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April 27, 2009

The strange concept of white holes

Posted: 07:50 AM ET

In researching a story about what it might look like if you were to fall into a black hole, I came across the concept of white holes.

This is not a new idea, but it’s fascinating, so for those of you who have never heard about it, here’s a primer.

Think of a white hole as an “anti-black hole,” according to Cornell University’s Curious About Astronomy Web site. So if black holes are places where matter is sucked in, white holes could be where it spews out, like water through a fire hose.

“Some people say maybe all that material that’s collapsing into this black hole… goes through a worm hole or some theoretical idea and blasts out in some other place in the universe,” said Jeff McClintock, senior astrophysicist, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Another way to look at it is through the waterfall analogy. If you think of a black hole as space falling down one side of a ravine, imagine it bouncing off the bottom and climbing back up the other side, said Andrew Hamilton, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“But you never see that thing in nature and it doesn’t happen in real black holes,” Hamilton said.

The concept of white holes is totally theoretical and most people don’t give it much credence, McClintock added.

“Thousands of astronomers are just grinding their brains away on black holes,” he said. “You compare that to a white hole, I don’t think you’ll find one astronomer grinding his brain away.”

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Filed under: Astronomy • Space


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Ulf W   April 28th, 2009 12:15 pm ET

Once upon a time, matter was compressed (divided) into a black hole singularity such that all its constituent particles left the "particle" state and all we could see as a manifestation of the singularity mass was its gravity force. Now, what if you could divide the gravity force into further constituents? Anyone?

And what if we are sorely limited by our capabilites to only observe 3-d space falling through time? Maybe we need multi-dimensional observation skills?

Anyone for tennis?


Lisa   April 28th, 2009 12:48 pm ET

What goes in must come out, right? 😛


jdinwva   April 28th, 2009 1:05 pm ET

and for many many years these same scientists thought black holes were the stuff of fantasy...


Mike in NJ   April 28th, 2009 1:30 pm ET

And to all you guys that say, "better things to do here on Earth," this "basic, irrelevant Science" you all refer to is the source of many of the most useful and important discoveries ever. Computers, Nuclear Power, DNA sequencing, and truckloads of other technologies and discoveries were and are being made by scientists doing the dirtiest gruntwork of science, called "Basic Research".

It involves making hypotheses, doing experiments Over and Over and Over to get repeatable results and verify them, and writing about these experiments in what most people would consider the most boring journals EVER. And out of that incredibly hard work comes Technology to make our lives easier.

So remember that when someone asks you whether you think we should go to Mars. The discoveries we make along the way may very well be the thing that saves Humankind from its own folly.


Devin   April 28th, 2009 1:31 pm ET

how about this idea god made the universe and every planet, black hole, sun, and all that space is his canvas to do what he pleases and our little primate brains will never understand all that universe because we are not the smartest there is some one always smarter we jus havent found them yet but anyway feel free to make me feel stupid for what i belive but ya never kno i could be rite


s. carney   April 28th, 2009 1:36 pm ET

Imagine a whirlpool down a drain. A 'white hole' is where the water would go if that whirlpool were 4 dimensional and infinitely deep. The infinity, in 4D, is possible because the vortex continues spiraling back outward on the opposite side of its center of gravity (not event horizon).

The shape of the universe is a 4 dimensional sphere. What we observe, however, is only a three dimensional shadow inside of the whole, which is a torus (infinitely small, but not zero, at the center, and expanding in the direction of infinity in volume). Every gravity well exhibits this asymetry, (which is really symetry in 4D), but black holes are observably pronounced.

The 3D shadow of a 4D universe appears to us as only one side of any gravity well, or 'drain'. We can't see the opposite side of this spiral because of the event horizon.


Cliff Elfstrom   April 28th, 2009 7:23 pm ET

Time doesn't occur without change. As long as there is change, there is time. As we accelerate, even in free fall, time will run slower. Our attractive and repulsive forces will be weaker because they are spread out over time compared to our less accelerated neighbors. If we accept the fact that matter never exceeds the speed of light, we will better understand our universe. Much of what we learned from studying the theories of black holes can be applied to "dark holes" which cannot nor ever will form an "event horizon". Anything "below the event horizon" does not nor ever will exist". So much of what we theorized will happen before we reach the speed of light but we will be reduced to plasma quickly compared to the universe and to our own consciousness.


rob   April 28th, 2009 9:38 pm ET

Sure, coming up with ideas, theories and "educated guesses", like i said before, is great and very interesting, but the reason for my last post was that some people seemed to be making fun of other peoples ideas, while acting as if their own idea is proven fact, which of course... it isn't.

So yes, make theories and come up with explanations, but don't pretend that it's all 100% proven fact and that anyone who thinks differently is stupid and wrong.


Chris   April 29th, 2009 1:31 am ET

Ok, to the people who don't understand what the terms "theory" and "law" mean in a scientific context:

"Scientific laws are similar to scientific theories in that they are principles that can be used to predict the behavior of the natural world. Both scientific laws and scientific theories are typically well-supported by observations and/or experimental evidence. Usually scientific laws refer to rules for how nature will behave under certain conditions. Scientific theories are more overarching explanations of how nature works and why it exhibits certain characteristics."

Black holes are stellar objects whose mass has collapsed to a singularity. The event horizon is the region of spacetime where light cannot escape. If the sun in our solar system were to suddenly become a black hole, ignoring electron degeneracy pressure or the Pauli exclusion principle, we would NOT go spiraling in. The mass of the sun is unchanged; you have to approach the black hole very closely before you notice the special effects.

Those who deride the ideas of quantum mechanics and general relativity as just "theories" need to stop using the computers that rely on these faulty "theories". Or stop using medicine or eating food from the grocery store if you think evolution is just a "theory".


Chris   April 29th, 2009 1:45 am ET

Oh, and to the folks who have brought up Hawking radiation:

T = (hc^3)/(8πGMkb)

T = The temperature of the black hole
h = Planck's constant (usually h-bar, but I'm typing on a computer)
c = the speed of light
G = Newton's gravitational constant
M = the mass of the black hole
kb = Boltzmann's constant (usually k with b in subscript)


nina   April 30th, 2009 1:02 pm ET

I am pretty sure white holes were already explained on Red Dwarf


John   April 30th, 2009 2:58 pm ET

The connecting notions of black/white holes assumes the premise that matter, which is sucked into a black hole, goes somewhere else. There is no evidence or theory to suppose that it does.
Neither is there any evidence for an area of stellar vomitous.

A black hole is pretty much like the Hotel California or your credit card. Once you're sucked in, that's it.


Chris Torvik   May 2nd, 2009 8:26 pm ET

"We already know things that do this, they’re called quasars and they make mass ejections of matter into the universe."

ERIC IS RIGHT.


xavier   May 2nd, 2009 8:45 pm ET

im pnly nine but i love space and stuff like that so i found this article to be quet interesting.


Jason   May 2nd, 2009 9:28 pm ET

To all of the posters on here that have said the word 'theory,' well, 'theory' is how we made it to the moon; theory is how we made it to space at all. 'Theory' is why we have cell phones and their technology; 'theory' is why television works; 'theory' is the entire reason why MRI machines work; 'theory' is why satellites are so accurate and how we can always know their exact position in space at any given time; 'theory is why GPS works and is the most accurate time keepers known to man; and 'theory' is why the space shuttle works at all, clunky looking as it is. Theory is how we know to invest our money and time into a project, because if somebody has already theorized it, and that somebody has been peer-reviewed and respected, then you can bet their 'theory' will work. So as far as the Hawkin Radiation, you can bet that it is so–or at least as close to the truth as possible. Our entire technological age is based entirely on 'theory.'


SuperflySki   May 3rd, 2009 12:28 am ET

I enjoy the thought that if you actually fell in a black hole, you wouldn't feel yourself being ripped apart before singularity. As you're being spaghettified (hmm, a reference to the Flying Spaghetti Monster?), the pressure on your body is so intense, that it causes you to go unconsious. So at least pain isn't a major factor in the ways of a black hole....Unless of course, you're not the only thing falling in there. If there're stars and other such things, well...You'd burn up before you even got close in the buildup to fall in.

We've seen the buildup around black holes and the big evidence is the fact that we're here right now. What's holding the galaxy together in a gravitational strong hold? What else lets off GRBs (gamma ray bursts)? As Jason said, theories are anwsers to questions backed by concrete scientific data and hyposthesises, while also supported by scientific laws (Paraphrased quote by Mr. Carpenter, biology/genetics teacher).

But about white holes, we have no evidence of them existing; no streams of broken and deformed or even pure energy being spewed out into our universe which is definately speeding up in expansion so to finally make the universe cold and deprived of most anything (at least interesting). Black holes even let off energy, leaking before being depleted if they're not 'fed'. If black holes interact with each other, they just get bigger (they're not going to suddenly turn white and spit all their mass back out. That just doesn't make sense). So if white holes exist, then they don't exist here. They'd be in a parallel universe if that even existed, where their physics and scientific laws would be opposite to ours, or at least significantly different.

But I suppose it's still fun to think about.


SuperflySki   May 3rd, 2009 12:36 am ET

Oh, and Ralph; I love your philosophy on space and our problems.

Another thing (and this bothered me for a while before I found out) black holes aren't actually 2-D holes! They're spheres of black so it doesn't matter what angle you come in at because you're going to end up in the center in the end. But you're right; you wouldn't just go straight in there, you'd swirl about the singularity before becoming part of the black hole's mass or as you said, being thrown back out (but you have to be special to have this happen; such as a binary star system).


Faithful Atheist   May 3rd, 2009 2:05 am ET

Forgot to mention that when the religious leaders fail to turn their prospects against science, they add their own twisted version of it to their teachings, with the Scientific Method completely tossed out.


Lars   May 3rd, 2009 4:55 am ET

What's the point of posting this? Pure fiction. "Some people say" as an argument has no place on a scientific blog. Some people say werewolves stalk the night during a full moon, too.

Worthless spam.


rofflecoper   May 3rd, 2009 7:54 am ET

Meh, it's all theoretical with no definitive truth. Speculation at best, however I think Red Dwarf does it best. Cheers


rofflecoper   May 3rd, 2009 7:58 am ET

To Jason above who thinks theory is definitive, I assure you there has probably been thousands of times more theories proven wrong then right.

If at first you dont' succeed try and try again? So you just throw theories out until one proves right and that is simply all our techonology is, theories proven right that are built upon three times as many theories proven wrong.


William Grove   June 9th, 2009 10:41 pm ET

Einstein stated that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. There fore it would stand to reason that white holes or some component like that would have to be present to balance everything. Possible transport passages!


geekStinger   June 11th, 2009 10:59 pm ET

I saw a white hole the other day. It was spewing matter into the universe. A moon popped out and made friends with a guy that used to work at Microsoft. "Whats up with Vista" the moon asked the man. "Dude, I have no idea" the Microsoft guy replied. I saw a white hole the other day.


Derik   June 15th, 2009 3:36 pm ET

The matter sucked in by Black Holes does not "go away," it makes the Black Hole grow, to 'weigh more.'

The White Hole concept is an artifact that predates our properly understanding this. "If the matter goes in, it has to come out somewhere, right?" No, because it doesn't 'go' anywhere.


Kristina   June 16th, 2009 12:11 am ET

This is a response to "Jesus was an astronaut to:"
No one can prove that God is real. No one can prove that Jesus was the son of God. No one can prove that Adam and Eve even existed. No one can prove that my name is Kristina and that this book in front of me is really a book. Everything we consider common knowledge is just what we have come to know everything as, as a child...an infant. This book could have easily been called spoon. The color blue could really be green. Nothing can actually be PROVEN. Nothing is really a FACT. Everything that we come to "know," or rather assume, is based on what we have made of it.


Jason D   June 16th, 2009 8:25 am ET

I'm sorry, but after reading the previous article about "what happens inside a black hole", I can't take Anthony Hamilton seriously. I was wary at the Michael Jackson analogy, but they lost any credibility at "Spaghettification".


Doug   June 20th, 2009 11:39 pm ET

My theory is that all matter entering all black holes occupy the same space. Over billions and billions of years, when too much matter has accumulated to remain stable... BANG... new Universe.


M.W.   June 22nd, 2009 7:47 pm ET

@Kristina....dont forget that you can't even prove jesus was a real person


PHilOsoPhe   July 10th, 2009 11:09 am ET

Neo: For using a name that means "new", you are sure using an old argument. God is no more real than the spaghetti monster. Welcome to the information age. Mathematics is my "God".

Now, back to the "holes". My question is why do white holes and black holes have to be linked. They could very well be mutually exclusive phenomena. From my understanding there are 3 important things right now that are theorized but not proven. 1) Dark Matter 2) Dark Energy and 3) The "god particle" or Higgs field.

Dark matter has been theorized to explain why galaxies spin faster than the mass they contain should allow.

Dark Energy has been theorized to explain why the whole universe is expanding faster and faster as time continues rather than contracting upon itself as was first assumed.

The "god particle" is something that happened microseconds after the Big Bang to give mass to anything and everything that has it in the universe. Before then, there was no mass.

I bring these up because they all seem to be related by mass. Mass should make the universe contract but it doesn't. Based on observations galaxies should spin slower, but they don't. And what gave mass to begin with?

A giant white hole in the center of the universe could explain the dark energy. Picture a person putting a hose, opening flat against a nearly frictionless surface (there's no friction in a vaccuum, correct?) and then turning the water on. As long as there is something coming out of that hose, the first water out will continue moving further and further away from the source. If the space the hose is placed in is smaller than the amount of water flowing into it, the first water will move faster and faster and faster. Now, was there space at all before the big bang or was it created by necessity as something approached nothing?

However, one equation of string theory, if used to imagine the universe contracting to a certain size, would show that the universe would act like it is expanding. Basically, bouncing back from being collapsed. Perhaps that does the job of explaining Dark Energy.


andy sunderland   July 12th, 2009 12:49 am ET

the white hole is the other side of the black hole. The Exit


Korgath   July 14th, 2009 3:16 pm ET

White holes can be used to fuel our Starships during our Milky Way Campaign. But we need to act fast to harvest their power before the Galactic Space Federation does.


randomperson123   July 15th, 2009 1:22 am ET

the only way that the scientist in this article could make the statement "...it doesn't happen in real black holes" implies that he's experimented with black holes AND in order for that statement to be valid, he would have had to know where the white hole was. it could be anywhere in the universe, this guy has no clue what he's talking about. unless he's buzz lightyear, obviously


Wally   July 15th, 2009 2:32 pm ET

I confess I didnt read all the entries I jumped to the end so I could post one. Are there any Star Trek episodes about black holes? Did you know the USS Enterprise is fueled by anti-matter...


zhang   July 19th, 2009 10:41 pm ET

thinking about black and white holes. if the white hole is the exit of black hole than there are some sort of explanation. would it be some transportation?


Live   October 22nd, 2009 11:40 am ET

Given the theory that white holes are a giant, inter-cosmic explosion from a black hole, then theoretically, the Big Bang could possibly be proven. However, if a supermassive black hole were to explode, we, as human beings, would not become aware of it. Why? Because we'd all be dead by the time the light of the nova reaches our planet.

If we survive such a astronomical explosion, and if the theory of Big Bang = White Hole is true, then we'd be looking at the formation of another universe.

This is just my summery, I didn't read all of the comments above, just enough to where the Theory of Big Bang = White Hole was mentioned.


Darrell Williams   November 11th, 2009 1:47 pm ET

White holes are the propulsion or engines that's why black holes have to be so massive and be so powerful as much as they suck in,an equal and opposite push happens,so the universe keeps accelerating,as does anything in space will....


EMPulse   November 15th, 2009 5:58 am ET

PHilOsoPhe began a good explanation of some thoughts and ideas I also had surrounding the theory of "white holes" and the phenomena of alternate universes.

I like to consider that not only are white/black holes mutually exclusive singularities, but also motivated by opposite attractors. While we are searching for existence of theoretical dark matter and dark energy, couldn't it be reasonable to suggest that just as there are black holes consuming the matter and energy of our universe, that there might also be "white holes" that continuously expel dark energy and dark matter particles into it like a quantum field-fluctuating astrophysical fountain? If so, then would such things be the "waste" products of another universe (or whatever you want to call it) that receives our black hole material through energy fountains of its own?

If that's the case, it would be apparent to note that such "white holes" have yet to be detected because we have yet to observe verifiable proof of dark matter/energy in our own universe. With one would come the other. Perhaps the discovery and observation of the Higgs boson and evidence of scalar fields in studies of quantum mechanics could answer some of these questions for us.


Danny   November 19th, 2009 12:02 am ET

We must remember white holes are purely theoretical, we have no evidence nor reason to believe they exist aside from the theory that what goes in someplace – the black hole – must come out in the same form in another place – the white hole. I think this is just an unsophisticated, primitive way of looking out things. Maybe black holes simply "tear" an item apart, breaking it down into it's most simple structure – the atom. Also, black holes are not necessarily "worm holes" or "tunnels" but may just be something that's influence covers such and such an area and anything within that area is simply broken down into atoms, and the atoms go wherever they physically fit.


beckyblue   January 18th, 2010 12:29 am ET

Insults are never appropriate when discussing physics and speculating about the nature of things. Truth is, there's more we do not know and never will know, than what we know and can know. So, we have quasars on the order of billions of stars of mass, condensed into a super massive black hole the size of our solar system, traveling at 98.7 % the speed of light, meaning matter at the equator takes abouy 26 hours to travel a circumferance equivalent to neptunes orbit around our sun. Centrifugal force wants to spew out matter, like a white hole.. but the gasses at the accretion disk create a magnetic field around the black hole. matter spirals in toward the event horizon, and centrifugal force pushes it back out, and magnetic field lines pull the matter up the poles, shooting out enormous jets. Think of DRAGNS, where a pair of ionized gas lobes form at the ends of the poles, millions of light years across, 10 times the diameter of our Milky Way. These lobes are sparking new stars like a hatchery, and may develop into galaxies (?). For a white hole to exist, the centrifugal force would have to be able to overcome gravity and spew the matter out, i.e. a quasar being ripped apart into a spiral galaxy. While this sounds good, the magnetic properties of super massive black holes will always direct the matter up the poles and out as jets. Soooooo that's my take on white holes.


the beds   April 26th, 2010 2:34 pm ET

the beds the beds the beds


Dr. Krishna Vinjamuri, Nuclear Engineer   April 30th, 2010 2:05 am ET

Primeval Event theory: Krishna Vinjamur’s latest version of the Big Bang model in which all the events in the Universe were originally connected to one compact primeval event. The explosion of the primeval event initiated the universe.
Our Universe is about 10E26m radius, and (13.7x10E9 years. x 31557600 s/yr=) 4.32 10E17 seconds old (long) light cone. It evolved from a primordial white hole cone of 1.61 x 10-35 m radius and 5.37 x 10-44 axial length. Or evolved from a primordial Planck event of 2.24 10-142cm3-sec. The whole universe is nothing but an integral sum of 1.81 10E240 primordial Event light cones (▼).
Evolution of our Universe: Our eventful universe was evolved or tunneled from a primordial black hole to a primordial white hole. It evolved almost at the end of the primordial black hole as a primordial fluctuation of quantum spacetime.Copy Riight: Krishna Vinjamuri


Chris   March 1st, 2012 6:17 pm ET

My theory is that white holes are made out of flubber.


global regulatory specialists   April 7th, 2012 11:27 pm ET

Generally I do not read post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very great post.


JDaniel   February 26th, 2013 6:27 pm ET

if white holes eject matter/energy out of nothing then wouldnt that prove the law of conservation of matte/energy wrong?


Nehemiah Stewart   April 4th, 2013 12:57 pm ET

Is it possible for a white hole to destroy a blak hole by inverting upon itself in a physical way of thinking. Or could we use a white hole and black hole in an artificial environment to form a new way of transportation or are black holes to wide scale and unknown for this to ever happen.


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