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Why the Nobel Prize in Physics Roger Penrose believes there are black holes left over from previous universes

Oxford University mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose won a Nobel Prize earlier this month for a lifetime of work studying black holes, singularities from which not even light can escape. Yet it is also behind a provocative and controversial theory about the formation of the universe – namely, that the Big Bang did not mark the beginning of the universe as we know it, but merely initiated the next iteration of our universe. In his theory, known as conformal cyclic cosmology, our current conception of the universe is simply one of a series of infinite universes that preceded it and will also come after.

Cosmology, of course, is full of theories of varying degrees of smudging, and many of the more famous ones ̵

1; such as string theory – lack observational evidence. But Penrose’s prediction is different, as there is some evidence in the observations of the cosmic background radiation, which is the average background temperature of the entire night sky, in which the residual heat of the Big Bang can be seen and the bright spots in the sky. As illustrated in the close-up photo of this story, some of those “bright spots” may be, as Penrose believes, emanations of radiation from ancient black holes that predate this universe.

“Roger’s idea of ​​’conformal cyclic cosmology’ [CCC], is based on three facts, “Pawel Nurowski, a scientist from the Center for Theoretical Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, told Salon via email.

“Roger’s idea of ​​’conformal cyclic cosmology’ [CCC], is based on three facts, “Pawel Nurowski, a scientist from the Center for Theoretical Physics at the Polish Academy of Sciences, told Salon via email. Specifically, Nurowski says, in order for Penrose’s theory to make sense, he would observe a universe that has a positive cosmological constant (i.e. the mysterious and constant repulsive force that pushes everything in the universe that is not gravitationally bound away from everything else), as well as a universe that would appear similar to its end as it did in Observations of our universe suggest it will end up in a disordered, empty state, with all matter converted to stray photons that never interact with each other.

Nurowski concluded: “We believe that every possible universe will have all these three characteristics”, that “we have an infinite sequence of universes (aeons)” and that “Penrose regards this sequence of conformably adhering aeons as the complete physical Universe”.

“In this picture, our standard cosmological universe is just one of the aeons,” Nurowski added. “So the main difference between ‘conformal cyclic cosmology’ and standard cosmology is that our universe is only a part of the Penrose universe,” while proponents of the traditional Big Bang idea believe that specific event gave beginning to our present universe.

This brings us to the recent discovery that could support Penrose’s CCC hypothesis. According to a co-authored paper by Penrose, Nurowski and two other scientists, unexpected hot spots that have been discovered in the cosmic microwave background of the universe suggest that there are “anomalous regions,” possibly huge black holes left over from previous universes that have yet to decay. These regions are known as “Hawking Points”, named after Stephen Hawking, who first came up with the theory that black holes decay very slowly over unimaginably long time scales, emitting what is called Hawking radiation in his honor. The discovery of these Hawking points suggests that Penrose’s cosmological model is accurate.

“The existence of such anomalous regions, resulting from point sources in the conformably stretched big bang, is an expected consequence of conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC),” explains the paper, adding that these so-called Hawking points would be caused by the radiations emanating. from “supermassive black holes in a cosmic eon prior to ours”.

It should be emphasized that the Penrose Nobel Prize was not awarded due to his theory of a conforming cyclic cosmology. Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb clarified in an email to Salon: “In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote an article in the Annals of Mathematics doubting the existence of black holes in nature. Roger Penrose proved that black holes are a robust predicting Einstein’s theory of general relativity and in doing so invented a new mathematical tool to represent space-time, called Penrose diagrams. “

Loeb added: “It also showed that it is possible to extract energy from a rotating black hole as if it were a flywheel, through the so-called Penrose process.”

Loeb says Penrose’s belief that the hot spots prove that the black holes in question came from earlier universes is controversial.

“The particular theory advocated by Penrose, Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, states that the expansion of the Big Bang repeats itself in succession of expansion cycles, implying that we can see through our current Big Bang into the past Big Bang, giving rise to models in the cosmic microwave background, “Loeb explained. “Penrose has made the controversial claim that such models are seen in the data, but it has been shown by others that the models he has identified are not statistically significant … and therefore his claim is controversial.”

There are skeptics in the astrophysics community. Ethan Siegel, an astrophysicist who writes a science blog published in Forbes magazine, was very critical of Penrose’s theory. Last week, he wrote an article titled “No, Roger Penrose, we don’t see any evidence of a ‘universe before the Big Bang'”.

“The forecasts that [Penrose] he did are refuted by the data, and his claims to see these effects are reproducible only if one analyzes the data in a scientifically incorrect and illegitimate way, “wrote Dr. Siegel.” Hundreds of scientists have pointed this out to Penrose – repeatedly and consistently over a period of over 10 years – that it continues to ignore the field and move forward with its contention.

Nurowski and Loeb both rejected Siegel’s claims.

“The person who wrote this article appears to have never read our recent Monthly Alerts article,” Nurowski wrote to Salon, linking to him and Penrose’s article showing evidence of Hawking points. “[Siegel] He also doesn’t seem to be reading our other three papers. He gives a quote from an old newspaper with Penrose and Gurzadyan. He doesn’t have a single argument against our new MNRAS [Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society] paper …. I emphasize that the statistical analysis in our article is of the highest astronomical standards. “

He added: “I am happy to respond to any criticism, provided I hear only one argument against what we have written, and not the repetition of what standard cosmology says. Either we are talking about facts or beliefs. Our article is about facts. But to talk about it, you must first read the newspaper “.

Loeb seemed to echo this view, despite his skepticism about CCC.

“My problem with Penrose’s theory is that it is not fully elaborated and that there is no statistically irrefutable evidence to support the models he claims to have identified in the cosmic microwave background, but we should remain open to new ideas about what it has. preceded the Big Bang, “Loeb explained. “This is the story where we came from, our cosmic roots. The simple picture we have now is clearly incomplete and requires more scientific work. No more bullying than any new ideas.”

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