For the better part of a century, quantum physics and the theory of general relativity have been a marriage on the rocks. Each perfect in their own way, the two just can’t stand each other when they’re in the same room.

Now, a mathematical proof about the quantum nature of black holes might just show us how the two can come together, at least enough to produce a grand new theory about how the Universe works on a cosmic and microcosmic scale.

A team of physicists has mathematically demonstrated a strange quirk regarding how these incredibly dense objects could exist in a state of quantum superposition, simultaneously occupying a spectrum of possible features.

Their calculations showed that superpositions of mass in a theoretical type of black hole called the BTZ black hole simultaneously occupy strikingly different bands of mass.

Ordinarily, any garden-variety particle can exist in a superposition of states, with characteristics such as spin or momentum only determined once they have become part of an observation.

Where certain qualities, such as charge, occur only in discrete units, mass is generally not quantized, which means that the mass of an unobserved particle can be anywhere within a range of maybe.

Yet, as this research shows, superimposing the masses held by a black hole tends to favor some measurements over others in a pattern that could be useful for modeling mass in a quantified way. This could give us a new framework for probing the quantum gravitational effects of superimposed black holes to ease the tension between general relativity and quantum theory.

“Until now, we haven’t studied in depth whether black holes exhibit some of the weird and wonderful behaviors of quantum physics,” says theoretical physicist Joshua Foo from the University of Queensland in Australia.

“One of these behaviors is superposition, where quantum-scale particles can exist in multiple states at the same time. This is most often exemplified by Schrödinger’s cat, which can be both dead and alive simultaneously. .”

“But, for black holes, we wanted to see if they could have very different masses at the same time, and it turns out they do. Imagine you’re both wide and tall, as well as small. and lean at the same time – this is an intuitively confusing situation since we are steeped in the world of traditional physics, but it is the reality for quantum black holes.

The extreme gravity that surrounds black holes makes them an excellent laboratory to probe quantum gravity – the rolling continuum of space-time according to the theory of general relativity married to the theory of quantum mechanics, which describes the physical Universe in terms of discrete quantities, such as particles.

Models based on certain types of black holes may well lead to a single theory that could explain particles and gravity. Some of the effects observed around a black hole cannot be described in general relativity, for example. For that, we need quantum gravity – a unified theory that integrates both sets of rules and somehow makes them play well.

So Foo and his colleagues developed a mathematical framework that effectively allows physicists to observe a particle placed outside a black hole that is in a state of quantum superposition.

Mass was the main property they probed, because mass is one of the only properties of black holes that we can measure.

“Our work shows that the very early theories of Jacob Bekenstein – an American-Israeli theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the foundation of black hole thermodynamics – were profitable,” says quantum physicist Magdalena Zych of the University of queensland.

“[Bekenstein] postulated that black holes can only have masses that are of certain values, i.e. they must be within certain bands or ratios – this is how the energy levels of an atom, for example. Our modeling showed that these superimposed masses were, in fact, in certain determined bands or ratios – as predicted by Bekenstein.

“We didn’t assume such a pattern, so the fact that we found this evidence was quite surprising.”

The findings, the researchers say, pave the way for future research into quantum gravity concepts, such as quantum black holes and superimposed spacetime. In order to develop a comprehensive description of quantum gravity, the inclusion of these concepts is crucial.

Their research also allows for a more detailed investigation of this superimposed spacetime and the effects it has on the particles within it.

“The Universe is revealing to us that it is always stranger, mysterious and fascinating than most of us could ever have imagined,” says Zych.

The research has been published in *Physical examination letters*.

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