Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Ira Kennedy
Last updated: May 23, 2019
Hawking’sclaim that a black hole consumes information has drawn attention to apotentially serious con?ict between quantum mechanics and the general theory ofrelativity, as it violates one of the fundamental principles of quantummechanics – information cannot be destroyed. This gave rise to a paradox, thatphysicists refer to as ‘The Black Hole Information Paradox’.It seemsthat with the evaporation of the black hole, all the information about whatwent into it, is gone as well.
This idearaised a lot of questions, one of which still bothers physicists today – Wheredid the information go? The so-called Hawking radiation causes black holes to shrink in size and eventuallyevaporate completely. He proposed what is now a widely accepted idea aboutthe 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 ablack hole? For years scientists thought they knew how you would meetyour end. Imagine falling into the black hole feet first. As your feet arecloser to the singularity, they would feel a stronger gravitational force and will thusstart to move faster than the rest of your body, causing you to get stretchedinto a long noodle.
Physicists call this process ‘spaghettification’. An analogy inspired by WilliamG. Unruh of the University of British Columbia, one of the pioneers in blackhole quantum mechanics, helps to explain the significance of this pull. Imagineyou are fish, swimming downstream a river that leads towards a waterfall.
Ifyou are significantly far away from the cliff, you can easily swim away tosafety. But once you get far enough downstream, no matter how fast you swim inthe opposite direction, you cannot escape the pull of the water. For blackholes, this ‘point of no return’ is called the event horizon and it is theplace beyond which nothing, not even light can escape. For most of the past century, the scientific community thought that theextreme gravitational pull would crush all the matter that made up the blackhole into a one-dimensional point, called a singularity which is not onlyincredibly massive, but also incredibly dense. The closer you are to thispoint, the stronger the gravitational attraction is. To begin to understand this controversy, weneed to first understand what a black hole is. A black hole isa 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 formedin the early universe, soon after the big bang, most medium-sized black holes formwhen the center of a very massive star collapses in upon itself. One of the biggest paradoxes in physicstoday is one that sounds straight out of a science fiction novel. What wouldhappen 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 overthis horrifying scenario and the outcome of this battle could revolutionize thefundamental laws of our universe. What would happen if you fell into a black hole?