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Belmont Club

Of Leaks and Gaskets

February 1st, 2014 - 9:52 pm

Though largely indifferent to actual science the public is obsessed with scientists; and while textbooks may warn against judging scientific truth from “authority” the public in fact does exactly that.  Truth comes from the biggest name. Once a famous scientist pronounces on a subject then it must be true. So when Stephen Hawking recently declared that Black Holes didn’t exist after decades of being famous for them the public did the natural thing. It reversed its beliefs. OK. Black Holes don’t exist.

But as Brian Koberlin notes in the Universe Today that’s an oversimplification at best. Hawking has acknowledged that Black Holes have ‘leaked’ for a long time, meaning they aren’t really “Black”. The ‘leak’ was required to reconcile two conflict mandates, one from quantum mechanics and the other from classical relativity.

On the one hand, classical relatively predicted that an inescapable Black Hole which possessed a gravitational field so large that nothing could escape from it. But on the other hand quantum mechanics decreed that information could never be destroyed. If Black Holes existed then whatever fell into them was lost forever and information was destroyed. This was called the Black Hole Information Paradox which was nothing less than a direct clash between the fundamental tenets of two foundational theories in the world of physics. So some method of escape had to be invented which observed the rules of each in order for them to both be valid.

The resolution to the problem was to posit a slow leakage due to quantum physics in which one entangled particle popped up on one side of the event horizon and its companion on the other. That allowed both relativity and quantum mechanics to call it a draw. But this notion created two problems in return.  The proposed escape mechanism required a gasket-like firewall.

it would create a firewall of high energy particles near the surface of the event horizon. This is often called the firewall paradox because according to general relativity if you happen to be near the event horizon of a black hole you shouldn’t notice anything unusual. The fundamental idea of general relativity (the principle of equivalence) requires that if you are freely falling toward near the event horizon there shouldn’t be a raging firewall of high energy particles. In his paper, Hawking proposed a solution to this paradox by proposing that black holes don’t have event horizons. Instead they have apparent horizons that don’t require a firewall to obey thermodynamics. Hence the declaration of “no more black holes” in the popular press.

But that only created worse problems, for relativity decreed there could no observable Hollywood-style firewall. Nor did it propitiate the quantum gods. The new slowly evaporating Black Hole still destroyed information. Matt Ford writing for Ars Technica put it this way.

The black hole information paradox began life, so to speak, in 1975, when Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein proved that black holes were not really black, but that they emitted thermal radiation and eventually evaporated. This leads to a problem; other cosmological tenets (the no-hair theorem) suggest that the Hawking radiation that leaves a black hole should be independent of the material that goes in. This is problematic, because if one could have an initial quantum state where everything is known with exact certainty and send it into a black hole, then as the black hole evaporates and evolves, the final state of the system cannot be predicted. In this case, the best result is that a probable outcome can be computed. Here information has been lost: you knew exactly what went in, but you don’t know exactly what may come out—quantum mechanics has been violated.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder actually claims that Hawking has said nothing new so far. That is to say the problem and paradox remains unsolved. Hossenfelder says: “The actual quote is: ‘The absence of event horizons mean that there are no black holes – in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity.’” which only means she says that the gasket doesn’t last forever.

What Hawking is saying is essentially that he believes that a matter collapse only leads to a temporary apparent horizon but not to an eternal event horizon. That is an opinion which is shared by many of his colleagues (including me) and there is nothing new about this idea whatsoever….

Having said that, Hawking’s “paper” is really just a writeup of a talk he gave last year. It’s mostly a summary of his thoughts on the black hole firewall, none of which I found very exciting or remarkable. Had this paper been posted by anybody else, nobody would have paid attention to it.

In summary, nothing has changed in our understanding of black holes due to Hawking’s paper. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.

And we have a headline without news. We still don’t know how reality does what it does, only that it does. And though we see stuff happening we can’t figure out how it works.

That doesn’t mean we never will. Ethan Siegel notes that there are mathematical possibilities (some developed by Sabine Hossenfelder) which allow the problem of the firewall to be sidestepped and which taken together suggest “there is no firewall and that the resolution to the firewall paradox is that the first assumption, that Hawking radiation is in a pure state [entangled in a particular way], is the one that’s flawed.”

Pardoxes hold a special place in human knowledge. They are markers not just for the things we do not know but for problems we do not know how to think about. As BG Sidharth once observed, “the greatest breakthroughs in our concepts of physics, and science in general, have been counterintuitive.”  Progress occurs when we learn how to think about a problem. And in that respect it is the unsolved problem, the outlier, rather than in the well trodden mean where new knowledge is to be found.

In this age of “settled science” and “scientific consensus” is often important to remember that in the end there’s the Truth and there’s us. And we learn from Truth — and not from men. Then for better or for worse, however crazy it may seem, the Truth shall make us free.


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Top Rated Comments   
Why does every post have to be about politics?/sarc

The Black Hole, also known as Nancy Pelosi's brain.

I thought the loss of information was accounted for by the infinite amount of time it takes to happen. Advanced Physics is another of those topics that amateurs feel free to opine on. Others are Architecture and Sports Management. The corollary of that, proving there is Newtonian balance, is that experts in any field free free to pronounce on other subjects, even though they would react strenuously against any interference in their field by the unqualified.

As a subject becomes credentialed and isolated it follows that it attracts less qualified or talented rent seekers. This is most apparent with Geophysics, where semi-literate activists moved in and claim to be experts on climate change.

Specialization can work against democratic governance. There are tensions between the need to have the general community able to debate policy and the real need for experts. There is another tension between the needs for specialization recognized as credentialed authority and the fact that that protection will attract the less talented or honest who corrupt any institution over time.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eggplant said "Stephen Hawking jumped the shark a long time ago as a serious physicist. His current mission in life is to be a media celebrity. The MSM will happily oblige provided Hawking can be sufficiently entertaining.'

Carl Sagan did it first. Then James Hansen came next.

Turco, Toon, Ackerman, Pollack and Sagan (TTAPS) introduced politics into NASA policy. Saddam Hussein's experiment with 640 burning oil wells put a stake into the heart of "Nuclear Winter". The smoke never rose into the stratosphere, as they had predicted.

Meanwhile, they were tryiig to ridicule Reagan's SDI program as "Star Wars". Granted there were fundamental problems with space based lasers due to radiation pressure effects. Today's laser weapons are based on massive, stable bases to minimize recoil effects (e.g. ship based lasers).

And Hansen and AWG is a lot of nonsense. The core truth is that water vapor is "the primary species of greenhouse gas". Justice Stevens was mistaken when he wrote in the majority opinion of Massachusetts v. EPA that carbon dioxide was the primary species. From whence comes an out of control regulatory regime based on a false premise. The climate "scientists" assert the primacy of carbon dioxide only by ignoring water vapor's infrared spectrum on the "blue planet"!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_absorption_by_water


The con is known as global warming potential.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential

Note particularly this bit...

"Although water vapour has a significant influence with regard to absorbing infrared radiation (which is the green house effect; see greenhouse gas), its GWP is not calculated. Its concentration in the atmosphere mainly depends on air temperature. There is no possibility to directly influence atmospheric water vapour concentration."

If it does not fit the narrative, one may safely ignore it. (sarcasm alert).
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The truth is paradoxical. Both quantum mechanics and theology are full of paradoxes. The idea of the collapse of the wave function is very helpful in thinking theologically.

When I asked God who was right about how often to have communion, every day or once a month, He offered a paradoxical answer. Just do both. My response: "I can't do that!". I have to choose one or the other. Thinking of it as a quantum problem, as a collapse question, was to see that both were right, and i had to be as familiar with what I didn't do as what I did.

The problem is that we need a paradoxical math where something is 100% of two things that both cannot be true at the same time. Thinking about quantum computing always hurts my mind if i think about it too long.

I am very impressed with a God who has designed a universe where free will is required, yet predestination is true. The great paradox on which all theology must be founded.

So I tell people that bewilderment is the beginning of wisdom, and one must be a cynical innocent. The more certain I am, the harder to find the truth, and the biggie, I must learn what i don't know.

Just remember we have now proved we don't know what 95% of the universe is made of. All we did was give what we didn't know names. We might as well have called them invisible dragons, at least then it would be clearer all we knew was that we didn't know. Yet we now know we don't know which proves the paradox of bewilderment is the beginning of wisdom.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (40)
All Comments   (40)
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Some scholars contend that the early Church question; the butt of countless modern jokes;
"How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"
was actually an attempt to determine; "Can two objects occupy the same space at the same time?"
Modern man; with no time for such impractical nonsense; instead agonizes over the important question;
"How many physycists can dance on a non-existant Event Horizon of a Black Hole that isn't one?"
Drop a pebble into a pond and the ripples will reach the other shore, however faint they are by then.
Drop a pebble in the mud and you get no ripples.
Black Holes, with or without Event Horizons, will never, ever, have the faintesty possible effect on your life.

"What is the greatest thing
A King can do for his land?
The task that lies under his nose
With the tools that lie under his hand." Kipling - 'The Kings Lesson' (worth reading)
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
@CharlesWhite

I don't know, but 2 mentions of "Hawkins" instead of "Hawking" gets you 10 points on John Baez's "Crackpot Index" (see item 8)

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Speaking as a layman with a congenital inability to understand mathematics, thus curtailed understanding of science; does any of this bring us closer to a functioning warp drive? Phasers? Firefly class cargo transports?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
RIP Chris Kyle, and God's blessings on Taya, Baby Girl, and little Bubba. One year ago today.

I've always called my daughter "Baby Girl", so when I first saw her last message to her dad, it just crushed my soul. Warrior's are ready to go, and ready to give their all for their loved ones and country. But that the warrior's kids should know such sadness as this is heart rending. Again, God bless them all, and the Littlefield family as well.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Breitbart's birthday, too, yesterday.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Has the SuperBowl already started in Australia or ended already? Who won?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Calling Thomas Kuhn.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
JFSanders and Buddy Larsen replied to my post about time being an illusion, and I respond to them here.

In response to Buddy’s limerick:

When trying to write a quintain
It cannot be done without pain
It withers your soul
And makes a black hole
Of matter that once was a brain

To JF I say:

I am nearly finished my novel ILLUSION, and you have summarized in four lines what will have taken me 75,000 words to say.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some say, "Free will is an Ilyushin". Hope we never agree --

=== ok, back to the limerick biz:

From the stories the wretchard cat tells
stream bubbles from sunk memory wells
one such, may I ask it
does leaking and gasket
ring 'failure of O ring' -rung bells?

===and even further down the rungs, alas:

Sick shudders health care Obamatic
as debate waxes wane to dramatic
leading some to be asking
which is best for the tasking,
Six shooters or semi-automatic?







(show less)
(show less)
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
To truly understand the role of black holes, please read Gene Wolfe's magnificent "Urth of the New Sun". Best writer since Rudyard Kipling.

I must agree with Hawking on this: that all our squabbles are merely preparation to leave the nest.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
and while textbooks may warn against judging scientific truth from “authority” the public in fact does exactly that

That's because almost the entire public learns of events from the 'news' media, and it is riddled through and through with scientific dunces who eagerly purport to speak for 'Science' while herding public opinion in the direction of left.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, but Sagan had such a beautiful profile, gazing lovingly up at his giant screen! Who could resist? Surely such a gorgeous man knew everything.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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