They are massive, and extremely dense. They rip apart anything and everything that gets close to them. Their gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape.
We can’t see black holes. But we know they have the destructive power to wipe everything out of existence.
Before we get to the part where a black hole erases the Universe, let’s make something clear. The Universe is a giant supercomputer processing information. Without information, there can be no Universe. But what is information?
In physics, information is the property of a specific state of a particle – its mass, spin, temperature, place in the system. I know, it sounds confusing. Here’s a simpler way of looking at it.
This is a carbon atom. A bunch of these can be arranged to make a hard diamond. But if you change the arrangement of atoms, you can get soft graphite. The basic building blocks are the same. It’s information that makes them different.
In quantum mechanics, information is like energy – it can’t disappear into nothingness. So how in the Universe can one black hole do the impossible?
That’s the black hole information paradox. Black holes act like monstrous cosmic trash compactors. They squeeze stars, planets and unfortunate astronauts who crossed the event horizon into a microscopic point. A black hole about one centimeter in diameter would have the same mass as the Earth.
What happens to the information about every particle that a black hole consumes? Since information can never be destroyed, it has to be stored somewhere inside that black hole, right?
Our original understanding of black holes assumed that, just like in Las Vegas, everything that disappeared in the black hole, stayed in the black hole. The moment an object passed the event horizon, it got crushed into the density of the black hole. The information about it could never be retrieved again. That’s what we thought before Stephen Hawking introduced Hawking radiation.
Hawking realized that black holes aren’t static. Rather, they release their mass and energy back into the Universe particle by particle, until there is nothing left.
So, does that mean the information within a black hole can somehow escape with the black hole’s outgoing radiation?
Not quite. The black hole doesn’t preserve the information it consumes. It chaotically mixes it together with other bits of information, making it impossible to recover. The information is lost forever.
If the information and our Universe can be lost, then everything we thought we knew about the Universe is wrong. We’d have to rewrite all the laws of physics that worked well so far.
If the information can be lost, that would mean that black holes can eventually delete the Universe. Forever.
But there is a possibility that the black hole doesn’t delete the information. It may be hiding it in a baby universe – a small self-contained part of the universe that branched off of ours. The information wouldn’t technically be lost, but we wouldn’t be able to interact with it.
Another possibility is that black holes can encode the information, according to the holographic principle. If you were to get trapped inside a black hole, you’d still experience three-dimensional space. For us looking at you from the outside, you’d appear stretched on the flat surface. Just like a hologram.
That would mean that the information paradox is resolved, and we don’t need to rewrite the laws of physics. But we’d have to rethink our understanding of reality.
The Universe could be a 3D image projected off a 2D surface. And you may be a hologram on the surface of a black hole. And the best part – the black hole could not delete the Universe after all.
- “What Is The Black Hole Information Paradox? – Universe Today”. 2015. Universe Today. Accessed March 18 2019.
- “Physicists May Have Found A Way To ‘Untangle’ Information Trapped In A Black Hole”. Live Science. Accessed March 18 2019.
- “Holographic Universe”. 2019. Sciencedaily. Accessed March 18 2019.
- “What Are Some Items Made of Carbon” Mack John, 2018. sciencing.com. Accessed March 18 2019.
- “Black Hole Information Loss “. Anderson, Warren, 2019. web.archive.org. Accessed March 18 2019.
- “Baby Universes, Children Of Blackholes (Hawking Speech)”. 2019. ralentz.com. Accessed March 18 2019.