How do you escape from a black hole? Stephen Hawking has an idea.
In front of a crowd of scientists and reporters at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm on Tuesday, the renowned British physicist explained his latest idea about how quantum-mechanical information can escape from being lost in a black hole.
"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," Hawking says in a video of his announcement, which can be viewed above.
The event horizon is the sphere around a black hole -- so, in other words, whatever is falling into a black hole can escape because it doesn't actually make it inside, Wired reported.
An artist's drawing of the black hole named Cygnus X-1. The black hole formed when a large star caved in, and it pulls matter from a blue star beside it.
Black holes, which are massive objects in space that have a gravitational pull so strong that even light can't escape their clutches, have long puzzled scientists.
After all, according to the general theory of relativity, some scientists argue that physical information gobbled up by a black hole is lost forever. But other scientists say that the laws of quantum mechanics demand that the information cannot be destroyed and should be retrievable. This conundrum is dubbed the "information paradox."
So, based on Hawking's announcement, the information passing through the black hole's event horizon gets translated into a kind of hologram that sits on the black hole's boundary, New Scientist reported.
What happens from there? Research that Hawking conducted with Malcolm Perry, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, and Andrew Strominger, a physicist at Harvard University, suggests the possibility that information seemingly lost to a black hole could be retrieved in alternate universes. Yes, alternate universes.
“The hole would need to be large and if it was rotating it might have a passage to another universe. But you couldn’t come back to our universe," Hawking said in a written press release. "The message of this lecture is that black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly come out in another universe."
The Washington Post noted that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft, who attended Hawking's announcement, has been thinking about black holes and information loss in a similar way. Even though black holes still have scientists scratching their heads, physicists are working together to gain a better understanding of the elusive objects.