The prediction that black holes radiate due to quantum effects is often considered one of the most secure in quantum field theory in curved space-time. Yet this prediction rests on two dubious assumptions: that ordinary physics may be applied to vacuum fluctuations at energy scales increasing exponentially without bound; and that quantum-gravitational effects may be neglected. Various suggestions have been put forward to address these issues: that they might be explained away by lessons from sonic black hole models; that the prediction is indeed successfully reproduced by quantum gravity; that the success of the link provided by the prediction between black holes and thermodynamics justifies the prediction. This paper explains the nature of the difficulties, and reviews the proposals that have been put forward to deal with them. None of the proposals put forward can so far be considered to be really successful, and simple dimensional arguments show that quantum-gravitational effects might well alter the evaporation process outlined by Hawking. Thus a definitive theoretical treatment will require an understanding of quantum gravity in at least some regimes. Until then, no compelling theoretical case for or against radiation by black holes is likely to be made. The possibility that non-radiating "mini" black holes exist should be taken seriously; such holes could be part of the dark matter in the Universe. Attempts to place observational limits on the number of "mini" black holes (independent of the assumption that they radiate) would be most welcome.
Reports on Progress in Physics
- Pub Date:
- June 2003
- General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology;
- High Energy Physics - Theory
- review article, 80 pp., 3 included eps figures, IOP macros (included)