Bizarre ‘gravitational molecules’ can orbit black holes

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Only three things define a black hole: its total mass, its electrical charge and its angular momentum (or spin, a physical quantity associated with its rotation). According to a group of researchers from the Gravitation on Técnico (GRIT) group at the Instituto Superior Técnico, this simplicity is repeated in the electrons of an atom; just as these particles orbit the atomic nucleus, particles that are still unknown may be spinning around singularities.

To understand how physicists Taishi Ikeda, Laura Bernard, Vitor Cardoso and Miguel Zilhao came to this conclusion, it is necessary to understand a fundamental concept of physics: the field.

There are fields such as scalar, vector and tensor. What the researchers used was the scalar – in a simple definition, it is the one in which all the points present quantities without direction and sense. Good examples are temperature maps of a region or the population densities of a city: the number is the same.

From macro to micro

The notion of field is already known old mathematics; only in the last century, it began to be used also by physics to explain the Universe, implying that the cosmos (and everything in it) is, in reality, a scalar field. And so we get to the electron.

In 1926, the scientist Werner Heisenberg stated that it is not possible to determine, at the same time and with precision, the speed and the position of an electron – when increasing the precision in the determination of one, the precision in the determination of the other is lost. This is where Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle emerged, which became less uncertain when it was stipulated that, instead of considering a definite orbit for the electron, it would be better to admit that there are possible regions for this electron to be – or a field.

 

Both electrons and black holes are defined by their mass, their spin and their electric charge. Electrons are tiny particles that orbit one or more nuclei (as in the hydrogen molecule, or H2). If there are fields around the nucleus of an atom orbiting electrons, a singularity (or even two) surrounded by a field would also be possible.

This is what the study authors found: scalar fields can exist around binary black holes, or even organize themselves in the way that electron fields in molecules.


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