News sites hawking headlines about black holes

Stephen Hawking is well-known for his popular science writings and work in theoretical physics. His science popularization writings have made him a household name among lay public. So when he writes a paper about black holes, it is unsurprising that much buzz is generated about the paper, which he posted on January 22 and is awaiting review.

Stephen Hawking: ‘There are no black holes’ (Nature News):

Most physicists foolhardy enough to write a paper claiming that “there are no black holes” — at least not in the sense we usually imagine — would probably be dismissed as cranks. But when the call to redefine these cosmic crunchers comes from Stephen Hawking, it’s worth taking notice. In a paper posted online, the physicist, based at the University of Cambridge, UK, and one of the creators of modern black-hole theory, does away with the notion of an event horizon, the invisible boundary thought to shroud every black hole, beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.

I highly recommend reading the actual paper by Hawking available at arXiv.org, which is currently awaiting peer review, to observe a context for the quotation from Hawking’s paper in Nature News (“There are no black holes”):

The absence of event horizons mean that there are no black holes – in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity. There are however apparent horizons which persist for a period of time. This suggests that black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field.

Note: emphasis added

Some commentary on Hawking’s paper has been rather silly…

…but some have done better taken a more serious approach.

Universe Today does a very nice job of elucidating the topic.

Black Holes No More? Not Quite. (Universe Today):

In this new paper, Hawking proposes a different approach. He argues that rather than instead of gravity warping space and time into an event horizon, the quantum fluctuations of Hawking radiation create a layer turbulence in that region. So instead of a sharp event horizon, a black hole would have an apparent horizon that looks like an event horizon, but allows information to leak out. Hawking argues that the turbulence would be so great that the information leaving a black hole would be so scrambled that it is effectively irrecoverable.

If Stephen Hawking is right, then it could solve the information/firewall paradox that has plagued theoretical physics. Black holes would still exist in the astrophysics sense (the one in the center of our galaxy isn’t going anywhere) but they would lack event horizons.

This process is how science happens. We shall learn more if the paper passes review and a better-detailed resolution to the apparent information paradox is developed and presented.

Black Hole From Wikimedia Commons

Black Hole From Wikimedia Commons

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  4 comments for “News sites hawking headlines about black holes

  1. January 28, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    If I were to pick one thing about modern journalism that bugs me the most, it would be the way these people twist words and meanings into something they obviously are not. Sensationalist headlines are a serious problem in an age where most people look no further than the headline.

  2. Eve
    January 28, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    Just to clarify, Andy Borowitz (author of the New Yorker article about Michele Bachmann) is a comic writer. That article is satire and is meant to be silly.

    • January 28, 2014 at 9:13 PM

      Indeed, some of the silliness has been intentional and some… (hopefully?) less so. That next example was a colossally bad summarizing of New Scientist’s interview.

  3. Andrew W
    January 29, 2014 at 1:26 AM

    Over at Nature.com, they lead with the tittle “No Black Holes..”. Thought they do explain it fully in the article, the Headline leaves a lot to be desired. Nature.com should know better.

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