[extropy-chat] Hawking says information *can* escape black holes
thespike at satx.rr.com
Thu Jul 15 07:40:08 UTC 2004
From New Scientist:
Hawking cracks black hole paradox
19:00 14 July 04
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
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After nearly 30 years of arguing that a black hole destroys everything that
falls into it, Stephen Hawking is saying he was wrong. It seems that black
holes may after all allow information within them to escape. Hawking will
present his latest finding at a conference in Ireland next week.
The about-turn might cost Hawking, a physicist at the University of
Cambridge, an encyclopaedia because of a bet he made in 1997. More
importantly, it might solve one of the long-standing puzzles in modern
physics, known as the black hole information paradox.
It was Hawking's own work that created the paradox. In 1976, he calculated
that once a black hole forms, it starts losing mass by radiating energy.
This "Hawking radiation" contains no information about the matter inside
the black hole and once the black hole evaporates, all information is lost.
But this conflicts with the laws of quantum physics, which say that such
information can never be completely wiped out. Hawking's argument was that
the intense gravitational fields of black holes somehow unravel the laws of
Other physicists have tried to chip away at this paradox. Earlier in 2004,
Samir Mathur of Ohio State University in Columbus and his colleagues showed
that if a black hole is modelled according to string theory - in which the
universe is made of tiny, vibrating strings rather than point-like
particles - then the black hole becomes a giant tangle of strings. And the
Hawking radiation emitted by this "fuzzball" does contain information about
the insides of a black hole (New Scientist print edition, 13 March).
Now, it seems that Hawking too has an answer to the conundrum and the
physics community is abuzz with the news. Hawking requested at the last
minute that he be allowed to present his findings at the 17th International
Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland.
"He sent a note saying 'I have solved the black hole information paradox
and I want to talk about it'," says Curt Cutler, a physicist at the Albert
Einstein Institute in Golm, Germany, who is chairing the conference's
scientific committee. "I haven't seen a preprint [of the paper]. To be
quite honest, I went on Hawking's reputation."
Though Hawking has not yet revealed the detailed maths behind his finding,
sketchy details have emerged from a seminar Hawking gave at Cambridge.
According to Cambridge colleague Gary Gibbons, an expert on the physics of
black holes who was at the seminar, Hawking's black holes, unlike classic
black holes, do not have a well-defined event horizon that hides everything
within them from the outside world.
In essence, his new black holes now never quite become the kind that gobble
up everything. Instead, they keep emitting radiation for a long time, and
eventually open up to reveal the information within. "It's possible that
what he presented in the seminar is a solution," says Gibbons. "But I think
you have to say the jury is still out."
At the conference, Hawking will have an hour on 21 July to make his case.
If he succeeds, then, ironically, he will lose a bet that he and
theoretical physicist Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology
(Caltech) in Pasadena made with John Preskill, also of Caltech.
They argued that "information swallowed by a black hole is forever hidden,
and can never be revealed".
"Since Stephen has changed his view and now believes that black holes do
not destroy information, I expect him [and Kip] to concede the bet,"
Preskill told New Scientist. The duo are expected to present Preskill with
an encyclopaedia of his choice "from which information can be recovered at
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