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Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw confront the black hole information paradox

Particle physicists explain the latest thinking about what happens to the stuff that falls into black holes – and what it reveals about the universe’s deepest structure

Physics


September 20, 2022

Nabil Nezzar

A black hole is a region of space so dense that nothing, not even light, can move fast enough to escape. At least that was the thinking until the 1970s, when Stephen Hawking calculated that black holes aren’t completely black after all. Instead, Hawking argued, they slowly emit radiation – now known as Hawking radiation – which eventually means the black hole will evaporate.

Hawking’s calculations created a problem. Quantum theory says that information can never disappear, so what happens to the information that fell into the black hole? Where is he going? This is the black hole information paradox. It has troubled physicists for decades because it highlights the profound disconnect between general relativity, Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity from which black holes were summoned, and the laws of quantum theory that govern the subatomic realm.

Now, we seem to be on the verge of a resolution to this, with huge consequences for how we understand the most fundamental cosmos. All of this is the subject of a forthcoming book called Black holes: the key to understanding the universe by Jeff Forshaw and Brian Cox, both particle physicists at the University of Manchester, UK.

A new scientist He spoke to them about the latest thinking on the black hole information paradox, what it reveals about where spacetime comes from, and why the deep structure of the universe looks surprisingly similar to a quantum computer.

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