back to article Stephen Hawking reckons he's cracked the black hole paradox

Last August, Stephen Hawking tantalised the world by saying he'd worked out a solution to the “black hole paradox”. He's now dropped the first detailed discussion of his hypothesis for the world to pore over, here at ArXiv in a paper entitled Soft hair on black holes. The black hole paradox wouldn't have arisen if not for his …

  1. werdsmith Silver badge

    If there were no people like Mr Hawking and his colleagues to discover and offer these explanations, then life would go on but humanity would be a lesser species.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I feel just the opposite. I'm growing quite weary now of people like Hawking going on about things will probably just turn out to be utter nonsense.

      1. the-it-slayer

        Plenty of people in Einstein's time probably thought the same thing. Mad man bursting out N number of theories just to expel some hot air. But he turned about to be correct when science could prove his theories. Just saying.

  2. Richard 12 Silver badge

    I'm told that bald men have tiny hairs too

    This rather strikes me as clutching at straws - in both cases.

    Perhaps future work will flesh out the theory though.

    1. Chris 244

      Re: I'm told that bald men have tiny hairs too

      They don't in fact lose hair, it just migrates...

      ...to the eyebrows, nose, and ears.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I'm told that bald men have tiny hairs too

        @ Chris 244:

        I've found the missing material in both yours and probably Professor Hawking's model. You left out back hair!!

        (I'll get my coat, because you probably don't want to see me with it off!!)

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: I'm told that bald men have tiny hairs too

      Well, let's look at what happens when something approaches, then enters the event horizon.

      Time, for the object, slows down more and more, relative to the rest of the universe.

      Upon entering the event horizon, time is so dilated, that time stops for the object. It's quite literally, frozen at the event horizon.

      Now, let's see what happens when the black hole evaporates enough for the object to be above the event horizon.

      It was falling before, it falls again, straight into the new event horizon.

      Eventually, the black hole will be small enough that the curve of approach and escape velocity is low enough that the object now escapes unharmed.

      Quite likely, some time after proton decay.

  3. Rol Silver badge

    Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

    One day, when we are able to fully comprehend the many dimensions that make up our universe, we will look back and snigger at the multitude of convoluted theories that did the rounds. Isn't it enough to just hold your hands up and say, "we haven't got a clue", but we have some ideas on what to do about it.

    So, information is "lost" in a black hole, like water is lost when it goes down the sink. It's all relative to the onlooker, the water still exists, even though I can't see it.

    Perhaps OFWAT could advise the universe on its billing and then we could account for every atom that gets flushed out, just by checking our intergalactic utility bill.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

      >>"Isn't it enough to just hold your hands up and say, "we haven't got a clue", but we have some ideas on what to do about it."

      And isn't it the case that papers like this are exactly us having some ideas on what to do about it? And who says "we haven't got a clue"? You? Ever since Newton we've been making great strides in studying the universe and building models that we hope will simulate it and then finding ways to test those models. We're trying to observe Hawking Radiation right now and might even be able to measure it at CERN some day. So just because YOU think "we haven't got a clue" and will one day look back and laugh at scientists like Stephen Hawking, doesn't mean we will. Right or wrong, their theories are steps towards understanding the workings of our universe.

      >>"So, information is "lost" in a black hole, like water is lost when it goes down the sink. It's all relative to the onlooker, the water still exists, even though I can't see it."

      This is a misunderstanding. The point is that information shouldn't be lost from the Universe. If Information is lost then you can throw out determinism. You'd have effect without cause because the cause (information) no longer existed. We're not talking about something not being known to a specific observer - that happens all the time. We're talking about something not being known to the universe. Which is a rather more alarming prospect because then you have a universe that is operating based on things that didn't happen. Do you see what is meant by information in this context? The spin of a particle, the momentum it has. These are the things that determine what happens when it bumps into another particle. If information is lost then there's no determinism. It's not "water down a sink" where we simply can't see it anymore. We (people) are not the "we" in that sentence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

        "If Information is lost then you can throw out determinism. [..] If information is lost then there's no determinism."

        You've said it twice, but you haven't explained why.

        I think it's implied by our current understanding of quantum mechanics, and physicists believe in it quite strongly. But it's not what I'd call obvious. It's easy enough to imagine a deterministic universe, superficially similar to our universe, in which information is lost.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

          >>You've said it twice, but you haven't explained why.

          Well, that's not a fair comment. I did try and explain it in the post you replied to. However, I think E2's explanation is best below: link. But I'll take another stab at it as you replied to me.

          You have to understand what Information is in this context. It is distinct from "things we know". Nobody is saying that some real person can no longer find something out. That's true, but it's not an accurate description because there are lots of other reasons why we might not know something - for example, not having the tools to measure something. What it means in this context is that the Information actually is lost - entirely. Determinism follows from being able to model interactions. Particle X with mass blah at velocity yada collides with particle Y which has... Etc. Imagine a blackboard with lots of such equations written on it. Then you wipe away parts of it. Now you have particle Y flying off in a random direction with no reason. The information about Particle X was lost. Now to get this, I have to re-emphasize the key point. I'm NOT talking about us the humans not knowing something. I'm talking about the information being lost. Until one understands that these are different things, one cannot understand the problem with a theory in which information is lost. A theory in which information is lost is a theory in which things happen without a definable cause.

          And I'm afraid that's probably my best effort at this as I'm not a theoretical physicist. If it doesn't explain it (which it may well not), then I'm out. Personally, I'd stick with E2's explanation below which is better than mine.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: is a theory in which things happen without a definable cause.

            Yes, and that's a real solution. It's just not one that you like.

          2. DougS Silver badge

            @h4rm0ny

            I see why your explanation is being questioned. You talk about determinism following from being able to model if particle X with mass A collides with particle Y with mass B we can figure out what happens. OK, so far that's fine. Let's say particle Y goes into a black hole and information about it was lost. How that does that make the outcome of the collision that preceded particle Y going into the black hole non-deterministic? Particle X is still going to fly off where it did because that happened prior to information about particle Y being lost.

            What this would do is eliminate the ability to "rewind time" and figure out why particle X is where it is, which may indeed matter in some more modern theories but in classical determinism it does not.

            Classical determinism says the universe is essentially like a billiards table, so if you know the initial state of all particles (balls) in the universe (on the table) and move one with a specific mass in a specific direction and with a specific velocity and specific spin, you will know what happens to every particle (ball) in the universe (on the table) since their interactions with each other happen according to known laws of physics. In this model a particle going into a black hole is no different than a ball going into a corner pocket. It had its effect on the determinism of the universe/table prior to that time, but once it enters the hole it ceases to exist and all information about it visible to the universe / to the pool table is erased.

            1. E2

              Re: @h4rm0ny

              "How that does that make the outcome of the collision that preceded particle Y going into the black hole non-deterministic?"

              It makes the dynamics of the coupled X,Y and black-hole system non-D, at least under any time reversal symmetric dynamics.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: @h4rm0ny

                It makes the dynamics of the coupled X,Y and black-hole system non-D, at least under any time reversal symmetric dynamics.

                Which I specifically pointed out in my post, and said that the people questioning the loss of determinism are doing so under classical determinism which has no time reversal symmetry requirement.

          3. Gary Bickford

            Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

            This reminds me if an old SF story, where a scientist announces hechas found the equation that determines the entire universe. When he presents it on a chalkboard, one if his colleagues shoutts out, "You are incorrect! You have inverted a sign at step 14!"

            Sadly, the scientist begins to erase his work. And as he does so, the Universe disappears.

          4. Esme

            Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

            @H4m0ny - it seems to me that one of the problems here may be that of nomenclature, and in particular, how we define the term 'universe'. Yer average person doubtless thinks of the universe as being everywhere ptentiallyvisitable if you had a spaceship capable of supporting life indefinitely and some means of keeping yourself aloive indefinitely.

            By that definition, sure, stuff that has fallen into a collapsar no longer exists in our universe. However, it DOES still exist in another set of dimensions with their x,y,z and time dimensions at 'right-angles', so to speak to their equivalents in 'our universe'. So now we're into 'multiverse' territory So howsabout if we rename our 'universe' the Verse, and the 'multiverse' the 'universe'? Does this put a different perspective on things?

            I'd be interested if anyone knowledgable cares to comment on this, as it has a bearing on stuff I've been beating my brains out with for some years, in my strictly ameteurish cogitations to do with the Big Bang and the inflationary period.

            TL,DR version; I don't think it gets destroyed, it's simply that the definition of 'universe' being used is incorrect, and that amongst all that exists (which includes the set of dimensions we inhabit and misname 'the universe' as a subset), information IS conserved, it;s only 'locally' that it appears not to be so. Much like some other conservation laws, in fact.

            1. Rol Silver badge

              Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

              Exactly my point. We live in a multidimensional universe, yet many of our physicists are obsessed with trying to explain it using just a handful of them. Thus we get such drivel as dark matter and cats hairs instead of consideration for dimensions that we might just be getting a peek at.

              Hopefully, one day physics will rid itself of the need to vehemently shout down anything that isn't propagated by an arrogant elite.

      2. theOtherJT

        Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

        If Information is lost then you can throw out determinism. You'd have effect without cause because the cause

        Don't we already have that tho? We have no idea where these particle pairs come from in the first place - they just seem to spontaneously spring into existence. We don't know why radioactive substances decay when they do either. We can do some statistical analysis on them and say that "well, in X amount of time half of it will be gone" but we can't say which half, or why it will be that half not the other, it just... happens.

        I thought determinism was already a pretty much abandoned concept at this point. Some events do appear to be genuinely random.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

          >>"Don't we already have that tho? We have no idea where these particle pairs come from in the first place - they just seem to spontaneously spring into existence. We don't know why radioactive substances decay when they do either."

          Well some of that is above my degree-grade so I don't know whether we know that or not (as a species, I mean). However, these are both examples of us not knowing something. That is different to a theory requiring something to happen without a cause. Or rather for mathematics to only make sense in one direction.

          I've thought of another way to put it. Suppose we say a+b = 4. Now we don't know the values of a or b. That's like your example. Now suppose we say that a + 2 = 4, but then go on to say that 4 - a might not equal 2. How can that be? We have lost information about a. It was there and now it's not. This is more like the examples we're talking about. If you can run mathematics forwards, but not backwards, then you're violating determinism. For reasons that E2 is putting better than I am elsewhere... :)

          1. E2

            Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

            Once you start talking QM and GR together, it's above my degree grade as well ( Unification of these 2 is one of, if not the, unresolved issues in physics ).

            As normally presented, QM is a touch internally inconsistent. One the one hand, the microscopic systems' dynamics when isolated are deterministic. Coupled microscopic systems are also detirministic. But when mixed states are forced by measurement ( executed by classical, macroscopic apparatus ) to chose between eigenstates, the wavefunction collapse - Dirac jump - is acausal. I.e. non-detirministic. This fundamental acausality ( no hidden variables ) is experimentally supported using Bell's theorem.

            Problem is, the classical aperatus, experimental observer, etc. are made up of coupled atoms and molecules, etc. Analysed from this angle, how, where, and when do their consituent coupled deterministic systems suddenly and mysteriously exibit acausality ?

            There is some interesting stuff on " thermodynamically irreversable quantum decoherence" which addresses this. But whether fully or just partially, I'm not up to knowing. Unfortunately (IMO) it hasn't made it into the non-specialist narrative.

          2. theOtherJT

            Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

            If you can run mathematics forwards, but not backwards, then you're violating determinism.

            Well, ok, but running backwards black holes are spewing matter into the universe from beyond their event horizon all the time. I don't see why that's any more weird than things just suddenly coming into existence with no obvious cause. All we're really saying is that on the other side of that... thing... there's something we know bugger all about because we can't measure it in any way. That might equally apply to the event horizon of a black hole, or the surface of space-time itself as far as I can tell - but then I'm not a theoretical physicist.

            1. E2

              Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

              My take on this, FWIW. In the simplest, non-QM, view of black holes, they are violating determinism. The matter collapses to a singularity, which can't have structure, so history is lost, just the parameters set by physical conservation laws - mass-energy, charge, angular momentum etc. being retained. Physically, we don't expect a singularity, as QM will kick in. So, at this level, the "black-hole paradox" is a bit hype-ish. Physical theory breaks down at the limit where you expect it to break down at. Challenge for the Hawkings of this world is to introduce QM in ways that recover the features we expect in a consistent theory.

      3. Rol Silver badge

        Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

        "Right or wrong, their theories are steps towards understanding the workings of our universe."

        or another hurdle to overcome before we set off in a more considered direction.

        Having stuff disappear off into another dimension is only a problem for those who cannot let go of some tenets of physics, that are similarly stifling debate and alternative reasoning.

        So what if an asteroid spinning wildly out of the Crab nebula cannot point back at the miscreant that nudged it, as it no longer exists in our concept of universe?

        Just because our physics doesn't work at the extremes, doesn't make them irrelevant, or more to the point, desperately needing some fairy tale cods wallop to keep them pertinent.

        For all practical purpose our physics hits the mark, for strange events involving transitions into another dimension they don't, but why should they.

        It would be like demanding all vehicles had to be fitted with an altimeter, because some vehicles fly.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

          >>>>"Right or wrong, their theories are steps towards understanding the workings of our universe."

          >>or another hurdle to overcome before we set off in a more considered direction.

          What's the difference between your "hurdle" and my step? You can't know if your direction is wrong until you go some way down the path. A lot of Science is about crossing off what's false and arriving at what's left. The point is this is productive scientific work and no less so if it finds something isn't true than if it is.

          >>"Having stuff disappear off into another dimension is only a problem for those who cannot let go of some tenets of physics, that are similarly stifling debate and alternative reasoning"

          See, it's phrases like "stuff disappears off into another dimension" that fail to convince me you have a better line of enquiry than plugging holes in some of our existing theories - which this work does.

          >>"So what if an asteroid spinning wildly out of the Crab nebula cannot point back at the miscreant that nudged it, as it no longer exists in our concept of universe?"

          Then our concept of the Universe is not our end concept. Hence work like this to move that concept forward.

          >>"For all practical purpose our physics hits the mark, for strange events involving transitions into another dimension they don't, but why should they."

          You talk from a position of belief that what you say is true. Science isn't about belief, it's about making predictive models. It's pointless to make a statement like "our Physics can't model the way things move into another dimension". If it can't, then you don't know that such a thing is happening. You need to build a model that does and then test it.

          >>"It would be like demanding all vehicles had to be fitted with an altimeter, because some vehicles fly."

          That analogy is atrocious.

          1. Rol Silver badge

            Re: @h4rm0ny

            If it wasn't such an house of cards, you wouldn't be having to attack me personally in order that such blithering nonsense could be maintained for another generation to wrangle over.

            Get over yourself, if you lack the imagination to see my gibberish is no less relevant, then might I suggest you get out of theoretical physics and into, I don't know, perhaps religious fundamentalism, where imagination would be a significant handicap.

            1. Rol Silver badge

              Re: @h4rm0ny

              and you don't need to wait too long for an excellent example of how physicists tie themselves in ever more complicated knots while ignoring the bleeding obvious:- BBC's Horizon program about the secrets of the Solar system spent at least half an hour coming up with ever more exotic theories about how Jupiter formed after the Sun ignited. I can't tell you what happened in the second half, because I couldn't suffer any more of it.

              Well, Jupiter is an impossibility, it can't exist, as the forces emanating from our Sun would have blown all the necessary components that make up Jupiter and the other gas giants into oblivion and so something weird happened to make Jupiter form really quickly after the Sun came into being....and so the program went on... completely overlooking the most obvious fact, that the Sun was at one stage in its life nothing more than a gas giant itself and likely to have a clutch of sisters, which we might call Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, all quite capable of retaining their composure as their elder sibling went nuclear. But no, we have to stick with the idea that the Sun was the only entity around and everything else came after and hence back flips and somersaults ensue as large brains try to shoehorn ever more fantastical theories into accepted knowledge so as to keep the original hypothesis current.

              Perhaps the program goes on to explore the very hypothesis I just made, as the format tends to be a grain of truth orbited by controversy and utter bollocks, to keep the target audience riveted to their high chairs, and I threw my toys out too early to find out.

    2. Charles Manning

      Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

      Well that would be another way to solve the problem.

      The string theory people that the universe is already 11 dimensional. Why not just dimensions++ to hide the information there?

      If you look at quantum theory from the outside it looks like a huge conspiracy to take the piss out of the rest of us mere mortals.

      Something is in two places at the same time. Yes they really are. But if you look, then the mere act of looking makes it only in one place. Ok, got that?

      Now look at the 3D world around you looks like it made out of different stuff. Well it's really made out of the same stuff, just bent in different ways. But you can't see the bends because they are in other dimensions.

      etc etc

      By now Startrek is sounding more than believable.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Would you like another dimension with that, sir!

      One day, when the rest of the world realizes the Reg commentariat are so much more brilliant than everyone else, they'll ... dust off and nuke the site from orbit, probably.

      In the meantime we'll just have to wallow in our superior knowledge, I suppose.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Soft Photons

    What's a soft photon? Is it the kind you use to make soft holograms? And how does they differ from the regular photons that my monitor is currently drowning my face in?

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Soft Photons

      "What's a soft photon?"

      I would have thought that's obvious - it's where the hard photons get their lunch money from in return for some threats of violence

    2. Diodelogic

      Re: Soft Photons

      A "soft" photon is one with low energy. As I understand it, in Hawking's theory, soft photons have zero energy. It's like differentiating between "soft" and "hard" X-rays.

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Pint

        One of the fundemental particles of æther

        and without which there could be no ectoplasm. Soft photons are issued by the decay of phlogiston.

  5. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Joke

    A Prize to the first person who googles "soft hair"

    From Work.....

    1. Daniel Hall
      Paris Hilton

      Re: A Prize to the first person who googles "soft hair"

      I see no issues...

      I was expecting something much worse than adverts and links to shampoo and blonde models waving their hair.

      https://www.google.com/search?q=soft+hair&oq=soft+hair&aqs=chrome..69i57&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Old Handle

      Re: A Prize to the first person who googles "soft hair"

      Shampoo ads (and Hawking) what were you expecting? (And what do I win?)

  6. TeeCee Gold badge
    WTF?

    Ok, so far so good.

    However, once those ridiculously large number of billions of years are up and the black hole disappears, what happens to all the hairy information stored in its, now non-existant, event horizon?

    This one looks like it belongs in the category of "Ridiculous answers given 'cos nobody's got the balls to say that the question's a load of cobblers."

    1. Holleritho Silver badge

      Trepidation

      I guess I'd just hang back a bit and think if it coud be that a question posed by Stephen Hawking could be cobblers. It might be, but I wouldn't put money on it.

    2. Doctor_Wibble

      > the question's a load of cobblers

      I think you got downvotes because you are saying things that sound dangerously close to Questioning The Hawking which is almost as bad as Contradicting The Dawkins (etc)...

      FTA: "Hawking hasn't yet provided a mechanism that preserves information after radiation has boiled away a black hole"

      That remark missing the point that the radiation (intensity, direction etc) that is boiling away is all part of the total information but of course that's one of those things where the act of observing that radiation will alter it in some way so although the information exists you will have no deterministic way of knowing what it actually is (or rather, 'was', because we can only see the past).

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      "However, once those ridiculously large number of billions of years are up and the black hole disappears, what happens to all the hairy information stored in its, now non-existant, event horizon?"

      I haven't read Hawking's proposal so I don't know his answer. But I'm sure he's aware of it -- since the problem he's trying to answer is, "Where does the information go?" The hair is an attempt to prevent the information entering the black hole so that it can leave again as it boils away.

      One thing is certain: our theories predict information is lost. Which means something is wrong somewhere. There are a good number of guesses as to what. Some modify our existing theories; some accept the loss is real and use it predict the final state of a black hole.

    4. PleebSmasher
      Alien

      That also came to my mind. And right there at the end of the article:

      "Another problem that Hossenfelder identifies is that Hawking hasn't yet provided a mechanism that preserves information after radiation has boiled away a black hole."

      Clearly the information is stored in a soft hole.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Clearly the information is stored in a soft hole."

        Clearly you used the wrong icon. Where is Paris Hilton?

  7. AustinTX
    Coffee/keyboard

    Other ways to preserve information

    I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that what a black hole does is convert matter into gravity. Sort of like a standing wave that grows and grows. The way the information about in-falling matter is represented and preserved is in changes in the black hole's mass and angular momentum. In other words, it vibrates. Obviously, this makes the information far too subtle and complex for mankind to interpret, but it works fine in the reverse direction. Imagine a white hole which vibrates and loses mass in precisely the reverse way a black hole has encoded it. The result could be the creation of particles possessing velocity. Where are all the white holes? I suspect they're a wide-area effect instead of objects. Perhaps particles disappearing into black holes re-appear throughout the galaxy's bulge, which helps to explain the relationship with the bulge's size and the mass of it's minuscule central black hole.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other ways to preserve information

      "I'm no scientist"

      No shit,Sherlock.....

    2. Evil Graham

      Re: Other ways to preserve information

      I'm no scientist, but...

      I bet Professor Hawking is wondering why he bothered now. If only he'd had your email address eh?

    3. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: Other ways to preserve information

      I'm giving you a thumbs up, AustinTX. Not because I think you're right, but because I don't believe you should be penalised for showing some imagination. It would have been nice if your downvoters explained the flaw in your reasoning (something to do with future light cones, I'd guess) but they've decided to ridicule you instead.

      Personally, I don't know enough about physics to know which theories about information loss in black holes make sense and which don't, but it still doesn't stop me thinking about it. I don't think that white holes can work (we've never seen them), but what about the idea of black holes being a source of dark energy/dark matter? I think you'd need a few things:

      * for the event horizon (or internal structure close to it) not to be smooth, but to encode information about things that have fallen in

      * for that state to be updated over the life of the black hole

      * for there to be some correlation between the Hawking radiation that's emitted and the things that fell into the hole in the first place

      I don't understand how gravity works, so I don't know if information could be preserved using it alone. It probably wouldn't work because various conservation laws would be broken.

      So my thinking, which is probably just as invalid as yours, is along the lines of:

      * information encoded near the event horizon acts like a diffraction grating

      * information spread out holographically across a large expanse of normal space/time

      * spacetime around event horizon probably has to have a fractal structure

      * underlying field equations have to go from using complex numbers to quaternions

      * non-commutativity of quaternions never becomes an issue for normal matter in normal space, but adds a "twist" near singularity

      * virtual particles travelling through "q-space" show up as dark energy/dark matter

      * "twists" between normal matter/energy and dark matter/energy only happen near singularities

      My idea is that as paired particles are created near the event horizon, one of them travels through normal Euclidean space, while the other goes through this "q-space". To preserve various censorship principles, anything travelling through the q-space would have to teleport to a point so far away, in space and time, that it shouldn't be possible to correlate inputs to outputs without taking infinite time. Eventually, though, all virtual particles will meet up with their twins again. It's just that they have to take different routes, through q-space and/or dark energy matter forms in the interim.

      With all we don't know about the Universe, from dark matter to inflation, maybe someone more clever than me could come up with the maths to unify everything in a quaternion basis...

      (downvotes expected :)

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Re: Other ways to preserve information

        The reason that posts like AustinTx have to be downvoted is that it is pseudo-science. i.e It sounds good because it uses loads of nice complex terms that the lay person may of heard of, but is based on no proof, rigor or in many cases of pseudo-science any form of reality.

        It's fine to have your own ideas as long as it is used for the basis of learnin, but the danger is that to many pseudo-science articles get presented as facts by people who know no better because they fit in with their world view, rather than the any basis on actual facts.

        When scientists who have actually intensively re-searched the actual problem and follow the scientific method explain why a pet layman theory is not so, they get insulted and the conspiracy theorists get going.

        We see this process all too readily in climate science, medicine, and other fields. Therefore it is not enough to let such comments slide, but they need to be be stamped on quickly otherwise people assume by the lack of disagreement that there is some truth in the statements.

        It is fine to ask questions and show ignorance (lets face it there are only a handful of people in the world who truly understand the theories), but by presenting alternative theories based on nothing more than gut feeling just denigrates whole scientific process and the many years of research people like Hawking have done

        1. Louis Schreurs BEng

          Re: Other ways to preserve information

          Significant progress in science is often made by following a gut feeling.

      2. AustinTX

        Re: Other ways to preserve information

        I just want to say how honored I am that you feel my theory presented an imminent danger of catching on! As to whether such imagination has a role in the scientific process; consider that inspiration often comes first, eventually followed by the math to describe them. Visual analogies like mine are far from uncommon. If there's the slightest chance that I've given a real mathematician an idea, then it's worth it. It would not be the first time I've read about a scientific discovery which was an awful lot like an idea I'd had years earlier. People keen on making personal attacks should realize they just make it less likely anyone will collaborate with them.

  8. Nigel Brown

    So what is it?

    It's an orange swirly thing in space.

    1. Paul Woodhouse

      Re: So what is it?

      I think ... we've been here before...

    2. BenR

      Re: So what is it?

      Are we sure it's not just some bits of grit on the scanner?

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: So what is it?

        Or a congealed sneeze....

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: So what is it?

      I am NOT changeing the lightbulb again just because you want to go to red alert!

  9. Richard Rae
    Joke

    "Hawking says 'soft hair' explains everything. Not, repeat not, on cats"

    Schrodinger will be spinning in his box.... or not

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Hawking says 'soft hair' explains everything. Not, repeat not, on cats"

      Presumably he would be both spinning, and not spinning, at the same time.

  10. a pressbutton

    If information is preserved, and the information refers to charged particles, what information being preserved?

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Coat

      GCHQ know the answer to that.

    2. Holleritho Silver badge

      the last words

      The last words between the photons are preserved.

      "You rat, I know you were flirting with that neutron!"

      "Oh, fine, fine, be like that when I'm friendly at work."

      "You never take me seriously. That's it. We're done. We're through."

      "Suits me. Shall I drop you off at the event horizon on my way to the office?"

      "Thanks, I can manage it myself. Don't expect to hear from me."

      "Not till the heat death of the universe, darlin'"

      And then...silence...

  11. Paul Shirley

    information conservation

    If we can "see and manipulate" quantum fluctuations information is being (potentially randomly) injected into our universe continuously. So why do we assume it's being conserved? More precisely why do we assume it's being conserved in our view of reality?

    Seems more likely we simply can't see enough of reality to understand what's happening yet.

    I also question why losing information would affect determinism. If the loss process is deterministic it becomes a simpler but still deterministic ensemble, if random then we never had determinism.

    1. E2

      Re: information conservation

      PS. Underlying equations are usually time-reversal symetric, so inconsistent with 1-way deteriminism.

    2. E2

      Re: information conservation

      A theory is deterministic if, given the (full specification of) the state of any isolated system at a specified time, then the equations of motion (or equivalent) have one and only one solution at a future specified time.

      This is the same as saying that all of the information on future (and past) states of the system is encoded in the state of the system at a specific instance.

      Loss of information would destroy the 1-to-1 deteriministic mapping.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: information conservation

        "one and only one solution at a future specified time"

        If you remove state that can only reduce the future outcomes. If that removal is deterministic then the future state is also predictable.

        Yes, that breaks computing past states from today but our observed reality appears to have a preferred time direction, no one really knows why and we know the theories and math are incomplete.

        1. E2

          Re: information conservation

          The observed reality of a prefered time direction is a statistical thermodyamic (entropy) effect. It doesn't conflict with the maths of time reversal symmetry on the micoscopic level.

        2. PyLETS
          Boffin

          Re: information conservation

          The preferred time direction is an inevitable consequence of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Entropy increases with time. Mix a couple of buckets of hot and cold water to get warm water and there is no way of reversing the change without input of energy from outside the system resulting in a greater increase of entropy elsewhere. Information probably isn't conserved for similar reasons.

          If we don't know the quantum physics behind this well-known thermodynamic process, then we don't know that reductionism applies here either (i.e. in the sense that all physical process are seen as "no more than" quantum physics). Like determinism, reductionism seems to be a belief without very good evidence. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle should have led us to question the general validity of determinism in any case, and the general concept of reductionism promises to have been refuted by recent mathematically-based research showing electron gaps (e.g. as required to make semiconductors work) to be provably unpredictable based on quantum physics .

          1. E2

            Re: information conservation

            If we don't know the quantum physics behind this well-known thermodynamic process

            We do. Quantum statistical thermodynamics is a very well established field. It's what gives you Boe-Einstein condensation, the Chandrasakar limit etc. It doesn't violate determinism.

            Heisenberg's uncertainty principle should have led us to question the general validity of determinism in any case.

            No. HUP doesn't violate determinism. A least not per-se. Maybe worth pointing out that detirminism in the quantum sense is the uniqueness of the time evolution of the state vector (which is what completely describes the system), not of classical variables.

  12. thomas k

    Not, repeat not, on cats

    Then, who, repeat who, cares?

    <yawns, stretches, finds patch of sunlight, curls up, takes nap>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not, repeat not, on cats

      Damn the cats been climbing on the black holes again! I'll never get that off.

  13. s. pam
    Thumb Up

    Let's send Jeremy Hunt

    To test out Hawking's new theory as he clearly is smarter than everyone!

  14. Harry the Bastard
    Black Helicopters

    it's clearly cats

    the only question is, why are they denying it

  15. Yugguy

    I must read more physics

    As at the moment I don't understand why it is significant that information not be destroyed/lost.

    1. Andrew Lobban

      Re: I must read more physics

      The Scientific American transcribed interview that the reg link to is well worth a read, and certainly answers yours and many other questions.

      Here's a little extract from the interview in relation to you comment, just to whet your appetite.

      ".....We used to think that space and time were absolute. We used to think the Earth is the center of the universe. All of these things seemed completely obvious and well defined. And one by one they went by the wayside. That could happen to determinism, too. The very fact that the universe has a beginning seems to be in contradiction with determinism, because if you have nothing and then there’s something, that’s not deterministic. So determinism should be on the table. And indeed when Hawking first came out with his argument [that black holes destroyed information], it seemed like such a good argument that many or even most of the people who listened to it believed that determinism was over...."

  16. Steve Kerr
    Mushroom

    Flipping your mind

    Feeling like crap here so fuzzy thinking...

    If the black hole boils itself away over billions of years at some point there should be a point where the gravity pull of a black hole collapses such that light can escape and therefore you should be able to "see" what's left inside?

    Obvioulsy not making comments on the rest as it's so far over my head to be out of sight :)

    Nuclear icon as this stuff blows my mind!

    1. Chemist

      Re: Flipping your mind

      "If the black hole boils itself away over billions of years at some point there should be a point where the gravity pull of a black hole collapses such that light can escape and therefore you should be able to "see" what's left inside?"

      My understanding is that as the black hole shrinks the rate and energy of photon production increases until finally it disappears in a burst of gamma radiation, at which point you can 'see' inside but nothing is there by then.

      1. Steve Kerr

        Re: Flipping your mind

        Ah cool, cheers.

        So something along the lines of all matter being turned into energy in a simplistic way.

  17. magickmark
    Alien

    This is all!

    I think perhaps the most important problem is that we are trying to understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language devised for telling one another when the best fruit is. - Terry Pratchett

  18. JDX Gold badge

    "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

    Why? I've read Brief History (though had thought most of it was no replaced by more modern work) but not for a long time.

    If a particle+antiparticle pair are created, why does one falling into the BH cause its mass to decrease?

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

      Anti particle's have opposite charge, but not negative mass:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiparticle

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

        >>"Anti particle's have opposite charge, but not negative mass:"

        That's correct but I'm not sure it's the answer to the question. Because one would expect there to be an equal distribution of positive and negative matter falling into the Black Hole. I think the actual reason is that via this process, the Black Hole actually loses energy, but because Energy converts to matter, the Black Hole effectively loses mass.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

          Yes the fact anti-matter has positive mass was rather my point... if two particles appear and one falls into the BH, wouldn't it's net mass increase?

          And in fact given that anti-matter responds to gravity the normal way, wouldn't the number of particles and anti-particles falling into the BH be equal and therefore its net energy increases?

          1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

            Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

            In a normal situation, these matter/anti-matter pairs (which have borrowed energy from somewhere to come into existence via the good ol' e=mc2) annihilate each other and return the borrowed energy. Everything ends up in balance.

            But if the particle pairs can't annihilate each other (Because they're on opposite sides of the black hole's event horizon), then the energy they borrowed to come into existence is never returned and so, "something" is in energy deficit. What that "something" is, I don't know. Maybe it's the black hole? I bow to someone with more knowledge than me on the matter (pardon the pun)

          2. h4rm0ny

            Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

            >>"And in fact given that anti-matter responds to gravity the normal way, wouldn't the number of particles and anti-particles falling into the BH be equal and therefore its net energy increases?"

            A sensible question but the answer is 'no' because Hawking Radiation only occurs at the event horizon itself. Particles further away annihilate each other immediately afterwards - no big deal. Particles closer to the event horizon... well there's no such thing. But at the exact edge, you get one particle getting sucked in and the other having enough momentum to get away. That's why the Black Hole bleeds energy - it's an infinitely thin line drawn down the middle of all these particle/anti-particle events that prevents them reaching their usual conclusion.

            Well, I say infinitely thin. Planck might disagree. We need a proper Physicist at this point.

            1. Justicesays

              Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

              Hang on, I'll just dig out an old post:

              http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2012/01/08/hawking_and_quantum_gravity/

              TLDR: The Particle/Antiparticle thing is just a simplified explanation of some complex math involving quantized vacuum states near an event horizon...

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: "The escaping particle steals a tiny bit of the black hole's mass with it"

                Hang on, I'll just dig out an old post:

                Here's a link to the actual post in question. Though probably it won't do much to clear up the question for those raising it. Your basic point that all of these narratives are just glosses for the mathematics is well-taken.

                The key bit, from the lay gloss, is that the particle which escapes "becomes real". That's handwaving, but the basic concept is that at the event horizon a black hole sheds particles. They steal energy from the vacuum at the "surface" of the sphere that's defined by the event horizon, and that energy gets replaced from the mass-energy of the singularity (in even more hand-waving terms).

  19. Carlie J. Coats, Jr.

    Evaporating black holes

    "...if you waited a sufficiently ridiculous number of billions of years, the black hole itself would boil away into space."

    This is not in general correct; the smaller the black hole, the faster it will evaporate by this mechanism. In the limit, a tiny black hole would evaporate in a small fraction of a second, in a ridiculously large explosion.

    FWIW

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Evaporating black holes

      >>"In the limit, a tiny black hole would evaporate in a small fraction of a second, in a ridiculously large explosion."

      I heard a proposal to try and make these at CERN, yes?

      1. Alien8n Silver badge

        Re: Evaporating black holes

        This is the hypothesis in David Brin's Earth. They accidentally drop a black hole into the Earth which then starts to (very slowly) destroy the planet. On trying to search for the rogue black hole they then discover that an alien race had actually beaten them to it.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_(Brin_novel)

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Evaporating black holes

      CJC, Jr - "...a tiny black hole would evaporate in a small fraction of a second, in a ridiculously large explosion."

      But it'll leak information, hopefully in the form of a warning. "RUN AWAY!"

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Evaporating black holes

      This is not in general correct; the smaller the black hole, the faster it will evaporate by this mechanism

      And a black hole with a mass about that of our moon would be in equilibrium. Larger black holes emit less energy by Hawking radiation than they absorb from the cosmic microwave background (to say nothing of random debris, mad scientists and killer robots, etc), and so would never evaporate.

      As the Wikipedia says, for a large black hole, "black" is a good approximation. They don't radiate much.

  20. Lexxy
    Happy

    "I call it a Hawking hole."

    Fry: No fair! I saw it first!

    "Who is the Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?"

  21. no-one in particular

    details will appear elsewhere

    > The paper itself admits there's a lot of work to be done – phrases like “we take some steps” and “details will appear elsewhere” demonstrate that.

    Surely that should be "is left as an exercise for the reader"

  22. smartypants

    If the armchair know-it-alls haven't put you off yet..

    As if we didn't already have more than enough dunderheads on this planet who think that spouting whatever comes into their minds on the loo for 30 seconds is a suitable replacement for critical thinking.

    Having waded though said 'wisdoms' but feeling that perhaps there was more to learn (yes, amazing!), I read through the Scientific American discussion linked to at the bottom of the article, and it was an absolutely excellent lay-person's introduction to all these crazy terms - yes, even including hair.

    The register: You need to get proper boffin interviews like that. Excellent!

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dark-star-diaries/stephen-hawking-s-new-black-hole-paper-translated-an-interview-with-co-author-andrew-strominger/

    Give it a shot.

    (Or alternatively, head back to "I think God is a Gas" and so on)

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: If the armchair know-it-alls haven't put you off yet..

      There's something rather ironic about someone touting Scientific American as a source of expert knowledge... it's specifically aimed at armchair enthusiasts (which is a good thing by the way in my book)

  23. Johnny Canuck

    Hairy black holes?

    Seriously people! No one's made a joke about this yet.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Hairy black holes?

      Yeah, the standard seems to be slipping. Or improving. Hard to tell untill we open the box.

  24. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    The man is the poster child for 'Science is self-correcting'

    'Science is self-correcting'

    .: A fraction of the science du jour is actually wrong. (<- never forget this)

    As exemplified by the career of a certain Professor Hawking, bless him.

    Eventually, the only thing left that Black Holes don't emit will be a cheeseburger and a side of fries.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The man is the poster child for 'Science is self-correcting'

      Eventually, the only thing left that Black Holes don't emit will be a cheeseburger and a side of fries.

      All is not lost! If naked singularities exist, they could emit those things. Or anything else.

  25. Fungus Bob Silver badge
    Boffin

    Simpler explanation for black holes

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster* told me they're sort of like card tricks, 'cept he uses molecules.

    *I'm clued in - the FSM and I play tennis every other Saturday.

  26. Nehmo

    I don't understand a lot of advanced physics because I don't have the math knowledge to read through the various proofs. Considering the confidence in which you write, I can see that many of you comment writers are more advanced than I on the subject. I hereby defer to you.

  27. Gartal

    Recant

    If Galileo had just recanted, the Earth would have stayed at the centre of the Universe and Man would have not fallen into a Douglasian irrelevance. If Hawking was sensible as distinct from just a common of garden genius, he would have approached the Pope, recanted his 1970s position, been forgiven and blessed and the need for a tonsorial load of old cobblers would not have been necessary which would have left Prof. Hawking with the time needed to retire from disability.

  28. Richard Harris

    What if...

    What if the assumption that there is 1 universe is incorrect? What if ours is part of a pair, where what we perceive as time goes forward in ours and backwards in the other one? If blackholes become white holes when time is reversed, then anyone in the second Universe would also perceive black holes, but our Universe is spewing stuff into theirs and vice-versa in doing so, wouldn't that also transfer the information between Universes and the net of everything be a nice round zero?

    1. Thecowking

      Re: What if...

      Doesn't hold up, because if we're sharing information and necessarily mass (black hole mass increases as things fall into it, ergo its gravity and event horizon increase, ergo we have to have the same gravity on both sides for the mass to work), we've got to posit the same laws of physics on each side to a certain extent.

      If time is running backwards on the other side, matter would have to exist _on both sides of the black hole at the same time_. This means that the black hole would have to gain mass when objects disappeared from both sides of the link at once. In other words, you've created a state where information and matter are destroyed and mass and gravity are created at the boundary of a black hole. If the black hole evaporates, then there must be matter and energy created at that time.

      Which seems like it has a lot more problems than just keeping everything in one consistent universe. Then again I left uni over a decade ago and I've not done any proper physics since then. So I could well be wrong.

  29. AbeSapian

    Critical Asininity

    Here on earth, we're more familiar with the process known as Critical Asininity. That's where your body is sucked up by your rectum and you become a point in space with hair around it. See: Congress.

  30. TwistUrCapBack

    Congress ??

    This is a UK site ..

    Here in the UK, we have parliament ..

    But the same (crap) joke applies

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