Black holes and their possible wigs

Black-Hole-WigsIt was somewhere around 1973 that the high-end theoretical physicist and H-bomb co-developer (the late) professor emeritus John Archibald Wheeler announced that “A black hole has no hair.” [in: Gravitation, Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John Archibald Wheeler]

The concept, which was later consolidated as the ‘No-hair theorem’ has since been updated with a twist – although black holes may not have hair, perhaps they could instead sport ‘wigs’? For a recent paper on the subject, see, for example: ‘Numerical simulations of single and binary black holes in scalar-tensor theories: circumventing the no-hair theorem’ [E Berti, V Cardoso, L Gualtieri, M Horbatsch – Physical Review D, 2013 – APS]

“Scalar-tensor theories are a compelling alternative to general relativity and one of the most accepted extensions of Einstein’s theory. Black holes in these theories have no hair, but could grow ‘wigs’ supported by time-dependent boundary conditions or spatial gradients.“

There are a number of earlier papers on the subject, and Improbable has attempted to uncover the origin of the black-hole-wig concept. The current best-guess is that it appeared in 1995, in this paper by Ana Achúcarro, Ruth Gregory and Konrad Kuijken: ‘Abelian Higgs hair for black holes’ [Physical Review D, 1995 – APS] Which contains the following paragraph:

“Finally, we try to answer the question of whether the Abelian Higgs vortex is true hair, or whether it is just horizon dressing, and would be more appropriately dubbed a ‘wig’”

Bonus: A Wheeleresque parody paper

Professor Wheeler sometimes had a colourful writing style, applying liberal helpings of a kind of meta-poetic language to his explanations of perplexing theoretical physics concepts. Whether that helped to clarify things or not is open for debate.

“Einstein’s battle-tested and still-standard geometric theory of gravitation leaves no room for ifs, ands, or buts about the dynamics of a 3-sphere model universe. It is a one-cycle only dynamics. It totally rules out any cycle after cycle after cycle history, world without end. No place whatsoever does it provide for any ‘before’ before the big bang, any ‘after’ after the big crunch. Never has there been a human without a navel. No other way offers itself for his creation. It is conceivable that the universe likewise could never have come into existence were it not endowed in its history-to-be with a double belly-button: big bang and big crunch. What goes on at these two gates of time is still, however, beyond our ken.”

[in: ‘A journey into Gravity and Spacetime’ John Archibald Wheeler, page 243, 1990]

Earlier, in 1974, similarly styled Wheeler-prose had inspired author John Archibald Wyler* to write a comedic parody, that was nonetheless published in the normally serious journal General Relativity and Gravitation (Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 175-182) ‘Rasputin, science, and the transmogrification of destiny’ [the full paper may be found here]

*Does anyone know who it was?

Also see: (possibly partially related or otherwise) Hairy Ball Update 2012


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