What happens to information in a black hole?

Inside a black hole, gravity is so intense that neither matter nor energy can escape. But in 1975, Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking said that something does escape: random particles now known as “Hawking radiation.” So if black holes eat organized matter – chock-full of information – and then spit out random noise, where does the information go?

Hawking said it gets locked up inside as the black hole eventually evaporates, destroying the information in the process. Which creates a paradox. Because the rules of physics say information, like matter and energy, can’t be destroyed.

Hawking was confident. He convinced his super-genius counterpart at Caltech, physicist Kip Thorne, that he was right – but Thorne’s colleague John Preskill remained skeptical. So they made a bet: Hawking and Thorne said the singularity at the heart of a black hole destroyed information; Preskill said “nuh-uh.” Then, in 2004, Hawking reversed his position and decided that things that fall into a singularity aren’t lost; their information does leak out, though no one, except maybe Hawking himself, can explain why or how.

He presented Preskill with a baseball encyclopedia from which, presumably, information can be retrieved at will. Preskill accepted only grudgingly. “Even if you’re Stephen Hawking, it’s possible to be wrong twice,” he says.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s