Friday, July 23, 2004

Hawking and Black Holes

Brief background: Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist from Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time among others, contacted the organizers of a conference to submit a paper at the last minute. Why so important? Apparently he now has reversed his theory on black holes and information and lost a bet. In the past he maintained that black holes sucked in everything around them without so much as a thank you. Now he says some of the information about the creation of the black hole actually hangs out near the event horizon and can influence radiation emitted by the black hole. Listen to Sean Carroll and Juan Maldacena discuss it here (real required).

There are plenty of articles on this in the media (like
About Those Fearsome Black Holes? Never Mind by Dennis Overbye, NY Times 7/22/04) and many scientific bloggers have weighed in (here and here)

The problem is that just because Hawking says it doesn't make it a done deal. Physics is rarely revolutionary (or at least as much as people think); instead, it's evolutionary. Good scientists who have carefully studied this subject disagree and it isn't proven -- there are only thought experiments. I do think that it's great that Hawking can generate this much media attention and I look forward to more discussion.

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