Stephen Hawking, famed astrophysicist has really stirred the pot this time. His latest hypothesis suggests that “event horizons,” that is the point of no return in a black hole where no matter can escape, may not actually exist. Some physicists are having difficulty following through and believing this theory holds any water. In fact, it seems to have caused so much controversy that one has to wonder if some scientists believe Hawking to not be so smart after all.
Stephen Hawking’s new hypothesis goes again his own theory he made back 1974, where he suggested that energy and matter could find its way out of a black hole through something he named “Hawking radiation.” In 2004, he countered this idea by introducing an “apparent horizon” which replaces the event horizon and acts as a prison, which holds matter and energy for a while before spitting it back out. The trouble is, the event horizon theory suggests one of two things. An astronaut who fell into a black would find either (a) a “no drama” area that would pull him apart and crush him or (b) a firewall that would simply destroy the astronaut.
Some scientists such as Raphael Bousso, a theoretical physicist from the University of California have a problem with Stephen Hawking’s notion about apparent horizons. Bousso counters the idea because Hawking has created a paradox which he has failed to address. The paradox being that it is not possible to have an apparent horizon where matter can escape and an area within the black hole where all matter is annihilated.
Don Page, a physicist from the University of Alberta was in agreement and stated that eliminating the event horizon does not solve the issue of firewalls. He further talks about how a black hole free of an event horizon isn’t a new idea at all and has been around for at least a third of a century.
Another, Joseph Polchinski from the Kavli Institute also had similar thoughts about Stephen Hawking not being as thorough as he could have been. He says that Hawking’s paper on the issue is short and does not include much detail on the subject. Hawking has after all, always been regarded as one of the smartest men alive today. So why has he not been more clear with his ideas?
This is not the first time that Stephen Hawking has spoken up about an issue and raised a debatable amount of controversy. Back in 2010, he suggested that aliens probably exist but humanity should not be so enthusiastic about meeting them. He cautioned that doing so would probably have similar results as to when Columbus first came to America, which did not end all that well for the Native Americans. Some scientists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson had a very different viewpoint on the matter and expressed it openly.
Neil deGrasse Tyson: I wonder if in fact, we have been observed by aliens and upon close examination of human conduct and human behavior, they have concluded that there’s no sign of intelligent life.
One has to wonder with news headlines consistently featuring Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, if Tyson’s statement is devastatingly accurate.
After all, Stephen Hawking’s fame puts him in the spotlight when he makes a statement regardless of how much thought has gone into making it. This does put a burden on him to have a well thought out argument before making anything public. Hawking’s popularity has not only granted him a spotlight in the world of science but also with chances to make so many celebrity guest appearances on television shows which has worked both in his favour and against him. In season six of Futurama, Hawking was poked fun at when a giant anomaly opened above Earth and he made the statement that even though he understood nothing about the anomaly, he still managed to cash a huge check for writing a book about it. The joke obviously refers to the fact that when Stephen Hawking talks, people listen, regardless of how smart he is.
By Jonathan Holowka