Black holes are pretty dope. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge of them. That being said, when I read about this new theory that Stephen Hawking came up with regarding black holes it got my attention.
Over on NBC News, they wrote an article about this theory of Hawking’s where he and some of his colleagues hypothesize that black holes “may sport a luxurious head of ‘hair’ made up of ghostly, zero-energy particles.”
Why is this important? Because they theorize that those hairs may be where information about our universe may be stored.
“The million-dollar question is whether all the information is stored in this way, and we have made no claims about that,” said study author Andrew Strominger, a physicist at Harvard University in Massachusetts. “It seems unlikely that the kind of hair that we described is rich enough to store all the information.”
Someone far smarter than me, Dan Seitz over at GammaSquad, breaks that down even further, making it even more understandable…
A new theory, developed by Hawking, his colleague Malcolm Perry, and Harvard theoretical physicist Andrew Strominger, argues otherwise. If you introduce a “soft” photon — or a photon that has no energy — into that vacuum, it changes the angular momentum. In other words, there are ways to determine what formed a black hole and what might have gotten sucked into it. This would mean black holes have “hair,” long strands of zero-energy photons and gravitons that could tell us the history of that black hole. Strominger likens it to a hard drive that can store infinite data about the universe.
This is a bigger deal than you might at first think. Black holes are all over the universe, and if this theory holds true, it would mean we could read them like rings on a tree. In theory, if we got to and observed a black hole properly, we could determine a lot about the history of the galaxy in that particular neighborhood. So, in short, if Hawking and Strominger are right, black holes hold the entire history of the universe in their hair. We just need to unlock it.
If this turns out to be true then this a real game-changer and may answer questions that we as humans have been asking for centuries.
Black hole image by Shutterstock