Thursday, 18 Jul 2024

Stephen Hawking’s 49-year-old theory ‘could mean entire universe will evaporate’

A new scientific theory building upon something Stephen Hawking proposed in 1974 means the entire universe could be doomed to evaporate into nothingness.

Hawking theorised that energy is gradually drained from black holes over time. Now known as Hawking radiation, this reduces the mass and rotational energy of black holes, leading to their eventual evaporation.

Thus, all black holes that do not gain mass through other means are expected to vanish.

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A new theory posited by boffins from Radboud University in the Netherlands and published in the journalPhysical Review Letters suggests that it isn't just black holes that undergo this process.

Rather, any object with enough mass – even without an event horizon (the boundary close enough to the object at which point nothing can escape it) – will eventually vanish in this way.

If all this is true, everything in the universe will eventually evaporate.

Lead author Heino Falcke, a professor of astrophysics at Radboud University, said: "That means that objects without an event horizon, such as the remnants of dead stars and other large objects in the universe, also have this sort of radiation.

"And, after a very long period, that would lead to everything in the universe eventually evaporating, just like black holes. This changes not only our understanding of Hawking radiation but also our view of the universe and its future."

Second author Walter van Suijlekom, a professor of mathematics at Radboud University, said: "We show that far beyond a black hole the curvature of spacetime plays a big role in creating radiation. The particles are already separated there by the tidal forces of the gravitational field."

It was previously thought Hawking radiation was not possible without an event horizon (like black holes have). This new study shows that not to be the case.

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