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New Insights into Life and Death of Black Holes Revealed: Firewall Paradox Dispelled

First Posted: Mar 06, 2013 11:46 AM EST

The black hole firewall paradox, which shocked the physics community in 2012, is apparently incorrect. New findings show that the theory of general relativity remains intact, and that the former study had some holes in it.

The latest study, published in Physical Review Letters, invoked quantum information theory, a modern branch of quantum mechanics that treats light and atoms as carriers of information.  The key insight from quantum mechanics is the existence of quantum entanglement across a black hole's event horizon.

So how did they disprove the firewall paradox? Quantum mechanics shows entanglement can exist across the event horizon, between particles that are both inside and outside the black hole. Yet if this particular entanglement ever vanishes, a barrier of energetic particles would be created and a "firewall" would descend around the horizon of the black hole.

Yet the researchers have now shown that entanglement is necessary across all black hole horizons. They also considered what would happen as the black hole ages. They found that the greater the entanglement, the later the firewall descends. However, if the entanglement is large enough, the firewall never actually occurs. In fact, entanglement itself has long been believed to exist for some types of black holes and takes on this maximum value.

Stephen Hawking was the first to consider information flow in black holes; he argued that aging black holes must hoard information about everything they swallow. Yet when quantum mechanics and entanglement are included, Hawking's prediction holds true for the longest time possible.

So what does this mean for black holes? The research that was conducted backed up Einstein's theory of general relativity and also pointed to quantum information theory as a powerful tool for unlocking the physics behind the universe. It also provides new insights into the life and death of black holes while dispelling the firewall paradox.

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