Science 3 min read

Soft Hair on Black Holes: Stephen Hawking's Last Scientific Paper

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Stephen Hawking’s final work regarding the soft hair on black holes has been completed and published by his colleagues.

Last March, the scientific community mourned the passing of Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest theoretical physicists the world has ever known. Earlier this week, Hawking’s colleagues published his last work about the soft hair on black holes. In his final work, Hawking and his collaborators theorized that the eternal inflation model is wrong.

The paper titled Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair is about the decades-old question of what happens to an object when it falls into a black hole. Theoretical physicists commonly refer to this as the information paradox.

For years, Hawking, together with his colleagues Malcolm Perry, Andrew Strominger, and Sasha Haco, tried to explain what happens to the information contained in the particles that have been sucked into a black hole should the said black hole ceases to exist.

“The difficulty is that if you throw something into a black hole, it looks like it disappears,” Perry from the University of Cambridge, told The Guardian“How could the information in that object ever be recovered if the black hole then disappears itself?”

Apparently, if it’s proven that the information disappears together with the black hole, it would contradict the quantum theory which states that nothing is really ever lost.

The paper outlines the team’s recent finding’s on the so-called soft hair on black holes where the particle’s information is believed to have been left around the black hole’s event horizon.

“In 2016, Stephen, Andy and I found that black holes have an infinite collection of what we call ‘soft hair.’ This discovery allows us to question the idea that black holes lead to a breakdown in the laws of physics,” Perry added. “Stephen kept working with us up to the end of his life, and we have now published a paper that describes our current thoughts on the matter.”

Hawking and his colleagues showed in their study that a black hole’s entropy may be stored in the particles surrounding the black hole’s event horizon.

“What this paper does is show that ‘soft hair’ can account for the entropy. It’s telling you that soft hair really is doing the right stuff,” Perry went on to say.

Days before Hawking’s death, Perry reportedly called the ailing physicist to give him an update. Back then, Perry said that he was not aware how sick Hawking was. He recalled being put on a loudspeaker to explain their study’s progress.

“It was very difficult for Stephen to communicate and I was put on a loudspeaker to explain where we had got to. When I explained it, he simply produced an enormous smile. I told him we’d got somewhere. He knew the final result.”

While Hawking’s final work may have marked the end of his journey across the vastness of space, it is also a reminder that his contribution to our understanding of the universe continues even in his absence.

Read More: The Genius in a Wheelchair: A Brief History of Stephen Hawking’s Time

Among the many contributions of Stephen Hawking to astrophysics and astronomy, which one, in particular, do you think was his best?

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