Puzzling Black Hole Information Paradox: You Are Dead And Alive At The Same Time When You Fall Into A Black Hole?

Can you imagine that you are alive and dead at the same, or that you experience two different realities simultaneously?

It sounds incredible and impossible, but this is exactly what could happen in you fell into a black hole.

Many wonder what happens to a person who falls into a black hole. The truth is that no-one knows, but there are some fascinating theories and now one them involves the puzzling black hole information paradox that no-one has been able to solve yet, not even famous physicist Stephen Hawking.

The black hole information paradox has puzzle scientists for centuries and it has triggered endless debates on what actually happens once you enter a black hole.

Hawking has presented a solution to the paradox, but scientists say it’s too early to say whether Hawking’s idea is a real step forward.

A black hole is a place where the laws of physics as we know them break down and this is one of the reasons why these elusive huge dark objects are so fascinating. A black hole may arise from the death of a large star that has run out of fuel for nuclear fusion and collapsed under its own gravity.

The existence of black holes has been confirmed and astronomers estimate there are as many as 100 million black holes in our galaxy alone.

Some of these monster black holes have a mass about 10 billion times greater than the Sun!

Inside a black hole gravitational field becomes so strong that not even light can escape. So, if you feel into one of these giant monsters you would expect to die, but your fate would be far stranger than that.

What Is The Black Hole Information Paradox?

The outermost boundary of the hole is its event horizon, the point at which the gravitational force precisely counteracts the light’s efforts to escape it. If you go closer than this there is no way to escape.

Artist’s conception of newly-discovered secondary supermassive black hole orbiting the main, central supermassive black hole of galaxy Cygnus A.
Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

You can’t turn around and escape the black hole, any more than you can turn around and travel back to the past, at least not according to the knowledge we possess now.

The black hole paradox is a riddle resulting from the combination of quantum mechanics and general relativity. According to quantum mechanics.

A black hole should store information about matter that has fallen in, but calculations suggest that physical information could permanently disappear in a black hole, allowing many physical states to devolve into the same state.

Physicists have tried to find a way for the information to escape the black hole’s demise via the Hawking radiation. The problem with this scenario, however, is that black holes appear to have no way to impart information to this radiation.

Falling Into A Black Hole – Why You Are Alive And Dead At The Same Time

The best way to understand the black hole paradox is through an example.

Suppose your friend, let’s call her Carol, watches from a distance how you are falling into a black hole. Carol can see how you slowly get stretched until you eventually evaporate into a crisp. Looking through Carol’s eyes, you are dead.

Here comes what’s really bizarre. You’re are now inside the black hole and you are not dead. You are alive, even though Carol just saw you die. Amazing, isn’t it?

This is the black hole information paradox. It’s not an illusion and neither you nor Carol are insane. Something very strange has happened and no-one can at this point explain why or how.

No-one knows what really happens to you inside a black hole. Image credit: Andy Potts

According to the laws of physics you are dead outside the black hole and alive within it. Physicists are struggling with this contradicting chain of events. Some have suggested this is not a paradox at all because both realities cannot be observed at the same time. There are also some who try to solve the paradox proposing cloning.

Leonard Susskind, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University, and Director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics stated that there is no real paradox because no-one can see your clone. Carol only sees one copy of you. You only see one copy of you. You and Carol can never compare notes and there’s no third observer who can see both inside and outside a black hole simultaneously. So, no laws of physics are broken.

But if you would like to know whether you are alive or dead, then there is a problem because there is now answer.

However, we should not forget that proposing cloning as solution, defies quantum mechanics laws pertaining to conservation of information. Information cannot be cloned. You have to be in two places, but there can only be one copy of you.

Physicists will undoubtedly continue to debate the black hole information paradox for many years to come. Our knowledge about black holes is increasing and with time we will understand better the complexity of these giant monsters in space.

Black holes certainly give us a lot to think about.