PureInsight | April 11, 2002
The classical description of a black hole is a gargantuan jet-black entity that's far, far away, that insatiably consumes any matter or even light that comes near it. Some physicists suggest the possibility of different forms of black holes. Extremely tiny, lightweight versions of black holes could be formed right over our heads when cosmic rays strike atoms or molecules in the atmosphere. These newly created black holes would then quickly decay, raining down harmless secondary particles onto our planet and its inhabitants.
If the existence of tiny black holes were confirmed, it would substantiate one of the more outlandish ideas currently circulating in the physics community, that is, that we live in a universe with detectable dimensions beyond the three of space and the one of time to which we're accustomed.
Since the 1970s, scientific interest in other dimensions surged as physicists developed the string theory. But those dimensions are so small that they are undetectable with our current methods. About four years ago, three theorists came up with a bold proposal. Savas Dimopoulos of Stanford University and his coworkers suggested that some of those other dimensions weren't so small. Another dimension might even be as large as a millimeter in radius. This new hypothesis not only raised the possibility of the existence of very small black holes, but also provides a possible way to detect the other dimensions. In the relatively large other dimensions, gravity would be much stronger and would compress matter and energy into minuscule black holes. If indeed a tiny black hole is discovered, it will prove the existence of other dimensions.
Some researchers are now recording signs of tiny black holes. This was initially accomplished by searching for distinctive particle showers that would be triggered by any miniature black holes in the atmosphere. Feng of MIT and his coworker calculated rates for atmospheric black hole production from cosmic rays. Cosmic rays would produce a few atmospheric black holes somewhere in Earth's atmosphere every minute. This was reported in "Physical Review Letters," January 14, 2002. A vast new cosmic-ray detector, called the Pierre Auger Observatory, is now under construction in Argentina to detect small black holes.
Physicists at a powerful new collider, expected to begin operating in 2007, would be the next to observe black holes. In this case, tiny black holes would form as a result of super high energy, head-on collisions between protons. In the Oct. 15, 2001 "Physical Review Letters," Dimopoulos and his coworker predicted that the large Hadron Collider may generate a black hole every second. About the same time, another pair of researchers independently came to similar conclusions.
The current scientific understanding of the tiny black holes and other dimensions is purely theoretical. It is even further beyond the imagination to understand the matter in other dimensions and the laws that govern it. The other dimensions may soon become a known reality. This will break the boundaries of modern science, so the mankind's understanding of the whole universe will fundamentally change.
1. Dimopoulos, S., and G. Landsberg. 2001. Black holes at the Large Hadron Collider. Physical Review Letters 87(Oct. 15):e161602. Abstract available at http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v87/e161602.
2. Feng, J.L., and A.D. Shapere. 2002. Black hole production by cosmic rays. Physical Review Letters 88(Jan. 14):e021303. Abstract available at http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v88/e021303.
3. Weiss, P. "The Black Hole Next Door", Science News Vol. 161, No. 12 (March 23, 2002). Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/20020323/bob9.asp