Monday, 26 October 2009

Cosmological Hawking Radiation, and the failure of Einstein's General Theory

The Earth's Horizon, E. Baird 2009Cosmological horizons are rather arbitrary. The cosmological limit to direct observation is at different places for different observers, and if you change position, your horizon position changes to match. In that respect, a cosmological horizon is a little bit like a planetary horizon - it's different for everyone, and every physical location can be considered as being at a horizon boundary for someone.

With a cosmological horizon, we can mark out a region of space that we reckon should be directly visible, and another region beyond that shouldn't be, and try to draw a dividing line between the two that represents the horizon. The unseen region doesn't exist in an observerspace map even as space, which (in an observerspace projection) seems to fizzle out and come to a stop at the horizon limit.
As we try to look at regions further and further away, we're seeing larger and larger cosmological redshifts, and seeing further and further back in time, until we approach a theoretical limit where the redshift is total, time doesn't appear to have moved on at all since the Big Bang, and events apparently frozen into the horizon correspond to those in the vicinity of Time Zero.
In an idealised model, trying to see any further away than this means that we'd be expecting to be seeing spacetime events that originated before the Big Bang, which – in our usual models – don't exist. So the cosmological horizon is the rough analogue of a censoring surface surrounding a notional black hole singularity under general relativity. It kinda ties into the cosmic censorship hypothesis that, if any physical singularities do exist anywhere in Nature, Nature will always make physics work nicely and politely helpfully hiding the nasty singularities from view.

HOWEVER ... with a cosmological horizon, there are logical arguments that insist that we can receive signals though it.

Suppose that we have two star systems, A and B, whose spatial positions are on different sides of our drawn cosmological horizon, a couple of hundred lightyears away from each other. Let's say that B's the closer star to us – 100 ly inside our nominal horizon – and A's 100 ly outside. In an observerspace projection, we'll eventually be able to see the formation of the nearer star B (if we wait a few bazillion years) but A is off-limits.

But the nearer star B is quite capable of seeing events generated by A, and then helpfully relaying their information on to us. If A goes supernova, we should (eventually) be able to see a cloud of gas near B being illuminated by the flash. B can pass A's signals on, just as an observer at a planetary horizon can see things beyond our horizon and describe them to us, or hold up a carefully-angled mirror to let us see for ourselves.

So technically, Star A, under QM definitions, is a virtual object. It doesn't exist for us according to direct observation, but it's real for nearby observers and we can see the secondary result of those observations. B radiates indirectly through the horizon, so not only does the supposed Big Bang singularity have a masking horizon, the horizon emits Hawking radiation. If we'd bee a bit brighter back in the 1950's, we'd have been able to predict Hawking radiation by taking the "cosmological horizon" case and generalising over to the gravitational case. What stopped us from doing this was an incompatibility with the way that GR1915 was constructed.

The cosmological horizon is an acoustic horizon. It fluctuates and jumps about in response to events both in front of it and behind it. If someone near star A lobs a baseball at star B, we'll eventually see that baseball appear, apparently from nowhere, as a Hawking radiation event. And depending on how close the thrower is to the horizon, and how hard they throw the ball, we might even get a glimpse of their shoulder, as the physical acceleration of their arm warps spacetime (accelerative gravitomagnetism, Einstein 1921) making the nominal horizon position jump backwards.

For this sort of acoustic horizon to work, the acceleration and velocity of an object has to affect local optics (if the ball had been thrown in the opposite direction, we'd never have seen it).
If the local physics at a cosmological horizon generates an acoustic horizon, then that physics is going to correspond to that of an acoustic metric. NOT a static Minkowski metric. The presence, velocity and acceleration of objects must change the local signal-carrying properties of a region. Since the operating characteristics of an acoustic metric are different to those of the Minkowski metric that defines the relationships of special relativity, the local physics then has to operate according to a different set of laws to those of special relativity – the velocity-dependent geometry of an acoustic metric makes the basic equations of motion come out differently. For cosmological horizons to work as we expect, the local light-geometry for a patch of horizon has to be something other than simple SR flat spacetime, and the local physics has to obey a different set of rules to those of special relativity.

Now, the punchline: Since our own region of spacetime will in turn lie on the horizon of some distant far-future observer, this means that if we buy into the previous arguments, our own local "baseball physics", here on Earth, shouldn't be that of special relativity either.

The good news
is that if we eliminate special relativity from GR, to force cosmological horizons to make sense, GR's predictions for gravitational horizons would also change. The revised general theory would predict indirect radiation effects through gravitational horizons, bringing the theory in line with quantum mechanics. Which would be a Good Thing, because we've been trying to solve THAT problem for most of the last 35 years.

The bad news
is that there doesn't seem to be any polite way to do it. Disassembling and reconstructing general relativity to address its major architectural problems involves going back to basics and starting from scratch, questioning every assumption and decision that was made the first time around, and being pretty ruthless about which parts get to stay on in the final theory.

I find this sort of work kinda fun, but apparently I'm in a minority.

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