Stephen Hawking: Black Holes Could Be Portals To Other Universes [Video]

In the last century, black holes have gone from hypothetical to almost undisputed curiosities of the universe, and Professor Stephen Hawking has long been at the forefront of black hole research. Hawking has said on the record that, as recently as the 1970s, he found the puzzling anomalies of spacetime to be “vexing,” mostly due to the contradictions between established (at the time) theories and his own calculations and observations.

As Smithsonian Magazine reports, the common wisdom at the time was that black holes were and are completely black. According to Professor Hawking, however, his own mathematics indicated that black holes actually emitted particles, producing a faint glow. That faint glow is now known the world over as “Hawking radiation.”

“I therefore put quite a lot of effort into trying to get rid of this embarrassing effect… But the more I thought about it, the more it refused to go away.”

Stephen Hawking gave the inaugural speech for a new Black Hole Research Initiative, Breakthrough Starshot, of which Harvard University will be home, on April 18 at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre. The new initiative will be a cooperative partnership that includes the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the goal is deceptively simple. To figure out once and for all how black holes behave, and what happens inside of black holes.

The joint black hole initiative will be directed by Avi Loeb, a Harvard University astrophysicist, comes at a time when black holes have frequently been in the media and scientific spotlights, and follows an exciting discovery that took place in February. It was then that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) finally detected the presence of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are long sought-after evidence of the existence of black holes, as they are believed to be the result of collisions between massive black holes, and actually create ripples in spacetime.

The confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves not only provided Stephen Hawking and the rest of the scientific community tangible proof that black holes actually exist, the discovery indicates that black holes behave the way that scientists have calculated that they should. Hawking commented on the LIGO black hole discovery while he spoke at Harvard.

“LIGO has opened a new window in our universe. With more detections expected, I am excited by the possibility of new discoveries.”

As Stephen Hawking continued his Harvard address, he continued to bombard his audience with a plethora of highly technical information pertaining to Einstein’s theories and his own discoveries, coupled with the complicated math and theoretical physics behind black holes. During his lecture, Hawking made a statement about black holes that really got the attention of the laypersons and the media alike.

“Things can get out of a black hole, both from the outside and possibly through another universe.”

Professor Hawking’s words incited a social media flurry, and taken out of context at their face value, they do portend exciting, almost incomprehensible possibilities. However, as Uproxx reports, Stephen Hawking’s shocking words about black holes don’t mean precisely what they appear to mean. Like black holes themselves, the words of the legendary professor were something of an enigma wrapped in a riddle cloaked in a mystery.

In physics, every particle has information on it, or “the stuff that makes it distinct.” This is a concept particularly intrinsic to quantum physics, where it’s been observed that two distinct particles can act upon one another from great distances. What could happen if one of those particles were sucked into a black hole? What happens to the information? Could one particle still act upon its counterpart, even under these circumstances?

The (as yet undetermined) answer to those black hole questions are a huge deal, scientifically speaking. And practically speaking, too. The foundation of science is “determinism,” meaning you gather information and then use it to build a conclusion. Inside a black hole, this may become an impossibility. Stephen Hawking himself has pointed out the troubling implications of such a “reality.” What if our memories and our history are nothing but illusions, and that our accumulated knowledge, what we know to be true based on our observations and what we’ve learned, could simply cease to be in a split second. This is the implication of quantum entanglement (distinct particles being connected and influencing one another across vast distances) coupled with black holes.

Rendering of Black Hole
[Photo by ESA/Getty Images]
Stephen Hawking is just as disturbed by this theoretical possibility as you and I, and he’s spent his life searching for answers.

It is from this context that Stephen Hawking’s “things from another universe” statement was based. What Stephen Hawking was trying to say is that when particles fall (or are sucked) into a black hole, they might end up in another universe, and their information may be preserved but inaccessible to us. If that were the case, determinism would be preserved.

However, if particles from our known universe can fall into black holes and end up in another universe, intact but out of our reach, could it also be possible that particles from other universes are also “falling into” our universe? That is what Stephen Hawking meant when he said that, “Things can get out of a black hole, both from the outside and possibly through another universe.”

So, despite the media hype, Stephen Hawking wasn’t saying that black holes are potential alien wormholes or entryways that could be used to “invade” our universe — or vice versa.

[Photo by Jamel Countess/Getty Images]

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