    Hope that helps!

    Cheers, Ian

  4. Ian O'Neill says:

    To Astrofiend:

    Makes me want to set up my own antenna in the back yard and see what I might detect! Although I’ll probably barely receive local radio from here…



  5. Dave says:

    Hear, Hear

  6. Astrofiend says:

    Wow, that’s quite a glowing tribute Roger!

    On topic, it really would be a fantastic development if these primordial black hole evaporations could be detected – one of the most beautiful and elegant discoveries in science in my opinion.

    Think about it the profundity of such a discovery – it would confirm one of the last remaining unverified predictions of the Big Bang model – that these tiny black holes exist. It would constitute solid evidence for the process of Hawking Radiation and consequently black hole evaporation. AND, it may provide solid insights into one of the most oft talked about and relied upon but least confirmed ideas in all of physics – the concept of extra dimensions existing beyond the current four.

    It really would be a glorious moment in scientific history – I could think of a number of Nobel prizes that could come out of the detection itself, let alone the ensuing avenues of research it would open up.

  7. David Madison, Sr. says:

    String Theory is the wrong name. It is String Philosophy. A theory is a hypothesis that has withstood repeated attempts at disproof. A hypothesis is a disprovable possible explanation for observations; it must be testable. We have no observations that need an explanation, and we have no way to disprove our explanations for what we do not see. Since we have no hypothesis, it could not have survived repeated tests. We have great sounding philosophy, but not the science of theory.

    String Philosophy will become a String Hypothesis if we every find a way to disprove it. If the attempts at disproof fail, repeatedly, then we can talk about String Theory.

  8. Astrofiend says:

    Ian O’Neill Says:
    March 16th, 2008 at 10:36 pm
    “…I love the simplicity of the equipment used when compared to the exotic physics we could discover.”

    Agreed. It is great to see that, with some clever minds and some (relatively) basic equipment, great fundamental physics can still be done. It reminds me a bit of the original experiments built at Princeton to look for the predicted cosmic microwave background, before Penzias and Wilson beat them to the fold – simple equipment, big science!

  9. NeoGuru says:

    I’m continually amazed with “String Fantasy” being taken seriously. It’s all speculation with no evidence and no connection with reality. Perhaps it was inspired by a dream. Perhaps overly active imaginations. It sure ain’t based on any reasonable scientific principles. More then 10 dimensions – wudda joke.

  10. cathbad says:


    congrats Ian.
    You met the pulse of your fandom by doing the same all over again.
    What a thankful audience of scientists.

  11. Krishna says:

    Hi, Ian

    We love your articles.
    This is really gr8 and informative article for
    somone like us , who are new to astronomy.


  12. baley says:

    I 100% agree with David.

    Even if we were to find a radio emission from an exploding black hole would that confirm string theory? I mean would that be the only explanation possible?

  13. Ian O'Neill says:

    First point: This isn’t fantasy, nearly half a million dollars in funding is being ploughed into this project. There is tangible potential that if primordial black holes exist in such numbers, we might be able to detect the radio signature of the death of a PBH. String theory is some higher order calculations from space-time we currently understand, so this is what this experiment is all about – attempting to find an emission from an extra-dimension. If it’s found, then great, if not, it’s back to the drawing board. Kinda what science is all about.

    To Ron Evans: I also wondered about this problem with the LHC, but the energies are probably too small to generate any large black holes. They are more likely to be created and then rapidly evaporate in a fraction of a microsecond (if Hawking radiation has its way), so their time-scale and size will be of little danger. Primordial black holes could cause damage to planets if they were sufficiently large… There’s a lot of “ifs”, “mights” and “coulds”, but all doing well over the next few years we can begin finding some definites 🙂

    Hope that helps…

  14. Ian O'Neill says:

    To Stephan “Hawqueens”:

    If you have a problem with what I have written, please set me straight. I just took an interesting story and reported on it. If there are any inaccuracies or misinterpretations please send me the corrections and I will address the problem.

    If not, then discuss the article and don’t attack the writer, as I’ve said before, I don’t make this stuff up…

    Cheers, Ian

  15. Ignoramus says:

    String Theory work is real science at the level of The Large Hadron Collider according this article.
    The 29-47 MHz is the spectrum portion where I fly my radiocontrolled gliders.
    The rest of the article is science-fiction and sensationalism.
    Do we need this @ universetoday?
    Fraser help!

  16. C Webster Rose says:

    Ian, call me simple but I just cannot comprehend a 5th dimemsion let alone 12. Is there any video or anything that will help me unlock what it is I am having trouble understanding. I’ve got it on Black Holes. I read everything I come across on them but now when it comes to grasping the idea of a 5th or 12th dimemsion’s. I know there is a simple explanation, I just need that Eureka moment.
    Thank You
    C. Webster Rose

  17. John Mendenhall says:

    Neo guru “I’m continually amazed with “String Fantasy” being taken seriously. It’s all speculation with no evidence and no connection with reality.”

    I know how you feel, but . . .

    Although there are no testable predictions so far from string theory, because our equipment can’t reach that small, if the string folks are right it can explain many things. That’s why it generates such excitement.

    My guess is that the string theorists are off in the wrong direction, but even if they only get negative results, then we have a better understanding of how the universe doesn’t work.

  18. Ron Evans says:

    Hi All,

    First, I also very much appreciate the news on Universe today. While I know that “String theory/fantasy/ whatever you want to call it” is an unproven and so far an unprovable theory, it is still something that has consumed a lot of scientific effort over the past 30 years so I don’t mind hearing about what is being done to test it. I’d also like to hear things about other theories like quantum gravity and doubly special relativity and such.

    However, in this article you mention that primodial black holes could come to rest inside a planet and slowly consume the planet planet from within. Then you go on to say,

    “… When the Large Hadron Collider goes online in May, it is hoped that the high energies generated may produce mini-black holes (amongst other cool things) where research can be done to look for the string theory extra dimensions. …”

    The question comes to mind, “Is this wise?” If mini black holes are generated on Earth where there is an abudance of mass to ‘feed on’, wouldn’t they quickly settle to the core of our planet and begin consuming the Earth just as you said the primodial black holes could?

    I know that sounds like a bad Hollywood movie plot, but the question is real.



  19. fred says:


    You need to get inside your own brain and observe the myriad convolutions of the nerve tissue there. Ever look at the Calabi-Yau topologies?

    No doubt these xtra dimensions theorized exist only at Planck-lengths in the domain of quantum physics.

  20. Stephan Hawqueens says:

    Damn great to see how you take your helpless audience for a ride.
    Combine a couple of buzzwords, put in a semi-scientific format and they start to bombinate.

    Hilarious how you take then for a fool by addressing their weaknesses.

    Your a bugger indeed.
    Let them orbit.

  21. joseph says:

    C Webster Rose,

    Check out this video- http://www.tenthdimension.com/medialinks.php

    I haven’t read the book but this clip should help you begin to understand the theory.

  22. roger caspaccio says:

    Hi Ian, please ignore all these people that do not understand the true value of your work.

    You are the idol of the ones that have less brains to understand all these complicated mathematics.

    In your articles i have always get the feeling to understand the deepest depths of the universe.

    This is a gift.
    You make the most advanced theories and the extremely difficult physics a piece of cake also for blockheads like me – at least you make me feel so.

    thanks forgiving me a 3 digit IQ.

    Go ahead, Roger

  23. Alberts Hussie says:

    Yes, any might expresses hope and enough fantasy to believe in.

    Certainly it needs believers.
    But hey, thats what universe today is all about.
    Believers and adepts.

    That makes us strong and makes the difference to all those real scientists.
    they only accept what is proven.

    We are free to dream with Ian anything that sounds good.

    primordial black holes from LHC.
    Hawking radiation that difts slowly in 6 or seven or 11 or 20 dimensions.

    I dont care. It is beautiful in itself.

    Ian give us more of this fine stuff.

    We pay you by visiting the site and let you make money with the ads.

    fair deal.

  24. Stephan Hawqueens says:

    Yes Ian you are right. My apologies
    It just came so clear to me that you stultify the readers here..
    But I am wrong for sure.
    You for sure have the best intentions. Power to the science prophet.

  25. sparky says:

    Hehe cool name brotha man Stephan Hawqueen.
    I think you were thinking about Stephen Hawking huh ? cool man.

    Dont blame my friend Ian. He is a serious guy. It is not him that asks for stories about black holes and a dozen of dimension. He is just a slave to our wishes.

    You are very likely just one of this smart asses that cant stand the humor of Ian.
    Chill out and enjoy when Ian delivers what we want.
    bernard right

  26. belinda birdleg says:

    Krishna you speak from the bottom of my heart.

    I hate it when my boyfriend talks in miracles about astrophysics. Ian is my favorite writer. It is so inspiring when he explains these fancy things like black holes and tells these scary stories about them.
    It often gives me goose bumps. ooohh.
    And I can tease my boy friend by repeating some of Ians sentences. It is great fun.

    thanks Ian

  27. cathbad says:

    quote: There’s a lot of “ifs”, “mights” and “coulds”, but all doing well over the next few years we can begin finding some definites 🙂

    lol, Ian you are so double-tongued with your readers.

  28. Astrofiend says:

    Wow Stephan Hawqueens, way to go the personal attack on a guy just reporting on a story. The fact you feel such outrage at something so inconsequential says it all, so how’s this? I hope you die of Ebola.

    Now, I care not one way or the other for String Theory, but all of you armchair ‘scientists’ and your anti-string theory rants – Blah Blah Blah. Umm, we’ve HEARD IT ALL BEFORE. Yes, string theory is highly speculative. No, it is currently not backed by any sort of empiric evidence or currently testable. But just because something is not currently testable does not mean that it isn’t fundamentally falsifiable, which is the actual prerequisite for a scientific theory, isn’t it?

    If you recall, general relativity wasn’t testable when it was proposed either. A while later, ONE TEST was made and passed, namely the shift in the perihelion of Mercury, and that was it for years. It is STILL on the limits of our abilities to make stringent tests of GR. But even though it wasn’t, at that stage, testable, it was falsifiable. Just because something is beyond our current ability to test does not mean it is not true, or at least a close approximation.

    I mean, I don’t really want to argue the point too far seeing as I’m sure that you’ve all thought about it very hard. You may have even read ‘A Brief History of Tme’ and several other serious tomes on the subject. So I’ll just put it out there – seeing as you are so acquainted with the machinery of particle physics and cosmology, and seeing as your sense of beauty and aesthetic lead you to strongly feel that string theory can’t be correct, what papers have you published in the journals recently that have a better explanatory power and are currently testable?

  29. alokmohan says:

    There may be primodial black holes but it is pure supposion.We are keep on waitng when it explodes.But 5th dimension ics not well established.

  30. Stephan Hawqueens says:

    Hi Astrofiend,
    it is not my fault that Ian traps you with exactly posting the kind of speculation that you love to hear.
    When he manipulates you as an armchair scientist it is probably not his fault but yours.
    Leave me alone with the ‘just reporting’ argument.
    Any reporter has a choice what the reports on.
    Ian is not doomed to be a trafficker for you.
    Thanks for the Ebola wishes by the way, you little saucy bugger.

    As for the string theory.
    I think it is not there to be taken as a kind of religion for crackpots that dream of a reason.
    It is work in progress with stunning results in consolidation of GTR and QT. The difference to the speculation here is that there are some bright minds working seriously in theorethical physics.
    The empirical verification might never come, or only in some decades when the current constructs of String theory have evolved to something completely different.
    As Ian said it. He can make a living for years by delivering speculations to your type of scientist.

  31. francois chateau says:

    Bonjour Monsieur O’Neill

    the funding of LHC was not really dedicated to hunting primordial black holes.
    I dont think that the spending of money gives evidence to the significance of a speculation by some fanfarons.
    Votre bien dévoué francois chateau

  32. Ron Evans says:

    Thanks for the response Ian,

    If the LHC could generate mini black holes, I really would like to be assured that they WILL evaporate in nano seconds and not ‘get away’. I expect/hope the people building the LHC have considered this issue, because “Oops!” would not be a very satisfactory response if Hawking radiation hasn’t been confirmed yet (Has it?) or if it doesn’t work as quickly as theory suggests. (This is not my area of expertise.)


  33. Leonid Breschnew says:

    Hi Ron,

    dont get fooled by those lurid knock offs.
    Serious writers dont repeat the sensationalistic aspect of the story.
    If at all, science expects an incredibly tiny baby black hole, much smaller than an atom. What’s more, it should evaporate immediately. Black holes give off radiation. And the black hole would be so incredibly small and hot, it would radiate itself away in less than 0,00000000000000000000000001 seconds! That’s why real physicists feel pretty confident about working with the LHC. No problem if a black hole shows up. According to the laws of physics, black holes from the lab just shouldn’t be stable.

    This lurid speculations are there to trap you into website hits for the authors to make money with your fear.

  34. Rusty Roe says:

    Dr. Lisa Randall and Dr. Raman Sundrum’s D-brane studies predict a single 4-D brane in a 5-D universe in which the 5th dimension may not be as small (Planck Length) as originally thought. Possibly on the order of millimeters, etc.

    Hopefully, the LHC results will provide some of these insights, as well as in recorded spikes in radio emissions.

    At least, I hope something is revealed.

  35. zahra says:


  36. pradipta says:

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  37. David Kerzic says:

    Woah o.o Thats… I never knew that. Keep up the great work. I hope to see my mind blown in the near future

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