Stephen Hawking is the most famous living scientist in the world and he gained much of his notoriety from the bizarre space objects known as “black holes.” Now Hawking is saying that no black holes exist in our universe.
A black hole is a theory from physicists that regions of space and time in our universe can become so dense that nothing can escape their grasp including light. The density increases until the huge gravity of a black hole eventually generates what is known as an “event horizon.” Stephen Hawking then took those theories and applied quantum mechanics to black holes back in 1974. Hawking’s point of view sparked much controversy in the scientific community and that controversy still continues today.
Generally, quantum mechanics does not play well with any other grand theories of general relativity or physics. It is even more complicated when combined in situations where both of the grand theories are relevant. When the quantum mechanics was applied to the theory of black holes, Hawking was able to determine that black holes are not actually black. However, what Hawking did find is that the phenomena will emit radiation in small quantities that would cause them to eventually shrink and evaporate.
The black hole radiation theory also made suggestions that when a black hole finally dies, it will take everything inside of it. However, this theory is disproved by quantum mechanics. According to physics information matter is never destroyed even if it is devoured by a black hole. Some other theories are that the black hole releases this information when it dries up and evaporates. Hawking disagreed with the theorists originally, but has now changed his mind by explaining how it just might be possible. It has taken him 30 years, but Hawking has now had to concede to a wager made seven years ago with another physicist.
Stephen Hawking is not the only scientist that finds controversy in the black hole theories. The University of California in Santa Barbara has such a group that is led by Joseph Polchinski. Polchinski’s group has a theory called the firewall paradox. The paradox is a descendant of the currently existing information paradox which suggests that the information that would normally be leaving a black hole would cause it to create and give off massive amounts of energy. This huge energy would create a wall of fire that would probably consume anything pulled into the black hole. This theory breaks the general rules of relativity which says that crossing an event horizon created from a black hole should be uneventful and create no issues.
Hawking now suggests that one of the two theories is wrong and by giving up the event horizon would prove one paradox correct and discount the other. This also means that it may be possible to escape from a black hole but one would have to be travelling the speed of light to successfully escape its grasp. Hawking says that removing the event horizon means that there is no such thing as a black hole. However, black holes may have “apparent horizons” where they are able to trap light and vary in shape by using quantum fluctuations. The changing of shape is when there is the potential for light to escape the black hole.
Roger Penrose from the University of Oxford agrees with Hawking’s theory and has also proved that event horizons and apparent horizons are actually identical. However, Penrose recently wrote a paper that proposes quantum mechanics may reveal the two horizons are actually different.
Also by removing the event horizon it removes the firewall paradox and suggests at the same time that the information would be lost. However, Stephen Hawking proposes that just below the horizon the structure of the black hole is quite chaotic and making it nearly impossible to understand any energy that is released but the information is not destroyed, just incomprehensible.
Stephen Hawking’s latest paper that was published about black holes is just two short pages of text and contained no actual calculations which make it impossible for anyone to verify Hawking’s conclusions. Some scientists disagree with Hawking as he does not really provide any concrete evidence to support his theory that no firewalls exist.
By Brent Matsalla