What happens to information when it enters a black hole ?
The scariest things are those that one cannot see. Things that are invisible to human senses, things that are not seemingly part of our reality. One of, if not the scariest thing to ever exist are black holes. These planet devourers are named “black” for a reason, they are visually invisible. Imagine cruising through the cosmos, and all of the sudden, the stars that were once visible in front of the spacecraft start to warp extremely and soon disappear … taken over by a dark entity the size bigger than any human can comprehend. Paranoia and fear kicks in. It kicks in so much that the pilots of the craft are frozen in time, unable to move a centimetre. They are so scared that they forget how to do basic necessities that of breathing. But before they could regain control, they are now a stream of plasma an atom’s width wide or smaller heading to the singularity of the black hole. But there is a problem, where does the information, the spacecraft and everything in it, go? Does it get stored until the death of the black hole? Does it go somewhere else in the universe, possibly out of a white hole? Does it enter an entirely different universe? Or does it defy the law of conservation of matter and just disappear? This is the Information Paradox, or simply, what happens to the information inside a black hole? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer, merely hypothesis.
It all started in the early 1970s when British physicist Stephen Hawking, with some help from Jacob Bekenstein’s work, proposed the idea that black holes aren’t all that black, but shining with radiation, this radiation is called Hawking Radiation. This happens when and anti-particle and particle pair spawns into existence on the event horizon of a black hole with one particle turning negative and entering the black hole, and with one shooting out into space (because this particle is negatively charged, the black hole loses mass). This spawning of particle pairs is called quantum fluctuation. The process of losing mass happens until eventually, the black hole evaporates (this process takes so long that calling that time forever would be acceptable. For example, a black hole the mass of the Sun would take about 1e+67 years to completely evaporate. That is one followed by 67 zeros!!! THAT IS INSANELY LONG!!) (penny4nasa.org). So, sooner or later, Hawking Radiation will cause a black hole to evaporate. This poses a flaw, however. Since matter cannot be created nor destroyed, what happens to the information in the black hole as it evaporates? Does it just cease to exist? Because of this paradox, many ideas have been conceptualized on where the information goes. Ideas spanning from The Holographic Principle to information simply being destroyed (physicsworld.com).
The Holographic Principle
The holographic principle, in my opinion, is one of the most fascinating ideas about what happens to information when it enters a black hole. First proposed in 1993 by Dutch theoretical physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft, the holographic principle is rather complex. What it states is that all information that enters a black hole is stored on the black hole’s event horizon. The 3D object, whether it is a planet, an asteroid or anything else, is then turned into a 2D figure and encoded on the event horizon. The object that enters the black hole, may I add, actually causes the event horizon to increase in area, for it supposedly need to make room for new information. This idea has been backed up by many famous scientists such as Stephen Hawking himself. When at a conference at Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Stephen Hawking said,“I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon,” which would make sense if he is taking quantum mechanics’ side (kth.se).
This sets up the path for black hole complementarity. Basically what this states is if information is truly stored in 2D form on a black hole’s event horizon, then the Hawking Radiation actually has a chance at ‘learning’ that stored information, thus conserving the information (Kurzgesagt). The information is basically taken from the black hole’s grip and scribed on the Hawking Radiation (arxiv.org and scientificamerican.com) According to other ideas, this information may not be stored on the black hole’s event horizon, but rather transported elsewhere.
A white hole, as the name implies, is a theoretical astronomical body that does the opposite of a black hole. Furthermore, white holes are also thought to be the other ends of black holes, almost like a bridge or a teleporter which, in the face of quantum mechanics, would not be that strange. Basically what this suggests is that black holes are the gateways for wormholes! (iflscience.com, glamsci.org and physicsoftheuniverse.com
These mathematically theorized bodies are still quite mysterious. These holes may be the only ways into other universes let alone other parts of our own! But sadly, these have never been discovered in nature nor is it known, or theorized, how they could form. White holes may, sadly, stay a staple of science fiction forever. But if true, they could possibly lead to other universes as stated previously.
Black holes tend to be portrayed as killers of planets, stars and even solar systems. Despite this, black holes may actually be a place of life! I’ll get to that a bit later.
Another theory is that the information from black holes could be transferred to a whole other universe!! As far as the theory goes, it can be legitimate. I mean, scientists do not know what is inside of a black hole, so to presume a whole another universe is not madness. Going off of that, our universe, itself, could be inside of a black hole! This comes to the life part. If it is true that we live in a universe that is a part of another universe, there could be infinite numbers of universes with infinite numbers of life-hosting planets, we just won’t be able to get to them, for now that is (popsci.com).
The information is stored in the black hole until the black hole completely evaporates. This information is then turned into a new universe. This may be because of the intense pressure and heat a black holes is thought to release that kick starts another universe! This would be rather hard to prove given that the closest black hole to Earth is around 1,600 light years away and that, as stated earlier, black holes take AGES to evaporate (curious.astro.cornell.edu). By the time a black hole evaporates, the universe could already have ended.
Information is Lost
Lastly, for all we know, information that enters a black hole may just be lost forever. Maybe quantum mechanics breaks down in a black hole and matter is able to become destroyed. If that is, indeed, true, then scientists will need to rewrite some fields of physics. Quantum mechanics is quite important in the science, so if those basic laws are not true, then most, if not all of it may not be true. Maybe both relativity and quantum mechanics have it wrong, maybe there is a new field of physics waiting to be discovered.
: My name is Jason Pusic and I am a 15 year old science enthusiast. My interests primarily lay in physics, astronomy and astrophysics, but I am a fan of all sciences such as neuroscience, chemistry, evolutionary biology, etc. I hope everyone is loving what not only I post, but what all authors post on this magnificent website!