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Steven Hawking Loses Bet On Black Holes? 477

st1d writes "Looks like Steven Hawking might have to pay up on an old bet regarding black holes - seems his idea about them destroying information wasn't quite living up to his expectations: 'The about-turn might cost Hawking, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, an encyclopaedia because of a bet he made in 1997. More importantly, it might solve one of the long-standing puzzles in modern physics.' He's due to make a formal announcement July 21."
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Steven Hawking Loses Bet On Black Holes?

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  • Winning a bet... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dagny Taggert ( 785517 ) <hankrearden@gmaR ... minus herbivore> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:05AM (#9705911) Homepage
    ...against Hawking would be something to tell the grandchildren about. Hell, it would be an honor to lose a bet to him.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:09AM (#9705931)
      Hell, it would be an honor to lose a bet to him.

      As long as it isn't a stair climbing bet.
      • As long as it isn't a stair climbing bet.

        Ha ha ha.... you've made the same mistake that the Doctor made when running up a staircase to escape from the Daleks (Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks).

        Yep; levitation technology. I heard that Hawking got it roundabout the same time he got his hands on the Daleks' laser-gun technology.

        In fact, I heard he's getting plastic surgery to look more like Davros [].
    • Re:Winning a bet... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zaphrod ( 752084 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:24AM (#9706046) Homepage
      Steven has lost bets before but in most cases I believe it was he who proved himself wrong. He bets against what he hopes to prove thereby winning in either case.
    • He already lost a bet related to the existance of black holes. Now this. No surprise.

      He may be a genius, but I wouldn't want to be with him at a casino.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:44AM (#9706669)
      Hawking is a better than average physicist, but he is far from the best... What he is very good at is explaining advanced concepts in a way that the educated (but not advanced degree in physics holding) crowd can understand.

      He is also good at taking credit for work that is not his own. He has on 2 occasions had to apologize to professor Jimmy York [] for claiming Jimmies ideas as his own. Rumor has it that Jimmy says Hawking has done it again, but has not yet apologized this time.

      He and his main collaborator (Roger Penrose) are widely regarded as ass holes (actually referred to as the twin ass holes) who capitalize greatly on other peoples work without doing much themselves in the cosmology community.

      Posted AC to protect my fiancé (a cosmology PhD student), the source of most of my info on Hawking...
      • by untaken_name ( 660789 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:54AM (#9706765) Homepage
        Shame on you, basing your opinions on anecdotal hearsay evidence from your SO! What kind of dumbass are you? Don't you know that on /. it's proper to formulate your opinions based on Internet-posted hearsay and anecdotal evidence! Tsk, tsk!
      • Actually, this is little known: Years ago Hawking was a closet computer scientist. He developed what at the time was rumored to be a form of AI. His goal was to teach the AI theoretical physics in order to assist him in his declining physical abilities to research. As he lost his faculties the AI computer was equipped with a voice synthesizer. He's actually been brain dead for about 14 years - all his "latest work" is being done by this AI.

        Well, at least, that's what this Postal Service employee told me d
      • He is also good at taking credit for work that is not his own.
        I call it a Hawking hole.
      • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:56PM (#9711190) Journal
        "He and his main collaborator (Roger Penrose) are [widely] regarded as ass holes (actually referred to as the twin ass holes) who capitalize greatly on other peoples work without doing much themselves in the cosmology community.

        Posted AC to protect my fiancé (a cosmology PhD student), the source of most of my info on Hawking..."

        And precisely how wide is your fiancé?

        I've dealt with Penrose and find him to be quite the opposite of this assessment. I've dealt far more with a "competitor" of his, Basil Hiley, who I'm certain would say the same.

        Granted, writing a book about everything Roger Penroseish as an irrelevant introduction to a severely misguided "theory" on "consciousness" was a failure in the scientific sense, it was at least entertaining to those interested in tiling problems and such.

        As to his "consciousness" theory (in quotes because it has yet to be objectively defined) when asked just how the brain went about processing the stuff he proposed, he responded "I have no idea. I'm just a physicist. That's why I came to talk with you psychology people."

        I know people from the extreme opposite camp from Penrose in the field of "consciousness" studies, and doubt I could find any who considered him to be an asshole without making themselves into one in the process.
    • by MasTRE ( 588396 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:19AM (#9706988)
      > Winning a bet against Hawking would be something to tell the grandchildren about.

      Hey, kids - when I was your age, I used to bet people in wheelchairs who couldn't even speak unassisted and take their money away.
    • Perhaps someone here can clear something up for me about the formation of black holes...

      Let's say I'm watching something (a gigantic encyclopedia, say) collapse to form a black hole.

      As the object collapses, its gravitational field gets stronger, and therefore, as observed from my vantage point, the time dilation effect gets stronger. i.e. From my perspective, the collapse proceeds ever more slowly. Although it never stops collapsing, I don't believe I would observe it actually turn into a black hole in
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:06AM (#9705919) Journal
    seems his idea about them destroying information wasn't quite living up to his expectations
    In other words, black holes don't run Windows.
  • Integrity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stephen R Hall ( 163541 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:07AM (#9705925)
    It shows the character of the man - not only is he prepared to admit he was wrong, but will present detailed scientific proof of why he was wrong.
    • Re:Integrity (Score:5, Informative)

      by thefirelane ( 586885 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:11AM (#9705949)
      If this is the same bet I remember... he wanted to be wrong. His expectation, and hope was that he would loose the bet... he took the bet because if his theories turn out to be wrong, at least he gets the prize of the bet as consolation.

    • by Ari_Haviv ( 796424 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:16AM (#9705982) Homepage
      not only that but he "appeared" on Conan O'brian. now that is a man I can respect.
    • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:18AM (#9705996)
      Yes, he is going to bring a small black hole to the meeting which will consume all the delegates thus destroying them. The now completely destroyed delegates will continue to receive spam so proving that some information about them does still exist. Unfortunately for the delegates though their future legacy is to be considered by our decendants as perverts obsessed with their penis size, women having carnal relations with donkeys and perhaps most bizarrely, a toner cartridge fetish.
    • Re:Integrity (Score:2, Interesting)

      by simong_oz ( 321118 )
      It shows the character of the man

      Actually, reading after his biography (sorry can't remember which one) I got the feeling he was not really a very nice person at all. He came across as extremely arrogant and intolerant. True, he's been through and overcome a lot, but the way he treated people around him was not very nice at all.
      • Re:Integrity (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BenBenBen ( 249969 )
        A friend is at Cambridge, and he describes Hawking as a man who isn't afraid to use his wheelchair as a weapon (literally - not a fan of crowds, by all accounts), and knows his value to Cambridge as long as he remains there.

        Having never met him I'd be loathe to criticise, but anecdotal evidence does suggest he's a grade A egotistical wanker. Or as Fox would put it, "Some people say he's a baby-eating wheeled menace who should be ejected into space; you decide".
        • Re:Integrity (Score:5, Insightful)

          by timalewis ( 27192 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:35AM (#9706578)
          I think you could perhaps attribute his attitude more to the fact that he is a Cambridge academic and less to the fact that he is in a wheelchair.

        • by FuzzyBad-Mofo ( 184327 ) <fuzzybad AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:58AM (#9707409)
          Applied Cryogenics, 2000

          Fry: So then my chair tilted backwards and I almost fell into this freezer thingy.
          Hawking: I call it a "Hawking Chamber."
          Fry: Instead of falling in and getting frozen, I missed and wanged my head.
          Gore: Well it's obvious what should have happened. That wang to the head should have killed you.
          Fry: Uh what?
          Nichols: Let's finish the job.
          Gore: No wait! There must be a peaceful -
          [Nichols pushes Fry over]
          Hawking: Hold him down.
          Deep Blue: Check.
          [Hawking runs Fry over with his wheelchair]
          Fry: Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
      • Re:Integrity (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ubergrendle ( 531719 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:57AM (#9706283) Journal
        Having worked with disabled people in a support capacity earlier in life, I can offer some observations (which are fully qualified as personal opinion only!):

        1. Disabilities affect your state of mind. Just as you think differently if you speak a different language or come from a different culture, the mere fact that you're disabled impacts ALL aspects of your life, directly or indirectly. Think of it this way: if you know, for example, that you will NEVER have a sex life and that you will NEVER go through the traditional dating/marriage male/female dynamic, how does that change you life? For better? For worse?

        2. Disabilities usually come with ongoing pain. Sores from prolonged periods of sitting in a wheelchair. Muscle problems from over developed/under developed muscles due to 'incorrect' body posture. Rashes from your adult diapers. Pain is NOT a natural state, and will pervade all aspects of your personality. When my mother had a serious muscle injury that persisted for about 18 months, the constant pain changed her personality completely (for the worse). Many times this is the reason why elderly people seem cantankerous and cranky...this is not their natural disposition. They were not 'always this way'.

        3. People with disabilities are needy. Some more than others. The best adjusted ones are people who have disabilities onset late in life, or the ones that somehow have the strength of will (plus physical capability) of being independent. But some do not/cannot become independent, and thus are need as a matter of living. In many disabled people, I've seen an amplified sense of demand and outrage at minor things. It also amplifies the 'me-me-me-me' attitude, which I interpret as a corrupted sense of self preservation.

        I think the movie "My Left Foot" did a great job portraying all of the personality differences if you're looking for a good dramatised case study.

        Short of it is: I don't doubt that Hawking is an a**hole. I would be a bit surprised if he wasn't, in all honesty. But try not to judge too harshly...despite his great intelligence I suspect his social skills are unique to himself and somewhat limited. In this case I prefer to feel pity for his first wife, and reserve judgment on the man.
        • Re:Integrity (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SunPin ( 596554 ) <> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:57AM (#9708024) Homepage
          Amigo, I'm sorry to hear about the horrible experiences you've had with the disabled. Since you experienced them in a work capacity, I can only suspect that it was a hospital or social services setting. Unfortunately, *nobody* is mentally well adjusted in those environments. Perhaps you should try spending time around a university or socially progressive areas like South Florida, Southern California, Berkeley, Madison, etc.

          Everybody knows some really bad apples. In college, I knew a guy that pretty much represented everything you wrote. He was a demented fuckup. I remember hearing other disabled kids grumbling stuff like, "as long as that asshat exists, he's going to make things harder on everybody [who is disabled]."

          Hawking is remarkable because of the severity of his disease. I can't imagine living in pain or without my wood but I know what the wheelchair is like and I know guys with the pain/wood issues that are happily married with children and paying their taxes every year.

          It's always annoying to see somebody use "always" or "never". At /., that's usually a tipoff to a troll. I understand what you wrote and how those ideas may have evolved. You have the right to keep them despite anything I or anybody else presents to the contrary. The only thing I ask is that you leave a wider door open for the possibility that you could be entirely wrong.

          It's the scientific thing to do, as Hawking eloquently demonstrates. Furthermore, the disabled know what they are up against. There's no need to make things harder by putting observations from a limited pool of experience into the net. Peace.
        • Re:Integrity (Score:3, Insightful)

          by magefile ( 776388 )
          Only partially true. While it is important to consider whether someone's pain or method of communication is influencing how they behave, it's no excuse. I myself have a severe physical disability, and while I'm not in constant pain, I have had problems with ongoing pain in the past. I meet occasionally with others who have the same disability as I do (it's extremely rare; perhaps less than 10,000 in the world) and it's very frustrating that only two or three of us seem to have normal lives (public high s
      • Re:Integrity (Score:5, Interesting)

        by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:05AM (#9706331)
        People who live in pain tend to be unpleasant characters. Sorry, it seems to work that way. That Hawking is able to be civil almost all the time is a great testiment to his social awareness. And his social awareness would make is "cripple" status particularly annoying to him.

        I suspect that he pep-talks himself all the time, just to get through a day. I'm certain that he will be seen by many as arrogant and intolerant. But if he were to be tolerant *of himself* he might well collapse into self-pity. Similarly if he were to loose his good (arrogant) opinion of himself.

        I am only sporadically troubled by a chronic pain. I'm told that the first thing that people notice that lets them know that I'm in pain is that I become more cutting, and my humor turns blacker. I don't notice this, myself, but it's been reported to me by someone I trust, AND used to diagnose when I was in pain, so I'm fairly certain that it's accurate.
  • an encyclopedia? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by guile*fr ( 515485 )
    I recall a bet he made involving a subscription to Penthouse.
  • Hawking to streak naked through the Cambridge campus while screaming "I know nothing about physics!" might be a bit more problematic.
  • More proof (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:10AM (#9705943)

    we are still guessing, we still have no real idea how the universe works

    and anything is possible, just because we dont know how to do it doesnt mean its impossible, but we wont learn much from peering through the glass of this fishbowl we are living in and proclaiming we know how it all works

    here's to improving guesswork for the next million years

  • by ideatrack ( 702667 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:10AM (#9705944)
    "Hawking's black holes, unlike classic black holes, do not have a well-defined event horizon that hides everything within them from the outside world".

    I wish he'd called them 'Fry Holes'.
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:11AM (#9705948) Homepage Journal
    "He sent a note saying 'I have solved the black hole information paradox and I want to talk about it'," says Curt Cutler, a physicist at the Albert Einstein Institute in Golm, Germany, who is chairing the conference's scientific committee. "I haven't seen a preprint [of the paper]. To be quite honest, I went on Hawking's reputation."

    I doubt there are few if any other scientists who could so influence his peers.

    • by ponxx ( 193567 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:24AM (#9706049)
      I think there are a few people of this stature in any field, just most of them are not as much in the public eye as Hawking.

      I can think of any number of scientists in fields I'm vaguely familiar with that would be granted time to speak at a conference at short notice without much proof of what they are going to say.

      However, *what* they say will still be up to intense scrutiny. There's nothing like proving an eminent scientist wrong or disproving an accepted theory to advance ones career in science...

      Anyway, it's the same anywhere in society. If you have a good reputation, people will at least listen to you. They won't necessary agree, but they will be willing to listen...
    • "[...] To be quite honest, I went on Hawking's reputation."

      I doubt there are few if any other scientists who could so influence his peers.

      Playing devil's advocate, is it a good thing? Shouldn't all work be taken on merit and nnot hearsay? Admittedly this is a lightly different situation since Stephen Hawking undoubtedly does actually know what he is talking about in this field, but I can't help feeling that it undermines some of the fundamental scientific principles?
    • I doubt there are few if any other scientists who could so influence his peers.

      Edward Witten is equally influential, with the distinction that he holds such influence both in the physics and the mathematics community.

      Sir Michael Atiyah on Witten:

      ... [Witten] has made a profound impact on contemporary mathematics. In his hands physics is once again providing a rich source of inspiration and insight in mathematics. Of course physical insight does not always lead to immediately rigorous mathematical proof

  • by Saven Marek ( 739395 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:11AM (#9705952)
    ""Since Stephen has changed his view and now believes that black holes do not destroy information, I expect him [and Kip] to concede the bet," Preskill told New Scientist. The duo are expected to present Preskill with an encyclopaedia of his choice "from which information can be recovered at will"."

    I like the sense of humor of these guys. Its comforting to know that there is something shared between some of the spectalcular minds and the rest of us that we can relate to.

    I wonder about the transform that must happen with the information when it gos into a black hole. For example radio waves. Or maybe light or matter. How is that all preserved if it is only turned into the one kind of radiation? is it just transformed and maybe its original form lost? or say something else? If a spaceship were to fall into a black hole would not the information of that matter ever being a spaceship and say maybe occupants be obliterated?

    The largest adult anime collection on the net []
  • Hooorah! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TreadOnUS ( 796297 )

    For a scientist of his stature to admint he was wrong is a credit to the man and the profession. Especially since he went and did the additional leg work (no pun) to validate the theory himself.

    • Re:Hooorah! (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's probably *why* he is admitting he is wrong. It's not to humble himself and say "I goofed" but to put forth a new theory that he has worked on. This stuff is all so theoretical in any case that I expect him to need to buy two sets of encyclopaedias, just for the bulk discount so he can save some cash next time he is wrong ;->
      • Re:Hooorah! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by TreadOnUS ( 796297 )

        This is the stuff good science is made of. Science advances when you move past being wrong and discover what's behind it.

        I only wish I was better at it ;-)

    • Re:Hooorah! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kombat ( 93720 ) <> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:37AM (#9706139) Homepage
      For a scientist of his stature to admint he was wrong is a credit to the man and the profession.

      Uhm, this isn't the first time he's been wrong. Indeed, the whole field of science is built upon scientists making educated and well-reasoned theories, then trying to prove it wrong. Pretty much all of our presently widely-accepted rules have come about this way. Many of them are even still called "theories." For example, "The Theory of Flight" has not been conclusively proven as a "Law" yet. Ditto for the Theory of Relativity, the Theory of Evolution, and the Theory of Atoms. We accept most of these ideas as facts nowadays, but the truth is, they're actually still just theories that haven't been proven wrong yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:15AM (#9705969)

    ..the odds get longer the nearer you get to it.


  • WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    WTF is "Steven" Hawking? His name is Stephen
  • He rolled away with the nurse that took care of him, or so I heard. On another note, check out - apparently he's had a second career as a gangsta rapper. A good 'nine will leave a few black holes in anyone, eh?
  • Castles in the sky (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    We are a long way from "proving" anything about black holes. All we are doing is producing theories that don't conflict too badly with the observed evidence. We're in the same position as 'scientists' in the middle ages describing planetary motion. They had a theory that accurately predicted the motion of the planets but that didn't mean that they understood the underlying process (ie. that the sun was the center of the solar system).
  • Presumably he will give a set of hard goods, because when the bet was made, there were no online encyclopedias or CD encyclopedias. But maybe he will show that times are a changin by giving a newer set of CD encyclopedias or a lifetime subscription.

    Besides, finding a set of bound encyclopedias that are up to date might prove difficult. The web has just about ruined the encyclopedia business.

  • by dominux ( 731134 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:22AM (#9706024) Homepage
    Hawking bet against himself so he would have a consolation prize if he lost. Some time in the intervening years the bet changed a bit.

    "Whereas Stephen Hawking has such a large investment in general relativity and black holes and desires an insurance policy, and wheras Kip Thorne likes to live dangerously without an insurance policy.
    Therefore be it resolved that Stephen Hawking bets one years subscription to PENTHOUSE as against Kip Thorne's wager of a 4-year subscription to PRIVATE EYE, that Cygnus X-1 does not contain a black hole of mass above Chandrasekhar limit."
    It was signed by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne.

    for those not of these shores Penthouse is a top shelf soft porn mag and Private eye is a current affairs/political satyrical publication.

  • What encyclopaedia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:23AM (#9706033)
    From the article:
    The duo are expected to present Preskill with an encyclopaedia of his choice "from which information can be recovered at will".

    The bet was about an encyclopaedia. The time when the bet was made that was still a lot of books. Later it became some discs. Now it is Wikipedia [] or even the Internet, if you like.

    So is he going to give a way an AOL CD? ;-)

    Seriously, I wonder what he(or you) now sees as an encyclopaedia or something "from which information can be recovered at will".
  • Which Bet? (Score:3, Informative)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:24AM (#9706048) Homepage Journal

    A number of years ago I saw a show where Hawking had mad a different bet with Kip Thorne concering the nature of black holes.

    IIRC, the loser had to buy the winner a copy of Penthouse.

    • That was a different bet, the one you mentioned was for Cygnus X-1 and was back in the early 1990s. When Hawking lost he gave a year subscrition to penthouse if he had won he would of received a subscription to the magazine private eye.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:29AM (#9706085)
    Steven Hawking fallible.

    Bush wrong on the weapons of mass destruction.

    I don't know who to believe in anymore.
  • Oh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DecayCell ( 778710 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:32AM (#9706101)
    So it is safe to store my data in a black hole?
  • How long before we use them to compress CD rips?

    I think mp3 has finally met its match!
  • I speak American English you insensitive clod!
  • by bhima ( 46039 ) <Bhima.Pandava@gmail. c o m> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:42AM (#9706174) Journal
    This article is prime example of why I read Slashdot: I read the article, I knew about the bet and found it interesting. Within *minutes* of this article being posted all of the ideas I had when reading it have been posted:

    Steve Hawkins is an interesting and cool guy (Actually so is Kip Thorne)

    I wish I could tell my grandkids I won a bet against Steven Hawkins (or for that matter lost it)

    I wonder if the encyclopedias will be on CD?

    I like the sense of humor of these guys.

    What a reputation! To be granted time to speak, without prior notice as to topic and specific content.

    Wasn't he on Conan?


    It's scary so many people think like me!

    No I will not comment on donkeys or toner cartridges!

  • by davidoff404 ( 764733 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:51AM (#9706228)
    For those who are interested, Stephen is due to make the announcement at GR17 [] in Dublin on Wednesday July 21st. I haven't seen the preprint either but it promises to be an interesting talk nonetheless. (The GRx series of conferences is held trienially and tends to be quite a big deal.)

    Hawking applied relatively late to speak at this conference, and so the announcement caught a lot of people by surprise. Only the abstract for the presentation has been made available so far, and it seems that his line of thinking revolves around demonstrating that a true event horizon never forms, simply an apparent horizon. For those who don't know about these things, an apparent horizon is a mathematical construct that allows one to place a strict lower bound on the location of an event horizon in classical general relativity. Since an event horizon is necessary for the paradox to hold, the lack of one seems to disprove the existence of the problem.
  • by Senjutsu ( 614542 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:13AM (#9706409)
    And does he have any relation to Stephen Hawking []?
  • I wonder... (Score:3, Funny)

    by JofCoRe ( 315438 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:06AM (#9706889) Journal
    Will he be releasing a new rap song [] relating to this new revalation? :)
  • by shachart ( 471014 ) <shachar-slashdot ... minus thre> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:52AM (#9707340)
    The about-turn might cost Hawking, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, an encyclopaedia because of a bet he made in 1997

    hawking:~> wget -r | tar czf - | mail
  • by capologist ( 310783 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:06AM (#9707472)
    Anybody know what implications, if any, this has for the entropy of black holes and the Beckenstein Bound?

    I thought that the entropy of black holes was determined by the fact that the only information needed to describe it completely was its mass, charge, and spin. The entropy computed from this assumption is proportional to the area of the event horizon, and, hence, we get the Beckenstein Bound.

    At least, that's what I thought. But if a black hole, in fact, contains information about everything that has fallen into it, wouldn't that affect its entropy, and hence imply that the Beckenstein Bound is wrong, and therefore overturn some very significant ideas resulting from the Beckenstein Bound, such as the Holographic Principle?

    If that were the case, this would be a much bigger story than it appears to be, so what am I misunderstanding?
    • by stigin ( 729188 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @12:56PM (#9708640)
      Okay some facts about black holes: - The no hair theorem says that a black holes is described by 2 parameters, the mass M and the angular momentum J (classical spin if you must use that word). In case of a charged black hole you have to add the charge Q to get 3 parameters. From this one can argument that once information falls in a black hole it is lost since we only see 3 parameters. But others say that is just trapped inside the black hole. (the jury is still out) - The Beckenstein-Hawking formula (giving the bound) is related to the radiation of a black hole in the following way. A black hole radiates thermal radiation, with that one can associate a themprature, with that temprature an entropy wich after calculation turns out to be proportinal to the area. - Since this is proportinal to the area t'Hooft suggested tha holographic principle. - I don't think this is a real problem now, since no-one said that the infomation is really lost, so recuperating it might not be a problem. What could be is that the radiation turns out to be non thermal and then it could de harder (no idea how to do that) to calculate the entropy classically. But string theory for instance can calculate the entropy explicitly without the need for thermal radiation and an associated themprature. Hope that helps somewhat (hope I made only correct statements too)
  • by Viking Coder ( 102287 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:15AM (#9707572)
    Nichelle Nichols: "It's about that rip in space-time that you saw!"
    Stephen Hawking: "I call it a Hawking Hole."
    Fry: "No fair! I saw it first!"
    Stephen Hawking: "Who is the Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?"

    (And then here's the MP3 [] of this great quote.)
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `'> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:22AM (#9707647)
    Imagine a very long, stiff rod. Now when you push, pull or twist one end, the other end must also move. But it can never take less time to transmit this movement than the time it would take a photon to reach the other end, otherwise information would be travelling faster than light, which is Not Allowed. (*)

    Think of it as being like a load of tennis balls in a drainpipe: you stick one in your end, the next one squashes a bit, then moves a bit and recovers its shape, squashing the next one a bit, and so on. The molecules are not bonded to each other with absolute rigidity. And there is a quantum limit to how stiff matter could ever be.

    Which fits right in with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, somehow or other. At least, it did when I was conducting experiments outside of the realms of physics and more into the domains of chemistry ..... and botany .....

    * OK, two particles which always have opposite spin, blah blah blah, one in your lab, one in a spaceship several gigametres away, you expend an obscene amount of energy reversing the spin on yours, and the spin on the far one reverses at the exact same time. But so what? You can't use the phenomenon to impart any useful information to the other party. You already knew that the spins would always be opposite.
  • by RareHeintz ( 244414 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:52AM (#9707971) Homepage Journal

    When I was in college, some friends and I (all physics majors) were having a bull session about whether or when someone would cough up a Grand Unified Theory. It was eventually agreed that it would depend largely on when the good Dr. Hawking died.

    At the time, I don't think any of us thought he would still be around at this late date. Anyway, glad to see he's still kicking (so to speak) and doing new work.

    - B

  • Hawking's humor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NYTrojan ( 682560 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @12:39PM (#9708452)
    I attended a lecture of Hawking's once at UCSB and let me tell you, he has an excellent sense of humor.

    For a specific example he was talking about how he once gave a lecture in Paris about black holes, and after about 30 minutes realized that they didn't understand a thing he was talking about. It turned out that they thought he was talking about something obscene. He played off this for quite a while, ending with his dismissal of the black hole modled after string theory (fuzzball black holes) in which he claimed "A black hole has no hair... but this just confused the French even more"

    it was quite something to watch one of the most brilliant minds in the world make jokes about the Simpsons and Star Trek while discussing Q-physics and whatnot.
  • by Linux_ho ( 205887 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @03:39PM (#9710429) Homepage
    I read an article a while ago proposing that black holes with high rotational velocities lose more radiation near the equator. I wonder what would happen if two black holes collided at extreme velocity and broke apart enough to lose the "black hole" effect, becoming many small scattered chunks of high-density space debris. Is that possible? If so, wouldn't that count as returning information too? Hawking's new work seems to support that possiblility...
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:04PM (#9710662)
    In his biography of Feynman, "Genius", James Gleick [] basically comes out and states that there is a cult of personality around Hawking. I need to grab the book and find the exact passage, but he states that some physicists and cosmologists have gotten way too much pub due to their personal afflictions. And that many others who are perfectly healthy have had their work overlooked because they aren't in a wheelchair.

    I don't know if it's quite that vitriolic, but I remember reading it and thinking "wow, he's no fan of Hawking."

    Gleick's new biography is on Issac Newton, so perhaps he will have something else to say about modern physicists in there, I haven't read it yet.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.