Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Information paradox solved? If so, black holes are ’fuzzballs’


Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne may owe John Preskill a set of encyclopedias

Samir Mathur

In 1997, the three cosmologists made a famous bet as to whether information that enters a black hole ceases to exist -- that is, whether the interior of a black hole is changed at all by the characteristics of particles that enter it.

Hawking’s research suggested that the particles have no effect whatsoever. But his theory violated the laws of quantum mechanics and created a contradiction known as the “information paradox.”

Now physicists at Ohio State University have proposed a solution using string theory, a theory which holds that all particles in the universe are made of tiny vibrating strings.

Samir Mathur and his colleagues have derived an extensive set of equations that strongly suggest that the information continues to exist -- bound up in a giant tangle of strings that fills a black hole from its core to its surface.

The finding suggests that black holes are not smooth, featureless entities as scientists have long thought.

Instead, they are stringy “fuzzballs.”

Mathur, professor of physics at Ohio State, suspects that Hawking and Thorne won’t be particularly surprised by the outcome of the study, which appears in the March 1 issue of the journal Nuclear Physics B.

In their wager, Hawking, professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, and Thorne, professor of theoretical physics at Caltech, bet that information that enters a black hole is destroyed, while Preskill -- also a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech -- took the opposite view. The stakes were a set of encyclopedias.

“I think that most people gave up on the idea that information was destroyed once the idea of string theory rose to prominence in 1995,” Mathur said. “It’s just that nobody has been able to prove that the information survives before now.”

In the classical model of how black holes form, a supermassive object, such as a giant star, collapses to form a very small point of infinite gravity, called a singularity. A special region in space surrounds the singularity, and any object that crosses the region’s border, known as the event horizon, is pulled into the black hole, never to return.

In theory, not even light can escape from a black hole.

The diameter of the event horizon depends on the mass of the object that formed it. For instance, if the sun collapsed into a singularity, its event horizon would measure approximately 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) across. If Earth followed suit, its event horizon would only measure 1 centimeter (0.4 inches).

As to what lies in the region between a singularity and its event horizon, physicists have always drawn a blank, literally. No matter what type of material formed the singularity, the area inside the event horizon was supposed to be devoid of any structure or measurable characteristics.

And therein lies the problem.

“The problem with the classical theory is that you could use any combination of particles to make the black hole -- protons, electrons, stars, planets, whatever -- and it would make no difference. There must be billions of ways to make a black hole, yet with the classical model the final state of the system is always the same,” Mathur said.

That kind of uniformity violates the quantum mechanical law of reversibility, he explained. Physicists must be able to trace the end product of any process, including the process that makes a black hole, back to the conditions that created it.

If all black holes are the same, then no black hole can be traced back to its unique beginning, and any information about the particles that created it is lost forever at the moment the hole forms.

“Nobody really believes that now, but nobody could ever find anything wrong with the classical argument, either,” Mathur said. “We can now propose what went wrong.”

In 2000, string theorists named the information paradox number eight on their top-ten list of physics problems to be solved during the next millennium. That list included questions such as “what is the lifetime of a proton?” and “how can quantum gravity help explain the origin of the universe?”

Mathur began working on the information paradox when he was an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he attacked the problem full time after joining the Ohio State faculty in 2000.

With postdoctoral researcher Oleg Lunin, Mathur computed the structure of objects that lie in-between simple string states and large classical black holes. Instead of being tiny objects, they turned out to be large. Recently, he and two doctoral students -- Ashish Saxena and Yogesh Srivastava -- found that the same picture of a “fuzzball” continued to hold true for objects more closely resembling a classic black hole. Those new results appear in Nuclear Physics B.

According to string theory, all the fundamental particles of the universe -- protons, neutrons, and electrons -- are made of different combinations of strings. But as tiny as strings are, Mathur believes they can form large black holes through a phenomenon called fractional tension.

Strings are stretchable, he said, but each carries a certain amount of tension, as does a guitar string. With fractional tension, the tension decreases as the string gets longer.

Just as a long guitar string is easier to pluck than a short guitar string, a long strand of quantum mechanical strings joined together is easier to stretch than a single string, Mathur said.

So when a great many strings join together, as they would in order to form the many particles necessary for a very massive object like a black hole, the combined ball of string is very stretchy, and expands to a wide diameter.

When the Ohio State physicists derived their formula for the diameter of a fuzzy black hole made of strings, they found that it matched the diameter of the black hole event horizon suggested by the classical model.

Since Mathur’s conjecture suggests that strings continue to exist inside the black hole, and the nature of the strings depends on the particles that made up the original source material, then each black hole is as unique as are the stars, planets, or galaxy that formed it. The strings from any subsequent material that enters the black hole would remain traceable as well.

That means a black hole can be traced back to its original conditions, and information survives.

This research was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Pam Frost Gorder | Ohio State University
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm
23.03.2018 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics

nachricht Drug or duplicate?
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>