Pardon Me, But Your Black Hole Is Leaking…

Article written: 12 Aug , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015


Yes. We thought we knew everything there was to know about black holes. We know they are massive and compact. We know they possess a gravity so intense that it even bends “space time”. We know they won’t even allow light to escape. But what we weren’t really prepared for is that our human line of reasoning might be wrong. Black holes might consume everything… But they leak information.

Thanks to a new study done by Professor Samuel Braunstein and Dr Manas Patra of the University of York, we just might need to realign our way of thinking about black holes and one of the most fundamental forces of Nature – gravity. Professor Braunstein says: “Our results didn’t need the details of a black hole’s curved space geometry. That lends support to recent proposals that space, time and even gravity itself may be emergent properties within a deeper theory. Our work subtly changes those proposals, by identifying quantum information theory as the likely candidate for the source of an emergent theory of gravity.”

Are your quantum mechanics a bit rusty? Then blame a few holes in these theories. “This vision was motivated in part by Jacobson’s 1995 surprise result that the Einstein equations of gravity follow from the thermodynamic properties of event horizons.” says the team. “Taking a first tentative step in such a program, we derive the evaporation rate (or radiation spectrum) from black hole event horizons in a spacetime-free manner. Our result relies on a Hilbert space description of black hole evaporation, symmetries therein which follow from the inherent high dimensionality of black holes, global conservation of the no-hair quantities, and the existence of Penrose processes. Our analysis is not wedded to standard general relativity and so should apply to extended gravity theories where we find that the black hole area must be replaced by some other property in any generalized area theorem.”

Like your elderly neighbor whose curtains twitch each time you take your telescope into the yard at night and hastens to grab the telephone to tell other neighbors, information can leak from a black hole. The neighbor knows you’re out there… And soon enough, the rest of the neighbors know as well. Professor Braunstein says: “Our results actually extend the predictions made by well-established techniques that rely on a detailed knowledge of space time and black hole geometry.”

Dr Patra adds: “We cannot claim to have proven that escape from a black hole is truly possible, but that is the most straight-forward interpretation of our results. Indeed, our results suggest that quantum information theory will play a key role in a future theory combining quantum mechanics and gravity.”

For Further Reading: Black Hole Evaporation Rates without Spacetime. Original News Source: University of York News Release.


23 Responses

  1. Torbjörn Larsson says

    And now I understand the connection between “safe” membrane theory and Hawking radiation in the pair production model (membrane model) vs the gravitational Unruh effect physics (non-membrane model).

    But the paper is a bit hole-ish. Ass is the title of this article.

  2. HeadAroundU says

    Yo, Tammy, information can be leaking or can leak. I cracked Ivanman’s tires on his truck, so there you go.

    And, pardon me, but the title is way too erotic. 😀

    • Wezley Jackson says

      Hehehehe… I was wondering why I didn’t see his post – Surely there must have been at least one gramatical error in Tammy’s article. Surely? If not perhaps one could be casually dropped mid-way through the next article 😉

  3. Anonymous says

    I started reading the paper and it is clear this is the logic of Parikh and Wilczek, and a quick check and sure enough reference 8 is their seminal paper on this. I am working with a fellow in Italy on a related problem where we are using the integer partition function of Brunier, Folsom, Kent & Ono. We have succeeded in computing the Barbero-Immirzi parameter. This is rather interesting stuff.


    • Eric Benz says

      “we are using the integer partition function of Brunier, Folsom, Kent & Ono. We have succeeded in computing the Barbero-Immirzi parameter.”


      haha.. love it. you guys crack me up.. in a good way. i think i may need to read over this stuff again

  4. Bappaditya Debnath says

    But Black Holes also radiate information was proved by Stephen Hawkins a long time ago. Thus we know why there are not more black holes present, coz they radiate and disintegrate. I don’t remember exactly but Hawkins argued that if Black holes absorb everything and don’t give back anything rest of universe’s entropy will decrease, which violates the 2nd law. Also that will increase black hole’s entropy and thus it cannot be a perfect black body and must radiate. And then he went on to explain exact details by some quantum processes…
    Please correct me if I am wrong…

    • Anonymous says

      Stephen Hawking demonstrated that radiation is emitted by black holes. The raising and lower operators of a boson field a^†, a in flat spacetime become transformed into Bogoliubov operators

      b^† = a sinh(gs) + a^†cosh(gs)

      b = a cosh(gs) + a^† sinh(gs)

      which reconstructs the vacuum

      [b, b^†] = (cosh^2(gs) – sinh^2(gs))[a, a^†] = [a, a^†].

      The g here in the rapidity is the “gravity” which is related to the mass of a black hole by g = 8?M, in naturalized units. The rapidities are given by sinh^2(gs) = 1/(e^{?/kT} – 1) so the spectrum is blackbody.

      A blackbody spectrum is completely thermal, which means there is no signal in the spectrum of photons. This lead to the problem of the information paradox, for quantum mechanics is unitary and does not lose phase space volume. Yet Hawking’s theory of black hole evaporation did lead to a thermalization of quantum modes. A pure vacuum state can enter a black hole and emerge as vacuum plus a thermal distribution of bosons. The vacuum becomes entangled with the black hole. Entanglement has entropy associated with it. If you have a particle state and it becomes entangled with another you do not have all the information about that entanglement available based on your initial state of this particle. A closer examination then indicates that the Hawking information loss is then apparent, for one does not necessarily have all the quantum information of the black hole available. So your EPR pair is entangled in some manner where you do not have all the information about that entanglement.


  5. Anonymous says

    Hopefully after I have done my level 3 Astrophysics course I will be able to properly understand some of what this article describes, however it does seem the deeper we scratch the less concrete it all gets so that not only our minds but possibly the entire universe is just an information system on a substrate we may never comprehend. The knowledge itself is important but my interest will always be how we can use and bend the rules to make our experience, well, better.

    • Anonymous says

      “The knowledge itself is important but my interest will always be how we can use and bend the rules to make our experience, well, better.”

      I couldn’t have put it better myself. If this philosophy were better expressed by scientists perhaps fewer questions would be asked about whether funding is justified.

    • Anonymous says

      “The knowledge itself is important but my interest will always be how we can use and bend the rules to make our experience, well, better.”

      I couldn’t have put it better myself. If this philosophy were better expressed by scientists perhaps fewer questions would be asked about whether funding is justified.

      • Anonymous says

        I think this is definitely the issue here.

        It’s up to scientist to market themselves to the general population. It’s obvious they haven’t been doing a good job with this. An article in the Atlantic last week claimed that when polled, only 40% of people could name a scientist (Albert Einstein was the most common response). Only 4% could name a living scientist (Stephan Hawkings anyone?!). While I realize most research today requires teams of individuals, there in a definite bridge of misunderstanding between the general public and those in various scientific fields of work.

    • Anonymous says

      In a sense that appears to be the case. The deeper we look into the physical foundations of things the less that there is which actually exists. I think for instance every electron, quark etc is really just one particle, but with a different configuration space. In effect the electrons you are pushing through micro-circuits in a computer now are the same electron, and in fact the same electron as those in a white dwarf which give degenerate pressure by Fermi statistics. So in spite of the universe being filled with a vast number of particle-fields, it in fact only has 496 particle states. There is very little of anything which actually exists. This is then all a sort of holographic projection, and … .


      • Anonymous says


      • Anonymous says

        I’ve read a few articles that suggest our reality is quite possibly a virtual reality. What are your thoughts on this? If I remember correctly the idea goes something like this: any species that reached a level of technological achievement that would allow for the creation of virtual realities would almost certainly begin producing them in great quantities. So much so that given essentially infinite time the chances of any reality being the “original reality” continue to diminish. So that you have realities within realities within etc.

        It certainly seems like humans will relatively shortly begin creating convincing VRs. Perpetuating the cycle.

        I don’t know that I’ve explained this well but I was intrigued by the idea.

      • Anonymous says

        The universe may be a sort of quantum computer. So we might imagine that it is in some ways a designed system. With E_8xE_8 there are only 496 actual states to the whole thing. However, these states enter into entanglements which can then occupy a Hilbert space defined by a vast number of configurations, about 2^{2^{496}}, which is vast. We observe a tiny fraction of these states all around us. This goes into my hypothesis that there is only one electron in the universe, where the vast number of these is due to different holographic configurations with different configuration spaces. This is the part which would be difficult to actually emulate.

        We might then suppose we could perform some sort of Turing test for virtual realities. Is the world we observe sufficiently complex so it might indeed have this large number of configuration states? If it is significantly reduced from this then with sufficient probing we might be able to detect the “seams” in this virtual reality. The universe of the Bible is an ancient idea of this. There is a super user who set up the virtual world and we are avatars in the system. However, the initial idea of this has been broken down, for the universe is not some little bubble with everything going around the Earth. Current Biblically literal ideas have the universe truncated in time, where the universe is only 6000 years old. However, what we observe and the data we gather indicates otherwise. Of course these people might argue that God (the super-user) set things up with an appearance of an ancient origin. This conjecture on their part explains nothing of course, for maybe the universe was created 10 minutes ago with all our memories of a prior time implanted in us. So we may choose to ignore this idea because of its ineffectiveness. Further, truncation in time also implies some truncation in space, for we know that relativity involves transformations between the two. So maybe the distant universe in such an idea might be due to an information screen at the boundary of space, where the super-user has generated data of some distant cosmos.. If we were to push our astronomy further we might then find that something is wrong and the seams in the virtual reality become apparent. The guy who writes here about “mirrors” in effect is proposing something similar to this.

        Astronomy might then be compared to a virtual reality Turing test. If as time goes on we fail to find any of these “seams” we might then be able to gain some confidence level that existence is not a simulation. However, as I said above the universe may be a sort of quantum computer, but it is a quantum computer which computes itself. The theory is a form of an S-matrix theory which in effect bootstraps itself. So there is nothing outside of the universe itself which is imparting information onto the system or configuring things.


      • Anonymous says

        Thanks for your reply. Yes, the universe as a quantum computer. I’ve read about that before as well and am attracted to the idea.

        I think we are relatively close to ‘finding the seams.’ And there will be an interesting, heated debate about where science, philosophy and religion collide. I don’t subscribe to the Bible, but I do feel there is a creative force behind the universe, whatever its origin. And I’m beginning to believe, as Mary also comments, that our decisions/choices and perhaps even attitude towards life may influence the outcome in a quantum sense.

        And if we think of life as a ‘game’ then perhaps survival of this realm and our access to any other realms that may exist (when we die) may in part be determined in how well we play. How we act, love, hate, how interesting we are. How open we are to new ideas and knowledge and unusual possibilities. Because I think of life as entirely paradoxical and absurd in that we may never be able (at least as mortals) be able to solve the chicken/egg problem of the universe and its hypothetical creator(s) or lack thereof. Either it was created (which makes us wonder did the creators always exist, and how?) or it just happened (which defies causality). Which again leads me to the belief that life is absurd. Which is freeing, b/c if life is absurd then nearly anything and everything is possible. I suggest we dream big as to the answers to the big questions and perhaps the universe will reward our curiosity.

      • Anonymous says

        Quantum mechanics is such that an event can happen without a cause. Spontaneous effects happen all the time, such as radioactive decay.

        The absence of seams would keep away the prospect for there to be some master game controller who is running the universe as something analogous to a computer game. Is suspect we will never see anything comparable to these seams. Of course we can keep testing and get negative results and this does not prove there is no master game controller or “creator.”


    • WaxyMary says

      I like that NSZ, I too want to game the information system, why not, the odds are in no one’s favor, there is no downside, and face it, that is what we humans do.

      Gaming the Information system is easy. Just ask yourself, is what you see and sense actually what others see and sense. Is there any differences in perception twixt thee and thou? If you want to know for sure, you’ll have to Game the System!

      Send off for your free introduction now.

      Offer not accepted in sectors R and P. No claim is being made that the services offered by this solipsist exceeds or in any way is better than that which another philosophical belief system might give to the downtrodden and bamboozled group you may belong to or have allergenic responses to.


  6. Otensil Noel says

    If any of the black holes really start leaking we all will be dead within hours. Don’t scare people like that.

  7. Samuel Braunstein says

    The author of the scientific article writes:

    i) the article is available at
    especially read the 1.5 pages of the Supplementary Material.

    ii) We show that a simple quantum description of tunneling from a black hole reproduces the black hole spectrum.

    iii) This result goes beyond Hawking’s blackbody spectrum to include backreaction.

    iv) The result did not use the curved geometry of a black hole, nor did it use spacetime itself.

    The results follow from the symmetries implicit in simple quantum description of tunneling.

    • Anonymous says

      I read your paper last week. The tunneling which includes back reaction is in equation 4 and related equations (eg eqn 5). These equations are really a form of Bayes’ rule, which is exactly what one might expect. I found it interesting there was no mention of Bayesian statistics. I intend this week to reread it with closer attention to the proofs of the theorems.


  8. Anonymous says

    If the universe is God’s simulation, dies it have “save” button, and /or a “reboot” button?

  9. Wezley Jackson says

    ..”Like your elderly neighbor whose curtains twitch each time you take your telescope into the yard at night and hastens to grab the telephone to tell other neighbors…”

    Hehehe – A fellow amatuer astronomer- I am always explaining to the neighbors that I am only looking at the sky 😉

    And who said bookish telescope types don’t have a sense of humour? 😉


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