claim that a black hole consumes information has drawn attention to a
potentially serious con?ict between quantum mechanics and the general theory of
relativity, as it violates one of the fundamental principles of quantum
mechanics – information cannot be destroyed. This gave rise to a paradox, that
physicists refer to as ‘The Black Hole Information Paradox’.
that with the evaporation of the black hole, all the information about what
went into it, is gone as well.
raised a lot of questions, one of which still bothers physicists today – Where
did the information go?
The so-called Hawking radiation causes black holes to shrink in size and eventually
He proposed what is now a widely accepted idea about
the nature of black holes, according to which they radiate particles.
The spaghettification idea satisfied scientists until the 1970s,
when Hawking dropped a bombshell.
So, what would happen if you fell into a
black hole? For years scientists thought they knew how you would meet
your end. Imagine falling into the black hole feet first. As your feet are
closer to the singularity, they would feel a stronger gravitational force and will thus
start to move faster than the rest of your body, causing you to get stretched
into a long noodle. Physicists call this process ‘spaghettification’.
An analogy inspired by William
G. Unruh of the University of British Columbia, one of the pioneers in black
hole quantum mechanics, helps to explain the significance of this pull. Imagine
you are fish, swimming downstream a river that leads towards a waterfall. If
you are significantly far away from the cliff, you can easily swim away to
safety. But once you get far enough downstream, no matter how fast you swim in
the opposite direction, you cannot escape the pull of the water. For black
holes, this ‘point of no return’ is called the event horizon and it is the
place beyond which nothing, not even light can escape.
For most of the past century, the scientific community thought that the
extreme gravitational pull would crush all the matter that made up the black
hole into a one-dimensional point, called a singularity which is not only
incredibly massive, but also incredibly dense. The closer you are to this
point, the stronger the gravitational attraction is.
To begin to understand this controversy, we
need to first understand what a black hole is. A black hole is
a region in space where the force of gravity is so strong that even light is not able to escape. Although some black holes are thought to have formed
in the early universe, soon after the big bang, most medium-sized black holes form
when the center of a very massive star collapses in upon itself.
One of the biggest paradoxes in physics
today is one that sounds straight out of a science fiction novel. What would
happen if you fell into a black hole? Rest assured,
the answer to this bizarre question is that you would die – that is not up for discussion.
But it is how exactly you would die that is keeping physicists up at night. There are currently two major theories fighting over
this horrifying scenario and the outcome of this battle could revolutionize the
fundamental laws of our universe.
What would happen if you fell into a black hole?