A paper in Physics Letters B has raised the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) could make a discovery that would put its previous triumph with the Higgs Boson in the shade. The authors suggest it could detect mini black holes. Such a finding would be a matter of huge significance on its own, but might be an indication of even more important things.
Few ideas from theoretical physics capture the public imagination as much as the “many-worlds hypothesis,” which proposes an infinite number of universes that differ from our own in ways large and small. The idea has provided great fodder for science fiction writers and comedians.
However, according to Professor Mir Faizal from the University of Waterloo, "Normally, when people think of the multiverse, they think of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where every possibility is actualized," he said to Phys.org. "This cannot be tested and so it is philosophy and not science." Nonetheless, Faizal considers the test for a different sort of parallel universes almost within our grasp.
“What we mean is real universes in extra dimensions,” says Faizal. “As gravity can flow out of our universe into the extra dimensions, such a model can be tested by the detection of mini black holes at the LHC.”
The idea that the universe may be filled with minute black holes has been proposed to explain puzzles such as the nature of dark matter. However, the energy required to create such objects depends on the number of dimensions the universe has. In a conventional four-dimensional universe, these holes would require 1016 TeV, 15 orders of magnitude beyond the capacity of the LHC to produce.
String theory, on the other hand, proposes 10 dimensions, six of which have been wrapped up so we can't experience them. Attempts to model such a universe suggest that the energy required to make these tiny black holes would be a great deal smaller, so much so that some scientists believe they should have been detected in experiments the LHC has already run.
So if no detection, no string theory? Not according to Faizal and his co-authors. They argue that the models used to predict the energy of the black holes in a 10-dimensional universe have left out quantum deformation of spacetime that changes gravity slightly.
Whether this deformation is real is a rapidly developing question, but if it is, the paper argues that the black holes will have energy levels much smaller than in a four-dimensional universe, but about twice as large as that detectable for any test run so far. The LHC is designed to reach 14 TeV, but so far has only gone to 5.3 TeV, while the paper thinks the holes might be lurking at 11.9 TeV. In this case, once the LHC reaches its full capacity, we should find them.
Such a discovery would demonstrate the microscale deformation of spacetime, the existence of extra dimensions, parallel universes within them and string theory. If found at the right energy levels, the holes would confirm the team's interpretation of a new theory on black hole behavior named gravity's rainbow, after the influential novel. Such an astonishing quadruple revelation would transform physics, although the researchers are already considering the most likely flaws in their work if the holes prove elusive.