Where Does the Physics of Extreme Gravitational Collapse Reside?

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The gravitational collapse of massive stars serves to manifest the most severe deviations of general relativity with respect to Newtonian gravity: the formation of horizons and spacetime singularities. Both features have proven to be catalysts of deep physical developments, especially when combined with the principles of quantum mechanics. Nonetheless, it is seldom remarked that it is hardly possible to combine all these developments into a unified theoretical model, while maintaining reasonable prospects for the independent experimental corroboration of its different parts. In this paper we review the current theoretical understanding of the physics of gravitational collapse in order to highlight this tension, stating the position that the standard view on evaporating black holes stands for. This serves as the motivation for the discussion of a recent proposal that offers the opposite perspective, represented by a set of geometries that regularize the classical singular behavior and present modifications of the near-horizon Schwarzschild geometry as the result of the propagation of non-perturbative ultraviolet effects originated in regions of high curvature. We present an extensive exploration of the necessary steps on the explicit construction of these geometries, and discuss how this proposal could change our present understanding of astrophysical black holes and even offer the possibility of detecting genuine ultraviolet effects in gravitational-wave experiments.
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