Black holes are misunderstood, according to Stephen Hawking, who released a new paper titled Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes on January 22. Physicists have been grappling with the apparent paradox of no energy or information being able to escape the pull of a black hole while quantum physics suggests they can.
Hawking attempts to settle this issue by redefining the classical theory of the event horizon, traditionally the point of no return when even light is no longer able to escape. Previously it was thought that things caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole were gradually stretched into long spaghetti strands as the increasing gravity begins, to exert more force on the portion of the object nearer to the core, than that farther away, causing the stretching phenomenon. Quantum physics states a contradictory result however, as the massive radiation emanating from the black holes core would likely cause anything caught to be reduced to atoms by the immense gravitational force.
These conflicting theories has led to the claim that black holes are misunderstood according to Stephen Hawking. Since energy cannot be destroyed, Hawking proposes that the mass-energy of things trapped and pulled into the core of the black hole return to our universe in a mangled unintelligible state. He goes on to suggest that the event horizon is not as sharp a line as previously thought, saying instead that an “apparent horizon” is more likely.
The apparent horizon is more of a gray area that Hawking proposes shifts and morphs according to quantum effects. The changing boundary would allow some light to escape, but the unpredictable areas of high gravitational force would make black holes less stable that previously thought. This does away with the conflict of radiation and spaghettification since without the event horizon there is no firewall of Hawking radiation. Although the new theory clears up some conflicts, it introduces new ones. Removing the event horizon and changing the nature of the boundary from a single point to a variable area is what Hawking proposes causes the damage to information escaping from a black hole, leading to anything being pulled in coming out unrecognizable.
The new theory is already being challenged by physicists and other scientists, mostly because it was released without peer review, a staple in the scientific community. Although it is unlikely that a complete understanding of the inner workings of black holes will ever be reached, this new way of looking at them may well lead to a more thorough understanding than any previously held. By proposing a solution to the conflicting theories of matter being crushed at the core of a black hole or incinerating by a field of radiation at its event horizon, Hawking has opened the door for discussion of other unknown traits of the space phenomenon.
Determining exactly how matter or energy caught in a black holes gravitational field is affected, how things react once they reach the core, or exactly how they are damaged should they escape are all fascinating questions. Throwing his chips into saying that black holes are misunderstood according to Stephen Hawking has created a buzz in the astronomy circles that will no doubt generate many more interesting theories and clashing ideas.
By Daniel O’Brien