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2015-01-06

Saved From the Singularity: Quantum Effects Rule Out Black Holes

Laura Mersini-Houghton is perhaps one of the most interesting and unlikely transformative forces of nature in cosmology today. Born the daughter of a professor of mathematics in Tiranë, Albania during Enver Hoxha’s quasi-Maoist dictatorship - not a known fertile ground for astrophysicists - she teaches today at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, not at Princeton, Caltech, or Harvard. And yet, she seized Archimedes’ proverbial lever and took a stand where the evidence led her. This may have moved the world of theoretical physics by blowing up most of her colleagues’ assumptions about black holes with a quantum effect that may reverberate for a long time across her discipline’s standard narrative of how our universe began, and about some of its most intractable phenomena known as black holes. As we had all long heard, the universe came into being with a Big Bang - allegedly. But then Mersini-Houghton does not believe in “the universe.” Her signature line of argument, within the landscape of string theory,[1] has long been for the existence of a multitude of universes as wave functions - a “multiverse.” In that aspect of string theory, for which at least some hard evidence appears to exist,[2] our universe is merely one of 100500 possible ones,[3] as Hugh Everett, III had first proposed in his 1957 many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics.[4] She claims that, as a logical result, standard Big Bang cosmology has been plain wrong. And, no, Mersini-Houghton is assuredly not a scientific undercover agent of creationism, either. In fact, she professes: “I am still not over the shock.”[5]