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Hawking resolves black hole riddle

July 15, 2004 15:34 IST
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After nearly 30 years of arguing that a black hole destroys everything that falls into it, Stephen Hawking is saying he was wrong.

In an announcement that has sent waves of excitement through the rarefied world of astrophysics, Prof Stephen Hawking claims to have solved one of the greatest mysteries of black holes, reports the Telegraph, London.

The new theory, which solves a major paradox about the most mysterious objects in the universe, has generated a flurry of excitement among his Cambridge colleagues, the Telegraph said.

'Black holes are regions of space where the gravitational force is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. Once thought to be purely destructive forces, they are now thought to play a crucial role in galaxy formation. Cosmologists believe that there are many types of black hole, ranging from mini holes with the mass of a small mountain to super-massive holes that lie at the centre of galaxies,' it said.

Their gravitational force is so powerful that everything is sucked inside. It was traditionally thought that once matter and light pass a black hole's "event horizon", then it can never escape.

'In 1975, Prof Hawking made his most important contribution to cosmology by proposing that black holes emit tiny amounts of radiation - known as "Hawking radiation". Eventually, all black holes will evaporate. He also claimed that his radiation contained no "information" about the matter sucked into the black hole,' said the article.

Once the black hole evaporates, all information about the black hole is lost. But under the laws of quantum mechanics describing the behaviour of the universe at the scale of individual particles, such information cannot simply disappear, the Telegraph said.

'For 30 years Prof Hawking tried to get around the paradox by suggesting that the rules of quantum physics were different inside black holes - a solution that many colleagues were unhappy with,' the article said.

Now, it seems that Hawking has an answer to the conundrum and the physics community is abuzz with the news. Hawking requested at the last minute that he be allowed to present his findings at the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland on Wednesday, said the New Scientist.

"He sent a note saying 'I have solved the black hole information paradox and I want to talk about it'," New Scientist quotes Curt Cutler, a physicist at the Albert Einstein Institute in Golm, Germany, who is chairing the conference's scientific committee, as saying.

 "I haven't seen a preprint [of the paper]. To be quite honest, I went on Hawking's reputation."

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