Is Dark Matter Made of Primordial Black Holes?

Astronomers studying the motions of galaxies and the character of the cosmic microwave background radiation came to realize in the last century that most of the matter in the universe was not visible. About 84% of the matter in the cosmos is dark matter, much of it located in halos around galaxies. It was dubbed dark matter because it does not emit light, but it is also mysterious: it is not composed of atoms or their usual constituents like electrons and protons.

Meanwhile, astronomers have observed the effects of black holes and recently even detected gravitational waves from a pair of merging black holes. Black holes usually are formed in the explosive death of massive stars, a process that can take many hundreds of millions of years as a star coalesces from ambient gas, evolves and finally dies. Some black holes are inferred to exist in the early universe, but there is probably is not enough time in the early universe for the normal formation process to occur. Some alternative methods have been proposed, like the direct collapse of primordial gas or processes associated with cosmic inflation, and many of these primordial black holes could have been made.

CfA astronomer Qirong Zhu led a group of four scientists investigating the possibility that today’s dark matter is composed of primordial black holes, following up on previously published suggestions. If galaxy halos are made of black holes, they should have a different density distribution than halos made of exotic particles. There are some other differences as well – black hole halos are expected to form earlier in a galaxy’s evolution than do some other kinds of halos. The scientists suggest that looking at the stars in the halos of faint dwarf galaxies can probe these effects because dwarf galaxies are small and faint (they shine with a mere few thousand solar luminosities) where slight effects can be more easily spotted. The team ran a set of computer simulations to test whether dwarf galaxy halos might reveal the presence of primordial black holes, and they find that they could: interactions between stars and primordial halo black holes should slightly alter the sizes of the stellar distributions. The astronomers also conclude that such black holes would need to have masses between about two and fourteen solar masses, right in the expected range for these exotic objects (although smaller than the black holes recently spotted by gravitational wave detectors) and comparable to the conclusions of other studies. The team emphasizes, however, that all the models are still inconclusive and the nature of dark matter remains elusive.

Reference(s):
“Primordial Black Holes as Dark Matter: Constraints from Compact Ultra-faint Dwarfs,” Qirong Zhu, Eugene Vasiliev, Yuexing Li, and Yipeng Jing, MNRAS 476, 2, 2018 (https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.05032)

https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/su201816

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Exploring evidence of interaction between dark energy and dark matter

One of the most important problems of theoretical physics is to explain the fact that the universe is in a phase of accelerated expansion. Since 1998 the physical origin of cosmic acceleration remains a deep mystery. According to general relativity (GR), if the universe is filled with ordinary matter or radiation, the two known constituents of the universe, gravity should slow the expansion. Since the expansion is speeding up, we are faced with two possibilities, either of which would have profound implications for our understanding of the cosmos and of the laws of physics. The first is that 75% of the energy density of the universe exists in a new form with large negative pressure, called dark energy (DE). The other possibility is that GR breaks down on cosmological scales and must be replaced with a more complete theory of gravity. In this paper we consider the first option. The cosmological constant, the simplest explanation of accelerated expansion, has a checkered history having been invoked and subsequently withdrawn several times before. In quantum field theory, we estimate the value of the cosmological constant as the zero-point energy with a short-cut scale, for example the Planck scale, which results in an excessively greater value than the observational results….

read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1804.03296.pdf

Gravitational waves without general relativity

strainRobert C. Hilborn
This tutorial leads the reader through the details of calculating the properties of gravitational waves from orbiting binaries, such as two orbiting black holes. Using analogies with electromagnetic radiation, the tutorial presents a calculation that produces the same dependence on the masses of the orbiting objects, the orbital frequency, and the mass separation as does the linear version of General Relativity (GR). However, the calculation yields polarization, angular distributions, and overall power results that differ from those of GR. Nevertheless, the calculation produces waveforms that are very similar to the pre-binary-merger portions of the signals observed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO-VIRGO) collaboration. The tutorial should be easily understandable by students who have taken a standard upper-level undergraduate course in electromagnetism.

Read more at https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1710/1710.04635.pdf

Free Will in the Theory of Everything

Gerard ‘t Hooft

From what is known today about the elementary particles of matter, and the forces that control their behavior, it may be observed that still a host of obstacles must be overcome that are standing in the way of further progress of our understanding. Most researchers conclude that drastically new concepts must be investigated, new starting points are needed, older structures and theories, in spite of their successes, will have to be overthrown, and new, superintelligent questions will have to be asked and investigated. In short, they say that we shall need new physics. Here, we argue in a different manner. Today, no prototype, or toy model, of any so-called Theory of Everything exists, because the demands required of such a theory appear to be conflicting. The demands that we propose include locality, special and general relativity, together with a fundamental finiteness not only of the forces and amplitudes, but also of the set of Nature’s dynamical variables. We claim that the two remaining ingredients that we have today, Quantum Field Theory and General Relativity, indeed are coming a long way towards satisfying such elementary requirements. Putting everything together in a Grand Synthesis is like solving a gigantic puzzle. We argue that we need the correct analytical tools to solve this puzzle. Finally, it seems to be obvious that this solution will give room neither for “Divine Intervention”, nor for “Free Will”, an observation that, all by itself, can be used as a clue. We claim that this reflects on our understanding of the deeper logic underlying quantum mechanics.
read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1709.02874.pdf

Memories of a Theoretical Physicist

Joseph Polchinski

While I was dealing with a brain injury and finding it difficult to work, two friends (Derek Westen, a friend of the KITP, and Steve Shenker, with whom I was recently collaborating), suggested that a new direction might be good. Steve in particular regarded me as a good writer and suggested that I try that. I quickly took to Steve’s suggestion. Having only two bodies of knowledge, myself and physics, I decided to write an autobiography about my development as a theoretical physicist.
This is not written for any particular audience, but just to give myself a goal. It will probably have too much physics for a nontechnical reader, and too little for a physicist, but perhaps there with be different things for each. Parts may be tedious. But it is somewhat unique, I think, a blow-by-blow history of where I started and where I got to.
Probably the target audience is theoretical physicists, especially young ones, who may enjoy comparing my struggles with their own. Some disclaimers: This is based on my own memories, jogged by the arXiv and Inspire. There will surely be errors and omissions. And note the title: this is about my memories, which will be different for other people. Also, it would not be possible for me to mention all the authors whose work might intersect mine, so this should not be treated as a reference work.

Read more at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1708.09093.pdf