Hawking offers new solution to ‘black hole information paradox’

New hope if you fall into a black hole
August 27, 2015

Nobel physics laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, confers with Stephen Hawking at a week-long conference at KTH Royal Institute of Technology on the information loss paradox (photo credit: Håkan Lindgren)

Addressing a current controversy in physics about information in black holes, “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.”

The event horizon is a boundary around a black hole beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, also known as “the point of no return” — where gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible.

Hawking is now suggesting that the information about any incoming particles passing through this event horizon is translated into a 2D hologram. “The idea is the super-translations are a hologram of the ingoing particles,” he said. “Thus they contain all the information that would otherwise be lost.”

That provides a new solution for the “black hole information paradox“: what happens to the information about the physical state of things that are swallowed up by black holes? Is it destroyed, as our understanding of general relativity would predict? If so, that would violate the laws of quantum mechanics.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology | Hawking presents new idea on how information could escape black holes

Hawking said that also offers hope (at least for the information that represents you) if you happen to have fallen into a black hole — supporting the premise of the movie Interstellar. If the hole was large and rotating, “it might have a passage to another universe” via Hawking radiation.

“But you couldn’t come back to our universe. So although I’m keen on space flight, I’m not going to try that.”

Model of a black hole for the movie Interstellar (credit: Warner Bros. Pictures International )

The conference is co-sponsored by Nordita, the University of North Carolina (UNC), and the Julian Schwinger Foundation. UNC physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton was instrumental in assembling 32 of the world’s leading physicists to tackle the problem, which stems from contradictions between quantum mechanics and general relativity.