Dead and alive at the same time: Black holes have quantum properties

According to a recent research, black holes exhibit features similar to quantum particles, which implies that, like the fabled Schrödinger's cat, the mysterious cosmic objects may be both enormous and little, heavy and light, or dead and alive.

The new study used computer modeling to search for the elusive link between the concepts governing the behavior of the tiniest subatomic particles and the mind-boggling time-warping physics of supermassive objects like black holes.

The research group created a mathematical model that positioned a quantum particle in simulation right outside of a massive virtual black hole. According to the simulation, the black hole displayed evidence of quantum superposition, or the capacity to exist in several states simultaneously. In this instance, this meant that the black hole could be both massive and non-massive at the same time.

Joshua Foo, a PhD candidate in theoretical physics at the University of Queensland, led the work and released a statement. "We wanted to see whether [black holes] could have wildly different masses at the same time, and it turns out they do," Foo said. "Until now, we haven't deeply investigated whether black holes display some of the weird and wonderful behaviors of quantum physics."

The most well-known instance of quantum superposition is the fabled Schrödinger's cat, a thought experiment created by scientist Erwin Schrödinger in the early 1900s to highlight some of the main problems with quantum mechanics. Subatomic particles live in several states concurrently, according to quantum theories, until they interact with the outside environment. The particle enters one of the states as a result of this interaction, which may just be the act of being measured or watched.

The experiment was designed by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Schrödinger to show the absurdity of quantum theory, which holds that a cat trapped in a box may be both dead and alive at the same time due to atoms' random activity, until an observer breaks the superposition.

As it proved out, a quantum particle may in fact exist in a double state, but a cat in a box may still be dead regardless of what an observer does. Furthermore, the latest research suggests that a black hole does as well.

Theoretical physicist Jacob Bekenstein of Israel and the United States was the first to propose that black holes may have quantum features. Given that the mass of a black hole is what defines it, its quantum superposition must imply that this peculiar gravitational portal can have various masses falling into certain ratios.

"As predicted by Bekenstein, our modeling demonstrated that these superposed masses were, in fact, in certain determined bands or ratios," a statement from Magdalena Zych, a physicist at the University of Queensland and co-author of the work, read. "We didn't assume any such pattern going in, so the fact we found this evidence was quite surprising."

Not that we're getting any closer to comprehending the inner workings of black holes. That being said, it's probably even more amazing than we could have imagined.