10 Crackpot Theories About Space

Black Hole Information Paradox
Artists love to render images of black holes, but they don’t often include any artistic interpretation of lost information. © Stocktrek Images/Thinkstock

Nothing -- not even lickety-split light -- can escape the sticky grasp of a black hole. And once something is sucked into a black hole, no one knows exactly what happens to it. Does it reappear on the other side in a nightmarish version of Walt Disney World? Or does it simply wink out of existence, so profoundly destroyed that it's as if it never existed?

Physicist Stephen Hawking proposed that black holes really might simply obliterate entities, to the point that only the barest quantum mechanical traits (such as electrical charge and spin) are left behind. But there's a problem with that theory, namely that all of the established rules of the universe say that information can't be totally lost. It has to go somewhere; otherwise there's no real order to anything at all. Quantum mechanics, along with so many established principles of physics, would be shredded, leaving scientists bewildered at the most basic properties of reality.

In the late 1990s, Hawking backed away from the idea that black holes completely destroy information. Instead, he speculated that perhaps information does remain, but in an altogether different form.

So in the off chance you're ever caught in the grip of a black hole, take comfort in the fact that you'll not be lost forever to time. Perhaps you'll just be reconstituted as a slice of atomic pizza.

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