Is Information Thrown into a Black Hole Lost Forever? Resolving Stephen Hawking’s Black Hole Information Paradox

Event Date: 
January 22, 2020
Ahmed Almheiri

For the past 45 years, theoretical physicists have been wrestling with understanding the fate of information thrown into a black hole. The problem originates with a discovery of Stephen Hawking that, due to quantum mechanics, black holes evaporate into a cloud of radiation essentially devoid of any information they contained. This is the famous black hole information paradox which has been the driving force for decades of research towards a consistent unification of quantum mechanics and gravity. Just this past year, a number of exciting breakthroughs in understanding this paradox seem to have identified the crucial missing ingredient in Hawking's original analysis. These are so-called ''spacetime wormholes'' which are quantum fluctuations of the spacetime itself, and which have been shown to transcribe the information inside the black hole onto the emitted radiation. A surprising consequence of this development is the suggestion that one can learn about the inside of a black hole by analyzing only its emitted radiation and not have to actually jump into one!

Speaker Bio: 
Ahmed Almheiri is a long-term member at the Institute for Advanced Study. He received his B.Sc. in Engineering Physics from the University of Toronto in 2008 and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2014 under the supervision of late KITP Permanent Member Joseph Polchinski. He then held a postdoctoral position at Stanford University until joining IAS in 2017. Almheiri has received the 2014 Lancaster Dissertation Award in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering by the UCSB graduate division, and the 2019 "Pride of the Emirates" medal as part of the "Mohammed bin Rashid Government Excellence Award" in the United Arab Emirates.