Did Hawking Just Solve His Own Paradox – or Did Einstein?

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It’s been 40 years since

This is not Hawking’s first announcement that he solved his own paradox: he had several previous announcements that, in the end, did not convince. I believe the same fate will befall his current attempt.

The paper that created the paradox and put the physics community in turmoil was submitted for publication August 25th, 1975 (but it took a year to be published due to its controversial nature). Hawking argued that the radiation effect that he had just discovered (and that bears his name), leads to the ultimate evaporation of black holes, and violates one of our most cherished laws of physics, namely time-reversal invariance. This law, which states that all microscopic processes can in principle run forwards just as well as backward, implies the predictability of the future (as well as our ability to understand the past).

The contradiction with the laws of physics that Hawking noted was quickly termed the “information paradox”, because the loss of predictability can be seen to be a consequence of losing the information that fell into the black hole in the past.
During these last 40 years, physicists have not stood idly by: not a year goes by without a plethora of attempts to resolve the contradiction. Now Hawking announced, during the “Hawking Radiation Conference” at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm that he had figured out how to solve the paradox, and that information is in fact not lost to the universe, just badly scrambled.

Hawking in his talk described a meeting in April of this year, where he had heard fellow theoretical physicist Andrew Strominger (also in attendance in Stockholm) talk about his recent work that showed how gravity waves (the stuff —> Read More

Two Solutions That Cut Down on Fossil Fuels

The headline in the New York Times reads “Lebanon’s Garbage Crisis Underscores Government’s Disarray.” It seems that the Lebanese government is unable to collect and dispose of the garbage in Beirut and the waste is piling up across the city.

Garbage smells bad, and in the heat of summer, with wafts of rotting meat and vegetables blowing across the city, it is hardly surprising that the citizens of Beirut are getting very frustrated at the lack of leadership.

The government of Lebanon is dysfunctional but the resulting and increasingly strident “You Stink” protests have, thus far, had little effect. Obviously this can’t continue for much longer before a serious health problem emerges and compounds the pain.

To me, the situation in Lebanon is analogous to the global political dysfunction that prevents serious solutions to climate change. Some time in the not too distant future, the NYT will plausibly carry a headline to the effect, “Global Greenhouse Gas Crisis Underscores Governments’ Disarray” (only, I hope it will be pithier).

In preparing a short “TED talk” type lecture for the upcoming Positive Economy conference in France, I gathered some slides from the recent National Academy of Science report on geoengineering climate. I sat on the panel that issued the two reports. There were two because there are two “solutions” for continued, unabated burning of fossil fuels. And if you really need to know — we aren’t running out of fossil fuels anytime soon — at least not for a century.

The first solution is to take the carbon dioxide out of the stack gases of (mostly) coal-fired power plants, or if not there, then directly from the air. Both solutions are expensive and would add a cost to the price —> Read More

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