08 August 2009 by Marcus Chown
IT IS the ultimate cosmic villain: space and time come to an abrupt end in its presence and the laws of physics break down. Now it seems a “naked” black hole may yet emerge in our universe, after spinning away its event horizon.
In 1969, physicist Roger Penrose postulated that every singularity, or black hole, must be shrouded by an event horizon from which nothing, including light, can escape. His Cosmic Censorship Conjecture has it that singularities are always hidden.
If the conjecture doesn’t hold, it would be bad news for cosmologists. If even one location in the universe cannot be described by the laws of physics, the future of the universe – as predicted by those laws – is cast into doubt. Our description of photons, for instance, may be undermined because those photons may have interacted with a naked singularity while zipping across the universe.
In theory, adding matter to a black hole could make it spin fast enough to shed its event horizon, but previously, physicists have calculated that the spin of black holes has an inherent speed limit that prevents such shedding. This limit is partly determined by ….
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