Home > Programs > Zenith Grants > Zenith Grant Awardee

Zenith Grant Awardee

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.

Technical Abstract

Recent developments have emphasized the dramatic consequences of the idea that Hawking radiation might carry information out of black holes. This work will therefore revisit foundational aspects of the black hole information problem. It will first attempt to improve models of and/or sharpen criticisms of the idea that black-hole evaporation might be non-unitary (i.e., that information falling into a black hole is \'lost,\' in the sense that it is not re-emitted in the Hawking radiation). Second, it will study the way the AdS/CFT correspondence encodes quantum information in order to better determine whether it provides a good model for all possible theories of gravity, especially in regard to black hole information. Third, it will explore the extent to which generalizations of quantum mechanics (or other structures) can/cannot alleviate tensions surrounding black hole evaporation. Finally, it will attempt to extract further lessons from the assumption that horizons of sufficiently old black holes undergo the kind of dramatic change that seems to be required for information to be emitted.

Skip to content