The black hole information paradox results from the combination of quantum mechanics and general relativity. It suggests that physical information could permanently disappear in a black hole, allowing many physical states to devolve into the same state. This is controversial because it violates a commonly assumed tenet of science—that in principle complete information about a physical system at one point in time should determine its state at any other time. A fundamental postulate of quantum mechanics is that complete information about a system is encoded in its wave function up to when the wave function collapses. The evolution of the wave function is determined by a unitary operator, and unitarity implies that information is conserved in the quantum sense. This is the strictest form of determinism.
The Penrose diagram of a black hole which forms, and then completely evaporates away. Information falling into it will hit the singularity.[clarification needed] Time shown on vertical axis from bottom to top; space shown on horizontal axis from left (radius zero) to right (growing radius).
In 1975, Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein showed that black holes should slowly radiate away energy, which poses a problem. From the no hair theorem, one would expect the Hawking radiation to be completely independent of the material entering the black hole. Nevertheless, if the material entering the black hole were a pure quantum state, the transformation of that state into the mixed state of Hawking radiation would destroy information about the original quantum state. This violates Liouville's theorem and presents a physical paradox.
More precisely, if there is an entangledpure state, and one part of the entangled system is thrown into the black hole while keeping the other part outside, the result is a mixed state after the partial trace is taken into the interior of the black hole. But since everything within the interior of the black hole will hit the singularity within a finite time, the part which is traced over partially might disappear completely from the physical system.
There are various ideas about how the paradox is solved. Since the 1997 proposal of the AdS/CFT correspondence, the predominant belief among physicists is that information is preserved and that Hawking radiation is not precisely thermal but receives quantum corrections. Other possibilities include the information being contained in a Planckian remnant left over at the end of Hawking radiation or a modification of the laws of quantum mechanics to allow for non-unitary time evolution.
In July 2004, Stephen Hawking published a paper presenting a theory that quantum perturbations of the event horizon could allow information to escape from a black hole, which would resolve the information paradox. His argument assumes the unitarity of the AdS/CFT correspondence which implies that an AdS black hole that is dual to a thermalconformal field theory. When announcing his result, Hawking also conceded the 1997 bet, paying Preskill with a baseball encyclopedia "from which information can be retrieved at will." However, Thorne remains unconvinced of Hawking's proof and declined to contribute to the award.
According to Roger Penrose, loss of unitarity in quantum systems is not a problem: quantum measurements are by themselves already non-unitary. Penrose claims that quantum systems will in fact no longer evolve unitarily as soon as gravitation comes into play, precisely as in black holes. The Conformal Cyclic Cosmology advocated by Penrose critically depends on the condition that information is in fact lost in black holes. This new cosmological model might in future be tested experimentally by detailed analysis of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB): if true the CMB should exhibit circular patterns with slightly lower or slightly higher temperatures. In November 2010, Penrose and V. G. Gurzadyan announced they had found evidence of such circular patterns, in data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) corroborated by data from the BOOMERanG experiment. The significance of the findings was subsequently debated by others.[clarification needed]
Main approaches to the solution of the paradox
Advantage: Seems to be a direct consequence of relatively non-controversial calculation based on semiclassical gravity.
Disadvantage: Violates unitarity, as well as energy conservation or causality.
Information gradually leaks out during the black-hole evaporation
Advantage: Intuitively appealing because it qualitatively resembles information recovery in a classical process of burning.
Disadvantage: Requires a large deviation from classical and semiclassical gravity (which do not allow information to leak out from the black hole) even for macroscopic black holes for which classical and semiclassical approximations are expected to be good approximations.
Information suddenly escapes out during the final stage of black-hole evaporation
Advantage: A significant deviation from classical and semiclassical gravity is needed only in the regime in which the effects of quantum gravity are expected to dominate.
Disadvantage: Just before the sudden escape of information, a very small black hole must be able to store an arbitrary amount of information, which violates the Bekenstein bound.
Information is stored in a Planck-sized remnant
Advantage: No mechanism for information escape is needed.
Disadvantage: To contain the information from any evaporated black hole, the remnants would need to have an infinite number of internal states. It has been argued that it would be possible to produce an infinite amount of pairs of these remnants since they are small and indistinguishable from the perspective of the low-energy effective theory.
Information is stored in a baby universe that separates from our own universe.
Advantage: This scenario is predicted by the Einstein–Cartan theory of gravity which extends general relativity to matter with intrinsic angular momentum (spin). No violation of known general principles of physics is needed.
Disadvantage: It is difficult to test the Einstein-Cartan theory because its predictions are significantly different from general-relativistic ones only at extremely high densities.
Information is encoded in the correlations between future and past
^The Black Hole War p. 10: "It was not a war between angry enemies; indeed the main participants are all friends. But it was a fierce intellectual struggle of ideas between people who deeply respected each other but also profoundly disagreed."
^ abcdGiddings, Steven B. (1995). "The black hole information paradox". Particles, Strings and Cosmology. Johns Hopkins Workshop on Current Problems in Particle Theory 19 and the PASCOS Interdisciplinary Symposium 5. arXiv:hep-th/9508151.
^ abcdePreskill, John (1992). "Do Black Holes Destroy Information?". International Symposium on Black Holes, Membranes, Wormholes, and Superstrings. arXiv:hep-th/9209058.
Preskill, John (1992). "Do black holes destroy information?". An international symposium on Black Holes: 22. arXiv:hep-th/9209058. Bibcode:1993bhmw.conf...22P. Discusses methods of attack on the problem, and their apparent shortcomings.