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Hawking Changes View on Black Holes Paradox

Science File

July 17, 2004|From Reuters

LONDON — Black holes, those fearsome galactic traps from which not even light can escape, may not be quite so terminally destructive after all, according to physicist Stephen Hawking.

The author of "A Brief History of Time" now believes some "information" sucked into black holes escapes over time, contradicting some of his most famous work on the phenomenon.

Hawking will present his findings at a scientific conference in Ireland next week, New Scientist magazine said. Hawking asked at the last minute to speak at the Dublin conference.

Black holes are formed when massive stars collapse from their own gravity, the pull of which was thought so strong that nothing can escape.

In the 1970s, Hawking said that once a black hole formed it lost mass by radiating energy, known as "Hawking radiation," but it contained no information about the inside matter and once the hole evaporated, all information was lost.

This however, created a paradox, since the laws of quantum physics assert such information cannot be completely wiped out.

Hawking responded that the gravitational pull of black holes was so strong, it unraveled the laws of quantum physics. But that failed to convince skeptics.

He will now argue that black holes never shut themselves off completely and, as they emit more heat, they eventually open up and release information.

The possible solution to the paradox has sent waves of excitement through the physics community.

Gary Gibbons, a Cambridge University colleague of Hawking and an expert on black holes, attended a recent seminar by Hawking at Cambridge where he outlined his new findings.

"It's possible that what he presented in the seminar is a solution," Gibbons told New Scientist. "But I think you have to say the jury is still out."

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