Science Fiction writers in shock!

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Science Fiction writers in shock!

Plot device ruined. Black holes cannot be used to travel to other places.

Last week before an array of TV cameras and hundreds of colleagues at the ordinarily obscure International Conference of General Relativity and Gravitation, Hawking declared that he had solved what he called "a major problem in theoretical physics." Black holes, he said, do not forever annihilate all traces of what falls into them.

In making that announcement, Hawking recanted a position he had held for nearly 30 years.

He also pulled the rug out from under a generation of science-fiction fans, declaring dead a favorite plot device.
... Quote:
"There is no possibility of using black holes to travel to other universes,"
he said, with evident regret. And, finally, he conceded defeat in a long-standing bet with Caltech astrophysicist John Preskill, who thought there wasn't a problem in the first place.

The issue arose back in the 1960s, when physicists first described black holes, objects whose gravity is so powerful that nothing can escape, not even light.

Under such crushing force, all information about what formed the hole would be forever locked away: you would have no way of distinguishing between a black hole made from a dying star and one formed from a quadrillion tons of Gorgonzola cheese.

But in the mid-'70s, Hawking threw a theoretical monkey wrench into the works. It was known that empty space is bubbling with "virtual particles"--pairs of particles and antiparticles that spontaneously appear out of nowhere, then annihilate each other and vanish.

That happens so fast the particles can hardly be said to exist. But if it happens right at the edge of a black hole, Hawking realized, one particle might fall in before the annihilation, leaving its twin to escape in the form of radiation. Because the books of the cosmos must balance, the particle that escaped would have to be subtracted from the mass of the black hole. And since virtual particles are appearing everywhere all the time, every black hole must constantly radiate energy and will eventually disappear.

That was the problem. According to basic quantum theory, information can't be destroyed. Hiding it away forever inside a black hole is bad enough, but hiding it in a hole that eventually evaporates is unthinkable.

Others have tackled that conundrum and solved it to their satisfaction using various mathematical stratagems. But, says Juan Maldacena, a string theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who has worked on the question, "what wasn't done was to explain precisely what was wrong with Hawking's original calculations in the '70s." Now Hawking claims to have done so. By doing the calculations a different way, he has convinced himself that the radiation flowing from a black hole actually carries information about the hole back out into the universe, although in a mangled form.

You might well wonder why his announcement generated so much excitement. But when the subject is black holes and you're the world's most famous physicist Hawking is not only a best-selling author but has also guest-starred on both Star Trek and The Simpsons the usual rules don't apply.
By netchicken: posted on 26-7-2004

Well that's a shame, alot of theories in Sci Fi stories have often been proved to be right (where's my flying Delorean dammit?!!! :sp).

Mind you I'm sure in another 30 years someone will come along and smash this theory, either way they're going to have to be more inventive in the Sci Fi world from now on as far as time travel is concerned.
By John Nada: posted on 27-7-2004

I thought that was always Hawkings position on Black Holes? When I was reading one of his books of short essays from a few years back he said that quite explicitly.
By parrhesia: posted on 27-7-2004

Camel my admiration for you has increased measurably!
You read his books :)

I gather the idea that matter was permenantly destroyed was his, and he just realised he was mistaken.

He may have thought back then that it was impossible to use them for travel anyway.
By netchicken: posted on 27-7-2004

... Quote:
Originally posted by netchicken

I gather the idea that matter was permenantly destroyed was his, and he just realised he was mistaken.

He may have thought back then that it was impossible to use them for travel anyway.

In one of his books published originally in 1993, he wrote "I'm sorry to disappoint prospective galactiv tourists, but the scenario doesn't work; if you jump into a black hole, you will get torn apart and crushed out of existence. However, there is a sense in which the particles that make up your body will carry on into another universe. I don't know if it would be much consolation to someone being made into spaghetti in a balack hole to know that his particles might survive."

That's an excerpt from the essay "black Holes and baby Universes" - isn't he in a sense admitting right there (in 1993 or before) that black holes don't destroy everything?
By parrhesia: posted on 28-7-2004

I've read that myself parr but it was a while ago and I didn't put 2 and 2 together there.

I think the difference there though is that it was something he likely believed, not something that he could prove. I can't remember the details now...

However you're right it definately seems to be what he was suggesting there.
By John Nada: posted on 29-7-2004

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