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Is Everything Made of Mini Black Holes?

Credit: Coyne and Cheng
In 1971 physicist Stephen Hawking suggested that there might be “mini” black holes all around us that were created by the Big Bang. The violence of the rapid expansion following the beginning of the Universe could have squeezed concentrations of matter to form miniscule black holes, so small they can’t even be seen in a regular microscope. But what if these mini black holes were everywhere, and in fact, what if they make up the fabric of the universe? A new paper from two researchers in California proposes this idea.

Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape, and are usually thought of as large areas of space, such as the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. No observational evidence of mini-black holes exists but, in principle, they could be present throughout the Universe.

Since black holes have gravity, they also have mass. But with mini black holes, the gravity would be weak. However, many physicists have assumed that even on the tiniest scale, the Planck scale, gravity regains its strength.

Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider are aimed at detecting mini black holes, but suffer from not knowing exactly how a reduced-Planck-mass black hole would behave, say Donald Coyne from UC Santa Cruz (now deceased) and D. C. Cheng from the Almaden Research Center near San Jose.

String theory also proposes that gravity plays a stronger role in higher dimensional space, but it is only in our four dimensional space that gravity appears weak.

Since these dimensions become important only on the Planck scale, it’s at that level that gravity re-asserts itself. And if that’s the case, then mini-black holes become a possibility, say the two researchers.

They looked at what properties black holes might have at such a small scale, and determined they could be quite varied.

Black holes lose energy and shrink in size as they do so, eventually vanishing, or evaporating. But this is a very slow process and only the smallest back holes will have had time to significantly evaporate over the enter 14 billion year history of the universe.

The quantization of space on this level means that mini-black holes could turn up at all kinds of energy levels. They predict the existence of huge numbers of black hole particles at different energy levels. And these black holes might be so common that perhaps “All particles may be varying forms of stabilized black holes.”

“At first glance the scenario … seems bizarre, but it is not,” Coyne and Cheng write. “This is exactly what would be expected if an evaporating black hole leaves a remnant consistent with quantum mechanics… This would put a whole new light on the process of evaporation of large black holes, which might then appear no different in principle from the correlated decays of elementary particles.”

They say their research need more experimentation. This may come from the LHC, which could begin to probe the energies at which these kinds of black holes will be produced.

Original paper.

Source: Technology Review


Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell May 24, 2009, 2:27 PM

    Perfect word salad from Solrey here. I am not a galaxy structure person. There is a pretty active community in this astrophysics. The process is largely as I undersand about large scale hydrodynamics in gravity to model density waves.

    Whether a galaxy has an active nucleus is determined by how much matter is interacting with the central black hole. Our galaxy is in a quiet phase right now. Yet there are indications of nebula approaching the center which could flair it up again.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • ND May 24, 2009, 2:45 PM

    Anaconda: “You can’t get infinite density without infinite matter.”

    You forgot about volume duder. Here’s something from the wikipedia page on Infinity for your consumption:

    “However, there are some theoretical circumstances where the end result is infinity. One example is the singularity in the description of black holes. Some solutions of the equations of the general theory of relativity allow for finite mass distributions of zero size, and thus infinite density. This is an example of what is called a mathematical singularity, or a point where a physical theory breaks down. This does not necessarily mean that physical infinities exist; it may mean simply that the theory is incapable of describing the situation properly. Two other examples occur in inverse-square force laws of the gravitational force equation of Newtonian Gravity and Coulomb’s Law of electrostatics. At r=0 these equations evaluate to infinities.”

    You made up the infinite matter in a blind effort to discredit the idea black holes. Reminds me of the time you claimed that according to the 3-body, you can’t have stable orbits like we see in the solar system (and tried to wedge in electromagnetism as a stabilizing force). Again, who are you trying to fool? You’re making up your own stuff to save your ideas. This has been your form over substance, to use your own words.

    Here’s another choice quote from the wiki page on Black Hole:

    “At the center of a black hole lies the singularity, where matter is crushed to infinite density, the pull of gravity is infinitely strong, and spacetime has infinite curvature.[39] This means that a black hole’s mass becomes entirely compressed into a region with zero volume.[40] This zero-volume, infinitely dense region at the center of a black hole is called a gravitational singularity.”

    Black holes are referred to with finite mass, usually in units of solar mass.

  • Oliver K. Manuel May 25, 2009, 12:05 PM


    The late Donald Coyne and D. C. Cheng are on the right track, but severely handicapped by failure of the scientific community to pay attention to precise measurements of variations in:

    a.) Abundances of isotopes and elements in the solar system, and

    b.) Rest masses of the 3,000 different types of atoms that make up the entire visible universe.

    Please contact me, Dr. Cheng, if you read this message. One of my former students is also at the Almaden Research Center.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

    They are handicapped by the

  • DrFlimmer May 25, 2009, 12:12 PM

    @ solrey

    The central plasmoid should be oblong, like a football, which should also be the only area of strong thermal radiation, while the surrounding area will be mostly non-thermal radiation, with isolated areas of thermal activity.

    Sorry. But if there is such a “strong” thermal source we should’ve detect it by now. And the only strong source that we detect from the center is in the Radio-part of the spectrum. No infrared, no x-ray. I think this is not what one should expect, if your idea would be true. Meaning: No, there is no plasma ball in the center of the Milky Way.

  • Vanamonde May 25, 2009, 2:56 PM

    “No observational evidence of mini-black holes exists” Someone has not been paying attention – there are scientist at the RHIC that believe they have created some, with a very short lifespan (sub-femtosecond) but still real.

    I wanna hear what a loop quantum gravity expert makes of this!

  • Lawrence B. Crowell May 25, 2009, 4:22 PM

    The RHIC found amplitudes associated with quark-gluons that are similar to what is expected of so called soft black holes. All this really means is that high energy condensates have properties expected in quantum black holes. However, since the energy involved is 10^{-18}E_{planck} this is not a full fledged black hole really.

    While this has signatures expected of so called “black branes,” this does not rule out the loop q-gravity stuff. To be honest I think loop q-gravity and string theory may be just different perspectives on the same physics.

  • solrey May 25, 2009, 9:52 PM

    I said:
    “The central plasmoid should be oblong, like a football, which should also be the only area of strong thermal radiation, while the surrounding area will be mostly non-thermal radiation, with isolated areas of thermal activity. The surface could even be reminiscent of a very active sun, with abundant flare and CME activity.”

    I’m saying that the thermal signature will be a narrowly focused source embedded within the surrounding non-thermal region, with probable evidence of ‘flares’. Previous data pretty much confirms this.

    From http://www.springerlink.com/content/p24374339168j239/

    “We present the first NACO thermal infrared observations of the Galactic Center. L’-band imaging has been performed during NACO Science Verification nights in 2002. During these observations, the separation between S2, the closest star to Sgr A*, and the black hole was too small to directly see a counterpart of the latter. However we have detected a thermal infrared excess that could be its signature. In addition, the Northern Arm, a gaseous structure revealed with unprecedented details, is found to be made of intersecting and nested arclets, which doesn’t match with the previous interpretations of a stream of matter orbiting around the central black hole. The 2003 observations in the L’- and M’-bands have revealed an unambiguous emission from Sgr A*. The discovery of very red sources aligned with this counterpart may be the signature of a jet coming from the black hole.”

    ‘Thermal infrared excess that could be it’s signature.’
    As I was saying.

    “Intersecting and nested arclets, which doesn’t match with the previous interpretations of a stream of matter orbiting around the central black hole.”

    NONE of the observations of the Galactic Center have met predictions of black holes, nothing new in this particular statement.
    Although, nested arclets would describe the electrical interaction between stacked toroids.

    From Max Planck Institute:

    “Since the first near-infrared high-resolution observations of the galactic centre in the beginning of the 1990s, the GC was regularly monitored. However, in spite of all efforts, no unambiguous NIR counterpart of SgrA* could be detected up to 2003. On the 9th of May, during routine observations of the GC star cluster at 1.7 microns with NAOS/CONICA at the VLT, we witnessed a powerful flare at the location of the black hole. Within a few minutes, the flux of a faint source increased by a factor of 5-6 and fainted again after about 30 min. The flare was found to have happened within a few milli-arcseconds of the position of Sgr A*. The short rise-and-decay times told us that the source of the flare was located within less than 10 Schwarzschild radii of the black hole.”

    I said:

    “The surface could even be reminiscent of a very active sun, with abundant flare and CME activity.”

    That includes any surrounding double layers that would exist around the central plasmoid. Rapid rise and decay would indicate electrical arc discharge.

    Scoff all you want. My predictions will be more accurate than the, already previously many times over falsified, black hole hypothesis, of this I am confident

    I am soooooohohnoho looking forward to being able to say “I told ya so.” 😉

  • Nereid May 26, 2009, 9:24 AM

    This one’s for solrey, and his word salad (Lawrence B. Crowell’s description is very apt).

    Let’s start with a quick refresher on “flat spiral galaxy rotation curves“.

    If you plot the estimated speed of luminous matter in a spiral galaxy wrt the nucleus of that galaxy, as a function of distance from the nucleus, you often find that the curve is approximately ‘flat’ past a certain radius (‘flat’ in the sense that the luminous matter at these distances has approx the same speed, typically a few hundred km/s). Further, the range of speeds at a given radius is quite modest; among other things this strongly suggests that the luminous matter is in approximately circular orbits around the nucleus.

    The curves for different kinds of luminous matter – stars, neutral ISM (interstellar medium) gas, hot ISM plasma – are the same.

    Read that again, and let it sink in … it’s important because it points to one reason why solrey clearly was not thinking when he wrote the following (earlier; I added some bold):

    The relatively flat spiral galaxy rotation curves are due to the galaxy acting as a massive homopolar motor.

    I’m feeling generous today, so solrey, would you like to take some time to reflect, and get back to this thread with an amendment, or clarification?

    HINT: calculate the force that must be acting on the luminous matter, for it to be in an approximately circular orbit; write down an equation giving the force on a test particle at distance r from the nucleus, assuming the galaxy is “a massive homopolar motor“; then derive the consistent physical conditions under which each of the three classes of luminous matter will experience the same force.

  • Nereid May 26, 2009, 9:35 AM

    solrey, what is the mass of this “central plasmoid” that you think is SgrA*?

    I said:
    “The central plasmoid should be oblong, like a football, which should also be the only area of strong thermal radiation, while the surrounding area will be mostly non-thermal radiation, with isolated areas of thermal activity.

    What is the approximate temperature of the “strong thermal radiation“?

    How did/do you estimate that temperature?

    What is the SED (spectral energy distribution) of the “non-thermal radiation“?

    What is the principal mechanism that causes it (e.g. synchrotron radiation due to electrons)?

    Scoff all you want. My predictions will be more accurate than the […]

    solrey, you have not presented any predictions yet.

    When you have numbers – such as those which answer my questions – you will have started to make a prediction; when you can show that all these numbers are internally consistent, then you will have a prediction.

    I, for one, am looking forward to reading your predictions.

  • DrFlimmer May 26, 2009, 10:56 AM


    you are missing the most important point:
    A plasmoid, made of hot plasma, will ALWAYS radiate away a thermal spectrum. I repeat: ALWAYS. That means that you should detect a steady flux of thermal photons from the GC. But that is not the case, hence there is no steady source, resulting in no plasmoid being in the center.
    A flare can happen, accretion is a good process I guess. Probably it didn’t match quite the prediction, but still: a flare is no proof of a plasmoid (and also not of a black hole, as I may add).
    And I think the steady-flux argument is the one that is against your “prediction” (although I agree with Nereid: Saying “this and that could happen” is definitly not a strict scientific prediction; calculations are! It would be really interesting to see a few numbers about your prediction, indeed!).

  • Jon Hanford May 26, 2009, 1:30 PM

    Solrey, how can you reconcile the fact that we can see several giant and supergiant stars orbiting a nearly invisible object at the same distance that weighs 4 million solar masses. From the Reid paper that I linked to earlier, pg 18 Sec. 6 states ” While quiescent emission from Sgr A* has been difficult to detect outside of cm to sub-millimeter wavelengths, it does produce detectable “flares” of short duration at radio and infrared wavelengths and x-ray energies. This flaring is thought to be associated with material occasionally spiraling inward….. Of particular interest is the hint of a quasi-periodic flaring at infrared wavelengths, which could arise during the final few orbits of material falling into a black hole.” A recent (2008) paper addressing newer observations of flaring of Sgr A* by VLT-NACO (with actual images of a NIR flare) can be found here: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0810/0810.0138v1.pdf . For some reason, the 17 authors of the 2 papers that were linked (one by you, one by me) all believe a black hole exists at the core of our galaxy and have made observations and reduced their data to back up their assertions. Yet you argue they (and Reid) are all in error, but give no references or mathematical equations that back up your assertions. Both Dr Flimmer, Nereid and ND bring up valid points about your “hypothesis” that go unanswered and Lawrence B Crowell reminds us this idea of yours resembles the already dismissed ‘hyperstar’ theory of decades past. I’d be curious to see a rigorous presentation of your ideas explicitly as they relate to Sgr A* (along the lines of what Nereid inquired about in her May 26 posts, i.e. calculations).

  • Lawrence B. Crowell May 26, 2009, 4:52 PM

    I’d advise Solrey to go to the website for the UCLA Galactic Center Group.


    There is a nice little video of the motion of stars around the 4.1 million solar mass BH in the center or the MIlky Way. A couple of these stars whip around this dark mass which indicates by Kepler’s 3rd law they come pretty close to this object. There is no EM radiation or signature of anything there.

    There is one star which appears to come close here, but obviously it orbits on a plane with a significant angle of declination with respect to the effective projective plane in the video.

    It is good for astrophysics that the galactic BH is quiet right now. Otherwise there would be an accretion disk there Solrey and other plasma cosmos people would cite as this “plasmoid.”

    The BH in Sgr A* is far more massive, in the 100 million sol-mass range as I understand. There is one hell of an accretion disk around that black hole. The rotational energy of the BH is wrapping up magnetic field lines and acting as a generator for the jets.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • Nereid May 26, 2009, 5:23 PM

    I think you mean CygA

  • ND May 26, 2009, 6:54 PM

    That UCLA page is awesome! The time-lapse animations are great. I like animations :)

    The first animation looks like a gravity sim screensaver found on Linux distros.

  • Anaconda May 27, 2009, 8:58 AM

    Please, let’s be clear all references to the Active Galactic Nucleus in the Milky Way are “word salads”.

    The “singularity” description is a mathematical place holder. Nobody, serious, thinks that is an accurate description of reality.

    That has been exposed as an abstract mathematical construct which may or may not have some approximate relation to what is there at the galactic center.

    Twice, now, Nereid has had an opportunity to disagree, but she doesn’t because she knows…it’s a fiction.

    Nothing more than a reification.

    So, since all descriptions are “word salads” it really doesn’t advance anything to call one description or another “word sald”.

    But what is DANGEROUS is the continued promotion that so-called “black holes” actually do have a quantified foundation — they don’t — you can’t quantify “infinity”.

    Anybody, who says differently, and this includes you, Nereid, are being intellectually dishonest.

    That is why Salacious B. Crumb was willing to unendingly attack me personally because he also knew this reality, and knew that I knew it.

    Solrey’s predictions are as good as anybody’s because nobody has a handle on the actual quantification of processes around the Milky Way’s galactic center.

    (Oh, I acknowledge there are some quantifications of the Milky Way’s galactic center, but mostly regarding sizes and distances of various aspects of morphology [shapes], not the energy quotients those shapes represent or an explanation of what energy source animates those shapes.)

    I say the above putting aside for the moment my own convictions regarding solrey’s analysis and prediction about plasmoids.

    As long as “modern” astronomy ignores the physical necessity that electric currents underlie all magnetic fields, its professions of quantification will be false.

    As long as “modern” astronomy demonstrates its confusion regarding a conceptual aid, ‘magnetic field lines’ and spouts off about “magnetic reconnection” when the reality that magnetic fields are just that, a continuum of force, that exists because of the supporting electric currents, “modern” astronomy has no claim on rigorous quantification.

    So, word salads? No problem — everybody uses “word salads”, it’s how humans convey meaning and explanation.

    Some are more honest then others about what they are doing.

    Whether solrey is right in every detail, that is the question observation & measurement are supposed to find out.

    I’ll say this, solrey is more honest about his word salad than the “black hole” proponents are about their “word salad”.

    And frankly, a Engish language explanation has more meaning and connection to reality and conveys that meaning and explanation to the reader than a series of abstract mathematical equations that are dishonest placeholders, particularly when the “word salad” describes and explains physical structures that actually have a scientific basis to exist as opposed to mathematical “scribbles” that its proponents, when pressed admit is nothing but a placeholder.

    “One can not believe in singularities…”

    “I doubt that the astrophysicists in general believe in the reality of the singularity.” — Dr. Stefan Gillessen, Max – Planck – Institute for Extraterrestial Physics, Garching, Germany.

    Singularities don’t exist.

    So called “modern” astronomers engage in dangerous and dishonest double-talk when they claim their ideas of “black holes” are rooted in rigorous quantification.

    In this case, whoever’s “word salad” which best reflects physical processes at the galactic center will carry the day.

    sorey’s outline of a electromagnetic plasmoid at this point is “light years” ahead of references to a “black BOX” with unknown powers to suck in even light.

    The “black hole” concept is the biggest farce ever concocted by “modern” astronomy…oops…the “big bang” is because it uses all the same meaningless mathematical concepts, but not just for one location(s) in space, but the whole damn Universe.

    “Something out of nothing”

    Sorry, Science doesn’t do miracles.

    The crisis in Cosmology runs unabated.

  • Nereid May 27, 2009, 9:55 AM

    I’ve said this before, Anaconda, several times, and I’ll say it again: we have no reliable basis for a meaningful discussion.


    Because (choose one, or any combo; not intended to be a complete list):
    * you do not understand the mathematics used in contemporary physics
    * you do not understand the mathematics used in classical physics
    * you have a confused and very rudimentary grasp of the empirical aspects of astronomy
    * there is a huge difference between your views on the relationship between science and ‘reality’ and those of most (almost all?) others who comment here
    * you use key words in highly idiosyncratic ways, without defining them.

    So why not take the time and trouble to find a mutually acceptable basis, from which to start having a meaningful conversation?

    In the meantime, how about we do a little exercise?

    As long as “modern” astronomy ignores the physical necessity that electric currents underlie all magnetic fields, its professions of quantification will be false.

    For the sake of showing us that you understand the physics embodied in Maxwell’s equations, suppose we start with this:

    -> a region of space which is pervaded by a magnetic field

    -> the physical size of this region is of the order of ~hundreds of pc x ~hundreds of pc x dozens of pc

    -> the region contains a partially ionised gas, in thermal equilibrium

    -> the elemental composition, by mass, is 90% H, 4% He, 1% Fe

    -> overall, the region is close to electrical neutrality

    -> the magnetic field has a strength of ~10 microgauss (~1 nanotesla)

    -> the average density is ~5 electrons/cc.

    What is the magnitude of any electric currents flowing through, or in, this region?

    If you need more inputs to calculate, or estimate, the answer(s), what further inputs do you need?

    How, in principle, do you use Maxwell’s equations to go about working out answers to the above questions?

    FYI, the above is an approximate description of one phase of the interstellar medium (ISM); the values of things such as density and magnetic field strength come from extensive and painstaking “measurement and observation“, leading to “quantification“. And who do you think undertook all that work and quantification (no prize for getting the answer right)?

  • DrFlimmer May 27, 2009, 10:00 AM


    Anaconda, I could repeat some words about quantum mechanics, but we had that several times before. You can just look it up somewhere else.

    And frankly, a Engish language explanation has more meaning […] opposed to mathematical “scribbles” that its proponents, when pressed admit is nothing but a placeholder.

    You should try to find an agreement with yourself. Once you said: Mathematics are the language of nature, then it’s just a tool and finally it is nothing but a placeholde. So, what is it, once and for all?

    Solrey’s predictions are as good as anybody’s because nobody has a handle on the actual quantification of processes around the Milky Way’s galactic center.

    I think we have made some good points why solrey’s idea is, indeed, invalid. And what do you mean with those quantifications? Observations (there are many!), equations (there are many as well!)?
    Whether solrey is right in every detail, that is the question observation & measurement are supposed to find out.
    There is a hugh “wrong” in the details….

    I say the above putting aside for the moment my own convictions regarding solrey’s analysis and prediction about plasmoids.

    So, what do you think?
    The absence of a steady flux of infrared or X-ray photons rules out any form of hot matter (=plasma). The center is dark in these regions. But there is a steady thing in the center – the radio point hasn’t moved in the last years….
    So what could it be? Something that is “there”, that does not radiate in the infrared or X-rays and that is in the same spot, although some stars are swirling around very close-by.

  • Nereid May 27, 2009, 10:55 AM

    What specificobservation & measurement” would be required to find out the extent to which solrey’s idea about SgrA* being a “plasmoid” is right (in your view, Anaconda)?

    Whether solrey is right in every detail, that is the question observation & measurement are supposed to find out.

    Suppose that you, Anaconda, were given complete freedom to use any of the world’s leading astronomical facilities, or any combination of them, completely unrestricted, over a period of a year.

    What – specifically – is the observational program you would undertake to find out what details of solrey’s idea are right?

    If none of today’s facilities, in any combination, could realistically be used to get answers, what new facilities would do the trick?

    Restrict yourself only to astronomical facilities, located within the solar system … and if computing power beyond that available with something like BOINC would be required, please say so, and specify what would be needed.

  • Jon Hanford May 27, 2009, 11:28 AM

    Anaconda, above you state “…..mathematical “scribbles” that its proponents, when pressed admit is nothing but a placeholder.” So mathematics is not a valid way to express an astronomical theory ? Seems to me, Birkeland used an awfully lot of equations in his papers on currents in space, and, oh, Alfven used a ton of dense mathematical equations in his work on MHD. And did’nt the NASA team of Themis scientists use an awfully lot of mathematics in their paper confirming ‘Birkeland currents’ ? And let’s not forget Peratt and other current PC proponents use a lot of mathematics in their papers. Taking your dim view of the value of mathematics in science, we immediately strip Alfven of his Nobel for obviously fraudulent work using nothing more than a placeholder. Ditto for Bikeland and the Themis team, all frauds, and they know it, because they used mathematical equations! And shame on Peratt, Arp, Hoyle & Narlikar for using math. How dare they! We need more ‘word salad’ salad here and less math :) Btw: how many light years is Solrey ahead of us ? 10 ly or 100 ly? Do you even know that a light-year is a unit of distance?

  • Lawrence B. Crowell May 27, 2009, 4:52 PM

    I will try to say it again to those concerned about BH singularities. Astrophysics does not need to worry about the singularity of a black hole. The event horizon shields it from the outside, and quite literally for an inertial or asymptotic observer it really does not exist. Everything approaches the event horizon with a huge time dilation and redshift. The event horizon valences the interior form the outside utterly, at least in the classical situation. BH astrophysics is purely about the classical BH.

    The singularity only becomes important for a highly accelerated frame close to the event horizon, for a quantum black hole, or for the observer who choses to enter the black hole. For a highly accelerated frame the Hawking radiation of the horizon assumes singularity-like behavior. An observer (here a fictional observer of sorts) very close to the horizon with a huge acceleration that keeps them stationary will observe a huge radiation flux and physics similar to that near the interior singularity. This leads to the quantum black hole. In this case the horizon and the singularity becomes quantum superposed with each other. The singularity is no longer a mathematical infinity, but rather an instanton of the quantum gravity field. This leads to a curious duality with the black hole, for the quantum black hole (a small black hole of atomic or subatomic size) exhibits physics similar to a large black holeas observed by an accelerated observer at a static point relative to the event horizon. There are all sorts of subtle issues with equivalence principle and universal frame bundles here! This duality also connects with the Susskind stretched horizon and holography. This duality connects to the duality noted by Wheeler, that there are two dual perspectives of a BH: That of the exterior observer and the observer who enters into the BH.

    The concern over the singularity is a red herring, and lots of absurd statements have been made about it — such as it requires an infinite mass.

    Lawrence B. Crowell