The black hole information paradox: the final paper by Stephen Hawking

The black hole information paradox: the final paper by Stephen Hawking
A computer-simulated image of a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy ©NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (STScI)

The final paper by Stephen Hawking has been released. It furthers scientific knowledge of the theoretical physics problem known as the black hole information paradox.

The paper has been published by the Cornell University Library. The researchers who worked on the paper with Stephen Hawking are Sasha HacoMalcolm J. Perry, and Andrew Strominger.

The final research from Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking’s contribution to the scientific knowledge of black holes is well known. He was the first to develop a cosmology theory which incorporated both Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1915 and quantum mechanics.

Einstein’s theory said that mass, charge, and spin define a black hole. Stephen Hawking later updated the knowledge of black holes to include the fact that black holes have temperatures which cause them to evaporate from space.

Stephen Hawking worked on the new paper with his colleagues before his death in March 2018. The researchers dedicated the publication to Stephen Hawking, writing: “We are deeply saddened to lose our much-loved friend and collaborator Stephen Hawking whose contributions to black hole physics remained vitally stimulating to the very end. This paper summarizes the status of our long-term project on large diffeomorphisms, soft hair and the quantum structure of black holes until the end of our time together.”

The information paradox

The paper is called ”Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair”. Entropy refers to the various factors relating to the disorder of a system, in this case the system is the black hole.

One of the key questions of the information paradox is what happens to quantum information when it disappears into a black hole. The paper focuses on this question, and shows that the photons surrounding the black hole’s event horizon, where light cannot escape the gravitational pull, can record the black hole’s entropy. The researchers have termed the photons “soft hair”.

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