Finding Fred & friendsPosted: May 20, 2011
“What’s your name?” Kit said. “I mean we can’t just call you ‘hey you’ all the time.”
True, the white hole said. My name is Khairelikoblepharehglukumeilichephreidosd’enagouni – and at the same time he went flickering through a pattern of colours that was evidently the visual translation.
“Ky-elik-” Nita began.
“Fred”, Kit said quickly. “Well”, he added as they looked at him again, “if we have to yell for help or something, the other way’s too long.”
Fred, whilst being in many ways not a typical white hole (he talks for a start, and is surprisingly prone to hiccups), does exhibit their most fundamental property – he continuously emits stuff.
A white hole is a region of space and time which can’t be entered, but which gives out material. It’s the opposite of a black hole, we’ve never seen one and there’s a good chance they don’t exist. The possibility that they do arises from the maths of Einstein’s General Relativity. Even if they do, the combination of a strong gravitational pull and the constant stream of new material being emitted means that they’ll probably collapse in on themselves and form a black hole before we could see them.
Hang on though, what if they just popped into being for an instant, spewed out a load of stuff at once, and then vanished again? That’s the idea put forward in a paper which came out this week. The authors suggest that if this was the case they could pop up anywhere in the Universe, and we’d see them as brief, intensely bright, objects. This sounds suspiciously like the features of a mysterious type of object called a gamma ray burst.
The current best explanation for the majority of gamma ray bursts is the explosion of a massive star. However, there exists a subset of sources which don’t fit this picture, and it is these which might, just might, just possibly be white holes. The chances that any of them are like Fred though are, sadly, small.
Alon Retter, & Shlomo Heller (2011). The Revival of White Holes as Small Bangs Submitted to ApJ arXiv: 1105.2776v1