No more cosmic censorship as naked singularity exposes the universe

22 May 2017

Illustration of a black hole. Image: Marc Ward/Shutterstock

Einstein’s theory of general relativity is under threat as the cosmic censorship conjecture is thwarted by a naked singularity.

Space is pretty weird at times, but new research conducted at the University of Cambridge has discovered something that challenges our very understanding of the universe.

In a study published in Physical Review Letters, researchers have run hundreds of simulations using computers to predict the existence of a phenomenon called a ‘naked singularity’.

A singularity is a point in space where gravity is so intense that the fundamental laws of physics break down and are believed to exist within the centre of black holes, surrounded by an event horizon.

Because the gravity at this point would be so intense – making observations from Earth impossible – science had put forward the existence of a law known as the ‘cosmic censorship conjecture’.

This 40-year-old theory had ruled out the possibility of a singularity being formed outside the centre of a black hole, as its existence would contradict Einstein’s theory of relativity.

However, the prediction of a naked singularity outside of a black hole’s event horizon would appear to make the cosmic censorship conjecture null and void, along with general relativity. The latter’s importance to science is obvious, with its equations determining everything from the estimation of the age of the stars in the universe, to the GPS signals we use to navigate our way here on Earth.

Exists in a saddle-shaped universe

What makes this research even more important is that, for the first time, the prediction has been made within our own 4D universe.

Scientific evidence has highlighted the existence of naked singularities in fourth and fifth dimensions. The research team showed that they exist in a curved space, within a saddle-shaped universe.

This still doesn’t dismiss general relativity, though, as the results are not directly applicable to our universe.

“The naked singularity we see is likely to disappear if we were to include charged particles in our simulation – this is something we are currently investigating,” said researcher Jorge Santos.

Updated, 4.40pm, 22 May 2017: This article was updated to clarify that predictions had been made in our 4D universe, not 3D, as previously stated.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic