Monday, April 3, 2023

An Answer to Hawking's Paradox about Black Holes Could be in Sight

5:39 PM | , , ,

black hole illustration
According to quantum mechanics, information about what has been engulfed by a black hole cannot be eradicated, and now scientists assert that they have deciphered how it is retained.

For a long time, physicists have been trying to explain the discrepancy between quantum mechanics and black holes, which appear to annihilate information. This has been referred to as the black hole information paradox. Recently, however, a research team believes they have discovered the answer to this conundrum.

In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking proposed that black holes slowly evaporate and release random particles, known as Hawking radiation. This implies that anything that enters a black hole is destroyed as the black hole diminishes. However, this is a problem because quantum mechanics dictates that if one knows the condition of a closed system at any point, they should be able to determine its state in the future or the past. But, if Hawking radiation is truly random, this is impossible.

Calmet from the University of Sussex and his team have advanced an approach that has fixed the issue at hand by using a framework referred to as quantum field theory. "We conducted the same calculation that Hawking did during the 70s, but with quantum gravity being taken into account," says Calmet. "The black hole information paradox is now resolved and we have a better comprehension of the physics."

Previous studies discovered that when using quantum mechanical corrections to the growth of stars into black holes, the black holes' gravitational fields could retain data of the materials that had collapsed in. Now, the researchers have concluded what happens to this information as the black hole dissipates.

Solving this issue is troublesome due to the manner in which the information is released. Neil Lambert, from King's College London, explained it as: "If you think of your data as Lego pieces and then you have a black hole made of Lego, then over the course of the lifetime of the universe, a single Lego piece at a time, the details come out. You put in a huge amount of information, and it all comes out in such limited portions and slowly, that you need to delve really deeply into the theory to comprehend how the information that was put in relates to what is being released."

Calmet and the scientists he was working with estimated that the gravitational pull of the black hole would have a slight effect on the energy spectrum of the Hawking radiation being produced. He states, "It's only a slight modification, however it indicates that the spectrum carries information." Generally, the Hawking radiation is thought to be random, implying that any order in the spectrum could enable information to escape the black hole and be kept safe as it evaporates.

Yet, other scholars in the field have not been content with this. According to Daniel Harlow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "this does not solve the issue". These objections mostly revolve around the idea that this theory does not have enough details on how the information is kept, particularly when the black hole dissipates entirely. Lambert commented, "I don't think this has been accepted by the community since I don't think it is exact enough."

According to Harlow, a fundamental shift in our comprehension of the way our universe works is necessary to resolve the black hole information paradox, and using the existing laws of physics and quantum field theory alone will not suffice.

The task of testing this work will be hard to do as Hawking radiation is so tiny. Calmet has stated, "It is practically impossible to measure - we have never seen Hawking radiation from an actual black hole." He believes that it will never be calculated in astrophysics, but there are ways to create analogs of black holes in which Hawking radiation can be simulated. Therefore, it is possible that these analogs will bring forth a solution.


Calmet, Xavier and others wrote a paper on quantum corrections to particle formation as a result of black holes in Physics Letters B, DOI: 10.1016/j.physletb.2023.137820.

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