Stephen Hawking’s Legacy Could Be ‘Holy Grail’ Of Physics: Combining Gravity And Quantum Mechanics At Black Hole Horizons

To suggest that quantum mechanics and gravity are on the verge of being reconciled would be, to the physics world at least, as significant as the discover of splitting the atom. While splitting the atom might have led to the nuclear bomb, it also led to the technology of nuclear power, i.e. nuclear fission, which, if harnessed properly, creates a renewable and sustainable energy resource. The problem has always been that quantum mechanics — the rules that govern sub-atomic particles — and gravity, the rule that governs mass as we know it (the stuff we can touch and feel), do not agree with each other. The question has always been, what is it that “unifies” these two theories? Is quantum mechanics God playing dice, as Einstein suggested?

“God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”

Stephen Hawking and his colleagues have come to a possible answer. Think of your television. You watch shows and movies and you are not thinking how unrealistic the movie is because it is on your two dimensional screen. The two dimensions represent information which is perceived by your brain as an accurate portrayal of the three dimensional universe. In short, the three dimensional universe is captured in two dimensions; reality becomes a hologram. Out reality could be nothing more than a television show if we extend Hawking’s Theory to the entire universe.

This is analogous to what happens on the black hole horizon. The horizon is the border between what is inside versus what is outside the black hole. This is to say that when a telescope is pointed at a black hole, there is a center which appears to emit no light. It has been imagined to know that matter, the stuff we can see, are all made out of, would be pushed inside a black hole and compressed into the infinitely small one-dimensional point in space, referred to as a singularity.

Nasa's Hubble telescope has observed to black holes furiously orbiting one another. These are two singularities which are ill fated to eventually collide and become one combined supermassive black hole.

It turns out that this might not be true. From Stephen Hawking’s early research which theorized “Hawking radiation” to current research which postulates a hologram of the matter — or rather the information of the matter — at the horizon. This means that due to time dilation created by the extreme gravity of a black hole that nothing ever passes “inside” — if an inside could even by conceptualized — given the fact that nothing, not even light, escapes from beyond the horizon.

Confused? That’s okay. Just think of it this way; a black hole occurs because there is so much mass condensed into such a small space that gravity becomes so strong that nothing — not even light — can escape. It turns out that it is the density of matter, not so much how much matter, that determines whether a black hole forms. At the point of the black hole occurring, however, Hawking makes two important discoveries. One, the black hole still emits light in the form of (Hawking) radiation, due to the quantum effect of spontaneity, that is, particles which appear seemingly out of nowhere. These particles appear in pairs, positive and negative, but which vanish very quickly as the positives and negatives nearly instantaneously cancel each other out. However, a black hole will consume the negative particle, thereby releasing a positive particle into the universe. Over time, the negative particles cancel out the matter of the black hole thereby evaporating the black hole. Two, information from matter that is drawn to a black hole is not lost, according to Hawking, but is maintained on the horizon as a 2D hologram. In short, if one could be close enough to observe the black hole horizon, then one would see the objects which have fallen into the black hole as perpetual 2D images retaining the qualities of the original object.

This discovery by Hawking is very significant, as it could support the theory that everything in our universe — including ourselves — is a hologram and that our perception of reality is just a sensation-based experience of television. If this is true, it could mean any number of things, including supporting the notion that we are living in a computer simulation, not unlike The Matrix, invented by future humans who have created the technology to upload consciousness into computers. This might sound far-fetched, but Stephen Hawking and current physics, including the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), are providing compelling evidence that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

And now for something completely different:

[Images by Dave J. Hogan, Carlo Allegri /Getty Images and Hubble /NASA]