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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Donald Marolf
University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title

Black hole information and firewall singularities

Project Summary

In 1976, Stephen Hawking discovered that black holes evaporate, radiating away their energy over extremely long periods of time. According to his calculations, this radiation contains essentially no information regarding the formation of the initial black hole. This is in sharp contrast to familiar processes such as burning a piece of paper where, though extremely difficult to accomplish in practice, fundamental principles of physics tell us that that full information about the paper can in principle be reconstructed from the full set of debris (including all heat, light, sound, ashes, etc) produced in the paper's demise. This work reexamines the question of whether Hawking radiation contains similar information and explores associated consequences. A positive answer, as apparently predicted by string theory, would likely have dramatic consequences for spacetime at the edge of a black hole. A negative answer would likely involve something like the production of new universes. With either result, studies of this information problem lead to fundamental lessons that may impact our understanding of space, time and physics far beyond black holes themselves.

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