The subject of sci-fi for decades, black holes are known for sucking up everything around them, like a vacuum cleaner with a gravitational pull so strong that nothing and no one can escape.
However, at the weeklong Hawking Radiation conference, held at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stephen Hawking shed new light on what might actually be happening when matter is sucked into one.
Technically, it should be impossible for matter to completely disappear when it enters a black hole (we can blame the fundamental laws of the universe for that), and Hawking’s new theory suggests that quantum mechanical information remains in the form of a permanent 2D hologram just on the edge of it. That’s a pretty mind-boggling concept, but one eloquent reddit user has summed it up in a rather mouth-watering manner involving lunch. Alas, this quantum information is, according to Hawking in “chaotic, useless form,” and “for all practical purposes the information is lost.”
Oh well, so does that dispel the age-old theory that you could use a black hole to travel to new and exotic locations? Well Hawking has an answer for that as well, suggesting that matter could alternatively end up in a completely different universe.
“The existence of alternative histories with black holes suggests this might be possible. The hole would need to be large and if it was rotating it might have a passage to another universe.
So your options when faced with the prospect of entering a black hole now involve either becoming an impossibly small object of mass, a hologram skirting the universe’s most ominous inhabitants, or appearing in another universe all together with no hope of ever returning.
Hawking won’t be testing any of these theories himself: “So although I’m keen on space flight, I’m not going to try that.”
Follow Science Focus on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flipboard