Hawking’s Revolutionary New Proposal on Black Holes
In a calculation-free, very short new paper posted on the arXiv preprint server last week, Stephen Hawking made some big claims. Hawking effectively dismisses the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary beyond which nothing, even light, can escape. This event horizon is what most people really think of as a black hole - a funnel-like boundary that once you’re in, you’re in.
Event horizons have been a practical staple of black-hole ideology for decades, and a dismissal of their existence would elicit groans and labels of “crank” if coming from nearly any other physicist, but Hawking’s status as perhaps the most respected scientist in the world ensures respect for his proposal. In their stead, Hawking has proposed a much friendlier “apparent horizon,” which could release matter and energy moving at around the speed of light after holding them inside for a brief period - although in a more “garbled form,” as Nature writes.
Hawking’s new work is an attempt to solve a paradox that has been confounding physicists for nearly two years, known as the black-hole firewall paradox. A team from the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California, believed that when adding quantum theory to black holes, the event horizon must be transformed into a highly energetic “firewall” that would consume anything falling in. Unfortunately for the team, this firewall would break pace with general relativity, which says that crossing the event horizon should be generally uneventful.
Since the introduction of the firewall paradox, physicists have been wondering if relativity or quantum theory would be correct. However, Hawking says that both theories can remain perfectly intact, and black holes simply do not have an event horizon to produce a firewall. As Nature writes, “The key to his claim is that quantum effects around the black hole cause space-time to fluctuate too wildly for a sharp boundary surface to exist.”
Although the paper has yet to be peer reviewed, it is being examined critically and will spark a flurry of new research. Surely more exciting work will be published in the near future - stay tuned!
More: Nature, New Scientist
Image Sources: Huff Post, Wiki
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