July 30 (UPI) -- A trio of physicists at Ohio State University believe black holes are like "fuzzballs" with an insatiable appetite for matter. And according to their latest research, these fuzzballs are not surrounded by a "firewall."
Classical general relativity presents the black hole as an object with a horizon, beyond which nothing can escape. This dichotomy between something and nothing is referred to as the "information paradox."
Using string theory as a guide, scientists at Ohio State presented their fuzzball concept as a solution to the information paradox.
"In the classical picture, the interior of the horizon was empty space, and all the matter in the hole had been squeezed into a central point," physicist Samir Mathur told UPI. "With string theory, we found that the black hole was more like a planet. The mass in the planet was spread throughout the planet, and there was no horizon."
In other words, there was no boundary beyond which matter would be trapped.
"The matter making this planet-like object was made of strings and branes, the esoteric objects found in string theory," Mathur said. "Such matter does not get squeezed to a central point as would happen in the classical general relativity picture, instead it fills up the hole in the form of a very quantum fuzz. So we said that in string theory the black hole becomes a fuzzball."
Mathur and his colleagues first published their fuzzball theory in 2004. In 2012, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara argued a fuzzball black hole would be surrounded by a "firewall" that would burn up any matter before it had a chance to be consumed by the black hole.
Using quantum mechanics, the mathematics of subatomic particles, scientists showed it was highly unlikely that an electron approaching a black hole would collide with a proton from a firewall radiation. Their calculations -- detailed in the Journal of High Energy Physics -- showed the probability of matter being burned up prior to entering a black hole grows smaller as a black hole gets bigger.
In working out a response to the critique of their work, string theory again came to the rescue.
"We think that as a person approaches the horizon, the fuzzball surface grows to meet it before it has a chance to reach the hottest part of the radiation, and this is a crucial finding in this new physics paper that invalidates the firewall argument," Mathur said in a news release.
With the firewall critique addressed, Mathur said he can't foresee anymore challenges to the fuzzball theory.
"In the years since the initial fuzzball proposal, a large number of authors have worked on checking more and more cases of black holes, and now thousands of cases have been checked," he told UPI. "In each case the collection of strings and branes has turned out to fluff up into a fuzzball rather than squeeze into a central dot inside the hole. Thus I would say that now the fuzzball proposal is well established."