Black holes could reveal their quantum-superposition states, new calculations reveal

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EXCERPTS: Quantum superposition is not just a property of subatomic particles but also of the most massive objects in the universe. That is the conclusion of four theoretical physicists in Australia and Canada who calculated the hypothetical response of a particle detector placed some distance from a black hole. The researchers say the detector would see novel signs of superimposed space–times, implying that the black hole may have two different masses simultaneously.

[...] This is an important goal of theoretical physics that would reconcile quantum mechanics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In particular, by considering black holes in quantum superposition, physicists hope to gain insights into the quantum nature of space–time.

In the latest work, reported in Physical Review Letters, Joshua Foo and Magdalena Zych of the University of Queensland together with Cemile Arabaci and Robert Mann at the University of Waterloo outline what they describe as a new operational framework for studying space–time superpositions. Rather than using a “top-down” approach to quantize general relativity they instead consider the effects of a black hole’s quantum state on the behaviour of a specific physical device called an Unruh–deWitt detector.

[...] In their thought experiment, the quartet envisage an Unruh–deWitt detector located at a specific point outside a black hole’s event horizon, with the detector’s fixed position enabled by an acceleration away from the black hole that yields the Hawking radiation. The researchers consider the effect of a superposition of the black hole’s mass on the output of that detector... (MORE - missing details)

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