Many a scientist will tell you that the more we learn about the world we live in, the more there is to know. Recent discoveries about black holes certainly indicate that what we don’t know about them could fit in, well, a black hole. Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London have illustrated that by simulating a very oddly shaped black hole, one which resembles a wobbly ring and, if it exists, would only be possible in a universe with five or more dimensions.

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These ring-shaped black holes aren’t a new concept. Theoretical physicists first introduced the notion in 2002, but this new advancement marks the first time their dynamics have been simulated by a supercomputer. The feature that makes this breakthrough so important, though is the effect it could have on the equations behind general relativity. If a 5D ring-shaped black hole like this forms, its existence could create a ‘naked singularity’ and that, according to physicists working on the simulation, would lead to a breakdown of general relativity as we know it.

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Much of the research is taking place at Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP), where PhD students are testing to determine whether the ring-shaped black hole could ever become thin enough to generate a naked singularity that would upset general relativity. If that happens, it would undo a lot of explanations about how the universe works. “If naked singularities exist, general relativity breaks down,” said co-author Saran Tunyasuvunakool, a PhD student from DAMTP. “And if general relativity breaks down, it would throw everything upside down, because it would no longer have any predictive power – it could no longer be considered as a standalone theory to explain the universe.”

The results of the 5D black hole simulation were published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.


Images via Shutterstock and University of Cambridge