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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A breakthrough on black holes?

Black Hole

Stephen Hawking made a splash in the physics world early this month when he said scientists have been mistaken about black holes all along 

Clouding scientists’ understanding of  black holes is the “information paradox.” Black holes are said to devour everything around them, but simply erasing information about the consumed matter goes against our current understanding of physics. Hawking and two associates claimed this information may never reach the black hole after all, and instead gets “stuck” at the black hole’s event horizon. 

While this would solve the black hole paradox, many physicists are still waiting for the math behind Hawking’s words before they rewrite any physics textbooks. 

Nicholas Suntzeff, astronomy professor at Texas A&M, said black holes are a paradox — while information can’t be destroyed, black holes seem to do just that. 

 “Information cannot be destroyed, it always morphs into some other form,” Suntzeff said. “You can increase information but you can’t destroy it.” 

If information gets pulled into a black hole, it stays there and has no way to escape. Therefore, black holes violate this idea that information cannot be lost.

A black hole forms when a very big star collapses in on itself, resulting in the explosion of the star. This is commonly known as a supernova. After such an event occurs, it leaves a massive region where gravity is so strong that no matter or light can escape. 

In 1974, Hawking hypothesized that black holes emit a type of radiation, now known as “Hawking radiation,” which causes black holes to slowly lose mass and vaporize in space. This has created the “information paradox,” a problem in fundamental physics that refuses to be solved. 

When Hawking made his claim, he was speaking in reference to his idea of event horizon. Instead of a black hole devouring the information around itself, the information is held at its surface. 

When asked about Hawking’s claim, Suntzeff said it was only a statement and did not mean much because there was no math behind it. He went on to say since nothing  was written, no one really knows what Hawking is talking about.

Hawking and two other prominent physicists, Matthew Perry and Andrew Strominger, plan to submit a paper in one month to provide an explanation of their statement. 

“If those three people write a paper, usually if it’s not right, it’s incredibly provocative,” Suntzeff said.

Suntzeff said this particular subject is of such interest to a larger physics audience because it may open up a new window for discovery.

“If this [Information] paradox can be solved, it gives insight how to merge the theory of gravity with all the other forces we know in nature,” Suntzeff said.

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