Skip to main content

Stephen Hawking believes he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes

stephen hawking black home hole
Speaking at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking announced that he may solved the Information Paradox with a new theory that explains how information can escape a black hole, reports New Scientist.

The Information Paradox is the result of two competing theories — one from quantum mechanics and one from general relativity — about the state of an object’s physical information when it encounters a black hole. Quantum mechanics predicts that the information remains intact within a black hole, while the relativity model suggests the information is destroyed due to the immense gravitational forces within a black hole. After more than four decades of debate, Hawking now proposes a third possibility in which the information remains intact because  it does not enter into the black hole, but is destroyed as part of the journey.

physicist_stephen_hawking“I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon,” Hawking said.

According to Hawking’s theory, the information about particles that enter a black hole is stored on the surface event horizon in the form of holograms. Hawking argues that these holograms “contain all the information that would otherwise be lost.” These particles may eventually escape the black hole, according to the principles of Hawking Radiation, which describes a way in which photons are released from a black hole as the result of random quantum fluctuations. These escaping photons pick up the physical information stored on the event horizon, but this information is returned in a useless form. This outcome, where information is stored, but also irretrievable, reconciles both sides of the Information Paradox.

His new theory is that Hawking radiation can pick up some of the information stored on the event horizon as it is emitted, providing a way for it to get out. But don’t expect to get a message from within, he said. “The information about ingoing particles is returned, but in a chaotic and useless form. This resolves the information paradox. For all practical purposes, the information is lost.”

Hawking described his theory at Tuesday’s Hawking Radiation Conference with a follow-up lecture by Cambridge Theoretical Physics Professor Malcolm Perry scheduled for Wednesday. Perry will provide additional details on this new theory with a paper from the pair expected to be released next month.

Editors' Recommendations

Hubble spots isolated black hole drifting alone through our galaxy
This is an artist’s impression of a black hole drifting through our Milky Way galaxy. The black hole is the crushed remnant of a massive star that exploded as a supernova. The surviving core is several times the mass of our Sun. The black hole traps light because of its intense gravitational field. The black hole distorts the space around it, which warps images of background stars lined up almost directly behind it. This gravitational "lensing" effect offers the only telltale evidence for the existence of lone black holes wandering our galaxy, of which there may be a population of 100 million. The Hubble Space Telescope goes hunting for these black holes by looking for distortion in starlight as the black holes drift in front of background stars.

Out in the depths of our galaxy roam lonely monsters: Isolated black holes which drift through space unattached to stars or other black holes. Though astronomers know that up to 100 million of these black holes exist in the Milky Way, they are exceedingly hard to spot. But now, data from the Hubble Space Telescope has been used to identify one of these lonely wanderers for the first time.

Located 5,00 light-years away in a spiral arm of the Milky Way called Carina-Sagittarius, the black hole was spotted by looking at the way it warps the light coming from stars behind it. As black holes don't emit any light themselves, their presence has to be inferred from seeing their effects such as the way their gravity bends light from other sources.

Read more
Black holes all look like donuts, regardless of their size
The EHT Collaboration created a flurry of images of Sagittarius A*, using ray tracing, a technique that visualizes the properties of the black hole based on data collected with the radio telescope array and predictions made by Einstein's theory of general relativity. The images shown here were created by UArizona's Chi-kwan Chan.

The release of a remarkable image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy isn't only an incredible scientific achievement -- it also agrees precisely with predictions about what black holes are and how these strange objects are formed by the power of gravity.

The black hole, called Sagittarius A*, is a type called a supermassive black hole, which is found at the center of almost all galaxies. Ours is on the smaller end for such giants: At 4.3 million times the mass of the sun, it's much smaller than other monsters like the one is Messier 87 which was imaged in 2019 and which is 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun.

Read more
See first-ever image of monstrous black hole at the heart of the Milky Way
This is the first image of Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. It’s the first direct visual evidence of the presence of this black hole. It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an array which linked together eight existing radio observatories across the planet to form a single “Earth-sized” virtual telescope. The telescope is named after the “event horizon”, the boundary of the black hole beyond which no light can escape.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, which famously captured the first-ever image of a black hole in 2019, has done it again -- this time capturing an image of a black hole within our own galaxy.

They have released an image of the enormous supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, called Sagittarius A* or Sgr A* (pronounced "sadge-ay-star"). This monster black hole has a mass 4.3 million times the mass of the sun -- though that makes it considerably smaller than the black hole previously imaged at the heart of Messier 87, which was calculated to be an almost incomprehensible 6.5 billion times the mass of the sun.

Read more